Community stakeholders’ voices not heard or acknowledged
As a former administrator of Weinberg Terrace, as well as Riverview Towers and the former Covenant at South Hills, I worked to ensure that proper kosher supervision took place in the kosher kitchens and dining facilities. The change in kosher dining has left many stakeholders uncertain of the future. I spent a great deal of time listening to thousands of residents and their families over the years and know that their voices and concerns need to be heard and addressed. It is paramount that the Jewish Association on Aging’s board and administration listen to all the stakeholders — past, present and future users of the services, residents and their families, staff, donors and the Jewish community at large.
JAA leadership must realize that there are many people who may need these services and will have no facility to call upon in their time of need. It is the deconstruction of the Jewish culture for our elders.
Amid the rush to accomplish this dismantling of services — including the Charles Morris Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Weinberg Village, as well as eliminating proper kosher meal service at Weinberg Terrace — many in the community are left wondering if the long-range plan of higher rent apartments will be affordable to them and are concerned that there is a gaping hole for those in the Jewish community who need different levels of health care.
In 1906, the JAA’s predecessor organization began as “a home or house for aged Hebrews in conformity with … Orthodox Judaism.” Fast forward to today: Sadly the Jewish Home, which became Charles Morris, was closed in January 2021 and residents had to find new homes in the winter during COVID. One year later, in the winter of 2022, the JAA closed one of its personal care facilities, Weinberg Village, again forcing families to scramble to find new homes for their loved ones. Now, at Weinberg Terrace, the JAA wants to serve non-kosher food; residents opting for kosher food will be served pre-made double-wrapped meals. This move takes away the continuity of heritage, which is why the JAA was originally established. What will differentiate Weinberg Terrace from any other senior living facility, where someone could request a kosher meal and get a prepackaged tray?
In geriatric practice we know that socialization is key to good mental health. Sharing meals minimizes loneliness and isolation. The alternative leads to negative emotions directly affecting nutrition and overall health. Now, some friends won’t be able to dine together if one’s religious observance prohibits them from sitting with someone who is eating non-kosher food.
The costs may be debatable and could be managed — none of this was beyond the scope of being worked out. However, this was sprung on the community after the fact and transparency was severely lacking. To start this right before the High Holidays is beyond insensitive.
Why can’t we slow the process down and wait until the secular New Year to see what we could accomplish with everyone’s input? Those sharing our concerns can contact our working group, firstname.lastname@example.org.