Monday, January 24, 2022

With construction on The Jewish Home Family’s Second Century Project now nearly complete, the expansion of the Rockleigh campus has transformed it into a “state-of-the-art facility, which is a wonderful testament to the Jewish community,” according to The Jewish Home’s new chaplain, Rabbi Jerome Berkowitz.

“Even in these times, they raised [more than] $27 million,” he added. “Our community is baalei tzedakah; they give so much. It shows how the mitzvah of kibud av v’em is so strong that it applies even when the elders are not your parents.”

Phase one renovations included the construction of The Center for Rehabilitation Excellence, as well as a new 60-room residential facility for short term rehabilitation patients. The new rehab center includes new treatment modalities and services, including warm water aquatic therapy, large inpatient gym areas, and dedicated space for outpatients to continue working with the therapists they came to know and trust as inpatients. The short term residential facility will be transformational in terms of providing elder care services in both the short and long term, according to literature supplied by The Jewish Home.

Phase two will include renovations to the existing long term care units and the implementation of small “Green House” households for residents.

“I am just so moved by what the new facility can do for people needing rehab,” said Rabbi Berkowitz. “There is a kitchen just for people to learn in so they are prepared to go home … to help them go back to a normal life. The chesed part of it all really touches me.”

Rabbi Berkowitz comes to The Jewish Home with an interesting and eclectic background. He was a pulpit rabbi for 22 years, most recently in Rego Park. After leaving the pulpit he worked as the general manager at the Homowack Lodge in the Catskills for five years, revitalizing the venue, bringing in a summer camp and revamping the menu. “It was a very special place,” he shared.

Following that position he worked at IDT in Newark, where he upgraded the food services and helped organize shabbatonim for yeshivas and day schools. During this time he was also working at the Centers for Health Care, based in the Bronx, as a chaplain. When he left IDT, he turned to the small-business world and purchased Eden Wok, a glatt kosher Asian fusion casual-dining restaurant located in New Rochelle.

Then COVID hit and his chaplaincy services were no longer required, as nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other rehab and senior living facilities shuttered their doors to outsiders to protect their residents. His son was running Eden Wok, “and I worked with him. It was a very busy time,” he said. “So many people didn’t want to go out, but still wanted takeout. We did deliveries to people who had COVID. That was a nice chesed.

“And we were in New Rochelle, the epicenter of everything in this area, so there was always media. We were very busy.”

Once things started to open up, Rabbi Berkowitz wanted to go back to working as a chaplain. His 10 years with the Centers for Health Care gave him the experience he needed to take on his newest role: chaplain at The Jewish Home at Rockleigh, where he began his tenure on October 25.

Rabbi Berkowitz’ immediate goals are to provide pastoral care and counseling to the residents, give shiurim and “resurrect the minyanim,” he noted.

“I go from unit to unit, from room to room, making kiddush, doing a little davening, offering chizuk and sharing Torah thoughts. I have been trying to visit 20 to 30 people a day.”

Rabbi Berkowitz will spend every other Shabbat at The Jewish Home. “I am looking forward to spending Shabbos with the residents and doing everything I can to make it truly Shabbosdik.”

The Second Century Campaign has a fundraising goal of $30 million. For more information on how you can help, or on The Jewish Home, visit www.jewishhomefamily.org.

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