Jul 20, 2012
By Amanda Mayo
The Woodmere Rehabilitation Center has made some recent changes to its daily schedule to become more in tune with the Jewish traditions of many resident patients. Under the leadership of Rabbi Nahum Marcus, these new Jewish programs are bringing residents together in ways they have never seen before.
“They wanted to make the nursing home more accommodating, more haimish, more “home-like” – more Jewish-oriented,” Marcus said. He is the Rehabilitation Center’s new Director of the Jewish Heritage Program, a position he has held for the last two months. Marcus works at the center Monday through Friday, anywhere from noon until five or six o’clock in the evening.
Marcus greets and meets new patients and lets them know about the different programs and Jewish services the Rehabilitation Center has to offer. “I ask them if they want grape juice and challah rolls for the weekend,” he said. “For women, I ask them if they’d want the lecture candelabra for lighting candles on Friday night, things like that.” Marcus tries to make the new residents feel as comfortable and at home as possible. “It’s generally to let them know that there is someone here,” he said.
The Woodmere Rehabilitation Center has a large Jewish population, right in the heart of The Five Towns, nestled between Irving Place and Franklin Avenue. “We’re trying to make it more Jewish-oriented,” Marcus said. The nursing home’s kitchen is also now under the supervision of the VAAD of The Five Towns and Far Rockaway, serving up Glatt Kosher meals.
Aside from helping patients out with their individual needs, Marcus also leads religious services every weekday afternoon, an intro to Sabbath service on Friday afternoon and Sabbath services on Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Daily services are a brand-new addition to the Rehabilitation Center, a new tradition that arrived two months ago when Marcus started working there.
Marcus said about 15 people come to the daily services each day, and about 30 people come to the weekend services, as well as the intro to Sabbath service on Friday afternoons.
“We’ll talk about the portion of the week that’s going to be read the next day,” he said of the intro service. “It’s basically for all the people who don’t really observe but want to know more.” He added that some residents who are in poor medical conditions might find it difficult to go to services on the Sabbath, so they will often attend the intro service instead. Last week, Marcus said about 30 to 40 people came to the intro service.
“My wife is here under a lot of tension and pressure. This gives me a little break, it’s very comforting,” Irving Waxman, of West Hempstead, said. Waxman is also a resident at the home. “It’s very relaxing for me,” he said of the newly implemented daily services.
Cliff Ladner, of Jamaica Estates, is a second-year resident at the Rehabilitation Center. He had heart surgery not too long ago and attends the daily services led by Rabbi Marcus every day. “It’s excellent,” he said of the program. “This is one of the only nursing homes in the country that have these kinds of services. Rabbi Marcus is probably the most competent person I’ve ever seen as a rabbi,” Ladner said.
Marcus leads his services with energy and charisma. Residents look forward to the new services every day, and many said they were filled with hope, happiness and warmth after listening to the rabbi end with the D’var Torah, a five to ten minute “learning period” where he gives a lesson after the Torah service. He speaks to everyone as his equals, and it is hard not to leave inspired by the lesson.
Andrew Blank, of Hewlett, is a recreation aide at the center. Has worked there for five years and said he attends services for his own benefit as well as to help the residents with whatever they may need. “It’s made me more spiritual and more patient,” Blank said.
David Hill, of Great Neck, is a four-year resident at the rehabilitation center and said he is very happy with the fact that there are now daily afternoon services. “I think the services are great,” he said, adding, “It’s also wonderful to have the Friday and Saturday services.”
Marcus said he would like to get the community involved in the new Jewish Heritage Program at the nursing home. “I’d like to set up some kind of visitation-rotation where students can visit patients,” he said, adding that it would be part of the students’ chessed hours. “It would be wonderful for the children and wonderful for the residents.”
Marcus said that a few area yeshivas already send students to the nursing home, but he wants to set up some kind of rotation where there is more consistency in the different people visiting. He also would like to reach out to local area youth groups to get them involved with the nursing home.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Ladner said of Marcus. “I have no more living family on the east coast, but I feel at home here.” He said the services are wonderful and he looks forward to attending them every day, especially because they are led by Rabbi Marcus.
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