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A seder gets cut from retirement facility for Hollywood vets

by Danielle Berrin

March 28, 2010 | 3:27 pm

While L.A. Jews are busy cleaning out their chametz, residents of the Motion Picture & Television Fund’s Woodland Hills Retirement Community are battling for their right to have a second Passover seder.

Sharon Waxman, editor of TheWrap.com, emailed this weekend with news of this disturbing story, which some are calling a denial of religious freedom. According to The Wrap, the MPTF has traditionally hosted two seders, one on campus, for long-term care residents with less mobility and another at a separate location open to all residents. But this year, MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher announced that there weren’t enough Jews in long-term care to warrant a second seder in that location and moved to consolidate to a single campus-wide event.

Some see this move as one in a long chain of events that indicate major changes afoot for the MPTF. For months, it has been said that the MPTF plans to close their hospital and nursing home due to a $10 million budget shortfall.

Tensions rose to a boiling point last January when former CEO David Tillman was forced to resign after a tax return revealed that he was receiving almost $1 million in compensation as the facility struggled with insolvency. Soon after, Beitcher replaced him and set in motion controversial plans to phase out the hospital and long-term care facility.

This would be a sad day for Charlie Chaplin, who helped found the MPTF in 1921 along with Hollywood luminaries Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith. Long before the era of Obamacare, those stars saw a need to take care of industry brethren who fell on hard times. Since then, the MPTF has become an industry provider of healthcare, child care, residential living and long-term care for the elderly.

It’s understandable that the current economic climate is forcing the institution to make serious and hard changes—Jewish non-profits all over the country have had to scale back on essential services in order to continue operating. But cutting a small seder that brings joy and convenience to elderly Jews in the sunset of their lives? Come on.

Read more about the Passover scandal at TheWrap.com:

“It’s all part of a plan to close the hospital and nursing home,” Melody Sherwood, whose mother is a long-term care resident, told TheWrap.

Concerned that the failing health of many members of the long-term care community would prevent them from attending the religious observance across campus, family members and friends of residents offered to hold and host a seder on the second night of Passover, March 30.

They also arranged to pay for a professional chef to prepare a traditional seder meal, but that offer was turned down by Beitcher on Monday, who asserted that every effort would be made so that all who wanted to attend the ceremony could.

“If they’re trying to save money, it’s not going to cost them anything,” Sherwood said. “They are turning down any donations that are earmarked to keeping the home open, but at the same time they’re saying they can’t afford to continue.”

Further angering families of many of the long-term care residents was the move to host the seder at 11 a.m. Passover seders are supposed to be held in the evening, after sunset.

“It would be like celebrating Christmas on Dec. 27,” Sherwood said.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Danielle Berrin writes the Hollywood Jew blog, a cutting edge, values-based take on the entertainment industry for jewishjournal.com. A Los Angeles Times profile dubbed her...

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