September 14, 2011
Turning 100: Los Angeles Jewish Home has ambitious growth plans
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The campus will sit on a 2.4-acre site that the Jewish Home has negotiated the right to purchase from the Brotman Medical Center. Architectural plans have been submitted to the Culver City Planning Commission but are being revised to deal with a circa-1930 American Legion Post at the location that has been designated a city historical site, Forrest said.
Back in the Valley, the Jewish Home is developing two acres in Reseda on the corner of Tampa Avenue and Sherman Way as the Hirsch Family Campus. It will allow for the expansion of the nursing school and creation of more residential units while the nearby Grancell Village campus builds a PACE center and adds other facilities.
It’s a lot to take in. Forrest describes the situation more simply: “We plan to be here, and we have plans to grow.”
Years ago, such assurances wouldn’t have been necessary.
“There was a time when California was a leader in helping the elderly,” said Paul Castro, CEO of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles (JFS).
Those days are gone, and Castro has a chart to prove it. It shows state programs to help the elderly that have been slashed or eliminated since 2008. The body count: 25.
JFS has its own services to help seniors, including case management, transportation, meals and wellness programs. And while Castro celebrates the work done by the Jewish Home, he sees these other services becoming increasingly important as baby boomers get older and resist the notion of going to a nursing home. It won’t be easy to support all of them, he said.
“At some point, there will be a redefinition of the safety net,” he said. “How do we maintain programs when funding is pulled back? We don’t have all the answers yet.”
Consider those seniors who currently benefit from Adult Day Health Care, a program scheduled to close later this year. What happens to the thousands of them around Los Angeles who are affected? Are they able to find other services to help them? Are they forced to add their names to nursing home waiting lists?
Jay Sanderson, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said addressing the issue of the elderly has to be a “top priority.”
“My hope,” he said, “is the positive that may come out of this budget crisis is that agencies in this community will work more closely together. The Federation needs to be in the middle of that conversation.”
That should include the Jewish Home, he said, even though the latter has historically maintained its independence. It does not receive funding from Federation or the United Way.
After all, it’s not just a community issue. It’s a Jewish issue, too.
“Many Jews looking for a nursing home, everything else being equal … do prefer for the facility to be under Jewish auspices,” according to Ira Sheskin, director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami’s Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies.
It’s not because most of them care about kosher food; it’s because they’re not used to eating bacon or setting up Christmas trees, he said.
There’s no chance of that at the Jewish Home, where the meals are kosher and a large, colorful stained-glass window depicting the 12 tribes of Israel from the old facility in Boyle Heights remains on display.
Sure, it’s important to residents that they receive a high level of care. And yes, many of them love to play bingo just like seniors elsewhere. But for the ones who make it to the Home, that’s not what makes it special, especially as it turns 100.
“When I found out that the Jewish Home would accept me, oh my God, I can’t begin to tell you how lucky I felt,” said Marilyn Hirsch, 81, who moved in more than five years ago after falling and encountering other health problems.
“I’m not a practicing Jew, but … I was raised Jewish,” she said. “I came here to be with my own. I feel comfortable with them. I wanted my last days to be with my own.”