Jewish Home’s makeover: yoga at 3, facials at 4

After strolling down the hall from your room for breakfast, you duck into the art studio to work on your latest ceramics project. Then you head down to the club room for a yoga class.
You have lunch, then sit in a shaded outdoor courtyard, listening to the sound of a nearby fountain and chatting with a friend. The two of you step into the salon for facials and hair styling before heading to the dining room, where you select from a choice of dinner entrees.
Oh, and by the way, you’re 84-years-old and you live in a skilled-nursing facility.

While this may not sound like life in a nursing home, it could be a typical day at the Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center, which will be dedicated Oct. 29 as the newest facility at the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda. The $58.5 million, 249-bed center, the largest building in the home’s nearly 100-year history, is designed to provide emotional and spiritual, as well as physical, well-being to its residents.

“There are few, if any, skilled-nursing facilities that truly foster healthy living,” said Jewish Home for the Aging President and CEO Molly Forrest. “We firmly believe in investing in healthy living programs and facilities that reinforce life and are focused on quality living each day.”
Located at the corner of Tampa Avenue and Sherman Way, at the home’s Grancell Village Campus, the center includes three interconnected buildings. Two of them — the Hazan Pavilion and the LaKretz-Black Tower — are residential structures, while the Brandman Research Institute houses an in-patient acute psychiatric-care unit, research offices, a computer center/library, art studio and fitness room.

The center’s new acute in-patient psychiatric-care unit was especially needed given the psychological issues faced by many seniors, Forrest said. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, people older than 65 have the highest rates of suicide of any age group, and men account for 84 percent of those suicides. Forrest notes that many of the Home’s residents, whose average age is 84, have outlived spouses, siblings, friends and sometimes their children. In addition, more than 50 of the home’s residents are Holocaust survivors, who often have particular psychological issues.
The Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center will provide a new home for 114 of the 350 individuals currently on the home’s waiting list for skilled-nursing care. In addition, 125 residents currently living in an outmoded, 50-year-old building at the Home’s nearby Eisenberg Village Campus will be transferred to the new facility. The remaining 10 beds are in the psychiatric unit.

Featuring small, intimate settings, each of the building’s five floors are divided into three donor-designated “neighborhoods” (among them, for example, Boyle Heights and Chicago) each delineated by its own color scheme and artwork. Each floor has three dining rooms — the main dining room, a smaller room for those who cannot feed themselves, and a medium-size “transitional” one for residents who are relearning feeding skills — and a family visiting room.
In addition, the floors are equipped with their own computer room/library, with a reading area, cable television, computer and phone for communal use. A “club room” on every floor offers fitness classes such as Tai Chi and stretching, while the creative studio, staffed 12 hours daily, enables residents to engage in painting, woodworking and other crafts.
“We want to give residents the opportunity to improve their lives and build on their skills,” Forrest said.
With decor more suggestive of a hotel than a skilled-nursing facility, carpeting takes the place of linoleum in hallways and resident rooms. Birch bookcases and armoires grace the interior of each room, while outside a mounted “memory box” displays personal photos and memorabilia.
Residents, visitors and staff can also patronize Gerald’s Deli, a pareve eatery featuring soups and sandwiches. And then there’s Maxi’s, a salon offering hair cutting, coloring and styling, makeup, facials, waxing and shaves.

Forrest said that the new facilities also will enable the home to hold more community programs. Brawerman Terrace, located on the roof, will be the site of future holiday gatherings, garden parties and other events, while the computer center will host classes open to the public.
The Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer Medical Center is the second major project of a $72 million campaign launched in 1999 to build new facilities and upgrade existing ones. The first project was the Goldenberg-Ziman Special Care Center for patients with dementia, which was dedicated in 2002. Next year, the home plans to begin construction of Fountainview at Eisenberg Village, a 108-unit, upscale independent-living facility. Plans also call for establishing a facility on the Westside, and potential locations are currently being considered.

Community Briefs

Yellow Star’s Powerful Makeover

The dreaded yellow Star of David, which the Nazis forced Jews to wear as a badge of humiliation, is getting a makeover.

In an interesting twist, two Jewish activists hope to denude the yellow star of its anti-Jewish connotations and make it a symbol of pride. Dr. Joel Geiderman, a board member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and University of Judaism professor Michael Berenbaum, former project director for the museum, have manufactured 5,000 yellow-and-white Star of David pins with the Hebrew word Shoah emblazoned across them. The Southern California residents want Jews and non-Jews to don the pins on Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance for Holocaust victims — which started at sundown on May 5 — to make a statement of solidarity with those who perished and suffered. “We’re claiming the symbol and infusing it with pride and not shame or stigmatization,” Berenbaum said.

The pair eventually hope to create a nonprofit foundation to promote and raise money for large-scale manufacturing and distribution of the pins, which they hope will generate discussion about the victims of the Holocaust. Contributions of about $6,000 in seed money underwrote the first batch of pins, they said.

For Geiderman, a professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, the pins serve as sort of a tribute to his late mother, who passed away less than two years ago. A Czech Jew, she survived three concentration camps, including Auschwitz. Geiderman said his maternal grandparents and two uncles weren’t as lucky.

“My mother is a Holocaust survivor, and I think this is something I can do to help make sure people never forget what happened and to memorialize the victims,” he said.

For more information, e-mail Geiderman at — Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

LAPD, ADL Investigate Hate Mail

The Los Angeles Police Department, FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating a series of hate mail sent to Southland Jews. A number of large manila envelopes that appear to have been mailed out randomly to Jewish institutions, such as Studio City’s Congregation Beth Meir and Temple Shalom in Ontario, and home addresses of people with traditionally Jewish last names. On the front and back of the stamped envelopes were racist and anti-Semitic statements such as, “Jew Murderers,” and “Die Jews, Die.”

A retired local government employee in Sherman Oaks said the envelope he received earlier this month had the words, “Jewish child molester” and “The only good Jew is a dead Jew” written on the envelope. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Journal that he did not open the envelope but instead gave it to the LAPD.

Similarly, a retired Westside teacher received a manila envelope more than a month ago with the words, “Jew Killers” written in large letters on the outside.

“I sent it to ADL,” said the woman, who also asked to remain anonymous. “I never opened it.”

The mailings seemed to have died down since the ADL’s press release last month.

“We’ve only had a handful more complaints,” said Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. “It’s possible that this particular kind of thing had run its course.”

Those who received the envelopes said the writings did contain a specific threat to them. Police confirmed they are investigating the mailings but that the investigation is in its middle stage and that no arrests have been made. There are also questions as to whether mailing out anti-Semitic mail is a crime.

“You have a right to hate as long as you don’t harm anyone,” said former federal prosecutor Laurie Levenson, a Loyola Law School professor. “You have to make an actual threat…. This may be a hate incident, but not a h ate crime.” — David Finnigan, Contributing Writer

Milken Crowns Its ‘Idol’

And the new idol is … David Ashkenazi! Well, at least at Milken Community High School, and at least in the “Milken Idol” public-speaking competition. The contest for ninth- through 12-graders was designed to help students develop the critical skill of public speaking and feel more comfortable in front of large audiences, according to Richard Greene, Milken speech coach.

The students wrote and delivered

90-second speeches, ranging from Ashkenazi’s interpretation of “Never Again” and applying that lesson to the situation in Sudan, to how teachers and parents should value youngsters’ individuality and soul, not just the grades on their math tests.

The other winners were: Chanel Halimi (second place), Lena August (third place) and Jeremy Ullman and Adam Handwerker (tied for fourth place).

For more information on Milken go to www.milken.