Residents and staff of the Jewish Home for the Aging (JHA) gathered March 26 at Eisenberg Village on Victory Boulevard to celebrate the institution's 90th anniversary. About two dozen residents participated in blowing out the 10 candles (one for each decade and one for good luck) on the massive birthday cake.
The decorous moment was not without humor. As one bright-eyed resident in her 80s hovered nearby, a staff member asked if she wanted to move closer to watch her friends blow out the candles.
"Oh, yes," she replied. "I want to make sure they don't spit on the cake!"
The JHA was first created in 1912 when the Jewish community of Boyle Heights obtained a small cottage to enable elderly Jews from the county "poor farm" to observe a traditional, kosher seder. According to a JHA press release, the original JHA was so tiny that the first board of directors had to ask residents to wait outside while they held their meetings.
The JHA's current San Fernando Valley facilities include two campuses in Reseda that house more than 750 people and offer a continuum of care ranging from independent-living assistance to skilled nursing for the ill and severely disabled. In April, the JHA will open their long-awaited, state-of-the-art Alzheimer's care and research center, part of a $72 million campaign to expand and upgrade the JHA to meet the Jewish community's growing demand for senior housing.
Molly Forrest, the JHA's chief executive officer, said she looks forward to helping the institution continue meeting the Jewish community's needs.
"Our goal for the future is to make the Home more accessible to the community, both by simply having more beds available and by expanding to the Westside," she said.
Residents expressed a variety of reasons for why they selected the JHA as the place to spend their golden years.
Zola Zevit, 84, and her husband David, 90, said they chose the JHA because it allowed them to remain together -- an important factor when you've been married 62 years.
"I also like that it has religion the way we like it, like the way we were at home," Zola Zevit said.
In addition to helping residents celebrate all the Jewish holidays, the JHA offers kosher meals and employs a rabbi on each campus to conduct services and provide spiritual counseling.
Ellis Simon, one of the youngest residents at age 78, ran the JHA's thrift store in Reseda from 1984 to 1991.
Simon came to the JHA two years ago, following the death of his wife. "I sat in my house for two years watching television," he recalled. "One day I said, 'That's enough of this.'"
"Next to heaven, this is the greatest place in the world," said Simon, who participates in the institution's choir and is putting together a JHA production of "Fiddler on the Roof." "You make a lot of good friends here, and if you stay active, it makes it that much better a place."