Congratulations, 2012 Volunteer of the Year Evelyn Hirsch!

Evelyn Hirsch hard at work

RSM resident and 2012 Cedar Sinai Park Volunteer of the Year Evelyn Hirsch is hard at work on her next play

We’re proud to announce that the 2012 Cedar Sinai Park Volunteer of the Year is Evelyn Hirsch, a Rose Schnitzer Manor resident. 

You may know Evelyn, or Evy as she likes to be called, as the author, producer, and director of several plays that have been performed on campus over the past 12 months. She is a member of Eddy Shuldman’s Monday “Older but Wiser” writing group, where last year she wrote a one act play and is writing another now for a September reading by professional actors. Last year, she also wrote a comedic adaptation of “The Town Crier” titled “The Town Schreier. Her adaptation of “Fiddler on the Roof” captivated audiences at both the Rose Schnitzer Manor and Robison Jewish Health Center in December.

More recently, Evelyn directed the 2012 Rose Schnitzer Manor Purim Spiel, to the tune of Broadway songs. And on Thursday, May 17 the Manor will see a live performance of her next project, “Snow White and the Seven Yentehs.”

Evelyn invited everyone to the play, saying, “Everyone is welcome. There is no charge.”

Evelyn does a lot behind the scenes as well. Her other volunteer activities include:

  • Participating in the RSM Resident Council as an active member.
  • Helping identify improvements around the Manor as a one-person Good and Welfare of the Campus Committee
  • Teaching drawing and painting at a Thursday class

Volunteer of the Year display at RSM Lobby

Evelyn, who described herself as “outgoing, friendly, and exuberant”, said she has also taken it upon herself to welcome new residents and “make them feel comfortable.”

About the Volunteer of the Year award, Evelyn said, “The award doesn’t change anything. I don’t need any awards. I like people and I want to help. Mike [Mogell, Evelyn’s husband who passed away last year] would have wanted me to help.”

Hesed Shel Emet Buries Jews With Dignity

Debbi Bodie

Hesed Shel Emet founder and Cedar Sinai Park Chief Development Officer Debbi Bodie

When in the summer of 2008 Florence, a Robison Jewish Health Center resident, passed away with no resources, relatives, or burial plan, Debbi Bodie made sure Florence had a proper Jewish burial. In addition to being Cedar Sinai Park’s Chief Development Officer Debbi also happened to be chair of the Cemetery Committee at her synagogue.

“I found out at 10 am that Florence had passed away, and by 3 pm she had a burial arranged,” Debbi said.

But, Debbi thought, what about other community members in the same situation as Florence? She got together for coffee with Rabbi Ariel Stone and Hesed Shel Emet, or “ultimate act of love and kindness”, was born.

Hesed Shel Emet is a program assuring that all low-income residents of Oregon and Southwest Washington can buried with dignity in accordance with Jewish law and customs. Since its inception, the program, which operates under the umbrella of Cedar Sinai Park’s fiscal agency, arranged and paid for 9 burials for Jewish people without resources.

A typical Hesed burial happens like this: A Jewish community member’s relative or caregiver calls his or her rabbi or Jewish agency to ask for assistance with the loved one’s burial.  The rabbi connects the community member with Debbi (all 32 rabbis in the Portland metropolitan area have a memorandum of understanding with Hesed Shel Emet, and all take turns officiating at its funerals). Debbi then finds a plot at a cemetery and arranges for the actual burial to take place (like the rabbis, all 11 area cemeteries participate on a rotation).

The burial is arranged quickly from the time of the initial call. “You can’t pre-plan a Hesed funeral,” Debbi said. “It’s coordinated at the time of need.”

With increasing presence in the Jewish community, Debbi has seen the program grow both financially and in terms of inquiries. She’s, therefore, come to appreciate the support from the program’s funeral home partners Holman’s Funeral Service or River View Cemetery Funeral Home.

River View’s Executive Director David Noble said, “We applaud and support what Hesed has been doing; we do what we can to help. As a nonprofit, we serve the whole community regardless of their circumstances.”

Similarly, Holman’s director Daniel Holmes expressed gratitude for the program’s existence. “I’m grateful to Debbi for creating Hesed because it helps ensure all members of the local Jewish community have a proper burial. It’s a wonderful thing she stepped up to establish this fund for those who aren’t able to help themselves.”

As the program continues to grow, Debbi continues to have its main purpose in the forefront of her mind.

“Everyone has the right to be buried according to their faith, regardless of their resources. Hesed Shel Emet is the ultimate Mitzvah, a kindness to those who cannot return it or give thanks for it. We need our community to help us perform this Mitzvah for the years to come.”

Read more about Hesed Shel Emet in the Jewish Review:

Singing the Song of Life at Cedar Sinai Park

Final Pre-Summer Break Rehearsal, RSM 062711 (7)

All-Star volunteer Barbara Slader, right, leading the Rose Schnitzer Manor Choir's final pre-summer break rehearsal, 6/27/11

The Rose Schnitzer Manor Choir may be on summer hiatus until after Labor Day, but the members’ love of music is everlasting. Choir Director and long-time Cedar Sinai Park volunteer Barbara Slader summed it up nicely: “The Choir gives us all great joy and energy. Everybody feels younger and zippier after rehearsals and performances. People made new friends, we’re a real team and a wonderful community.”

The Choir started at the Manor in mid-2005 after Barbara ran into a pen pal and fellow choral music lover, Malca Muskin, who had just moved to the Manor. They joined forces with volunteers Judy Sibelmann and Sheryl Chomak; Barry Lavine offered to volunteer as a pianist; and Assistant Choir Director Susie Gouz provides an energizing presence.

“Barry plays brilliant jazz piano and makes our music sparkle,” Barbara said. “Susie helps every singer participate and keeps us all energized and smiling.”

Music plays a major part in Barbara’s life: she’s been a singer a choir director for many years and she founded and directed the Jewish Community Chorus.

“I miss the Choir,” Barbara said. “I love music, I love making music with people, and I love helping people sing together. We enjoy singing the great songs of 1930’s and 1940’s, and we’re working up into the 1950’s. We throw in a rock and roll number every once in a while, we’ve sung Muppets songs, the Beach Boys and the Beatles… And we also like to spice it up with something new and exciting, dramatic or theatrical, or something with props, too. The Choir is the high point of the week for all of us. Singing together makes us feel great!”

All-Star Volunteers? They Sing With Us.

Directing the Choir is only one of Barbara’s charges as a Rose Schnitzer Manor volunteer. She also leads the weekly Torah Study group and various services, including the recent Bar Mitzvah for resident Mike Mogell (Barbara is an invested cantor), and her volunteer commitment at Cedar Sinai Park includes spiritual care (chaplaincy).

Though staff and residents have tremendous appreciation for Barbara’s tireless work, resident Jack Straus said it for all of us, “I don’t know how she does it.”

For her part, Barbara has an apt response: “This is the most meaningful, fulfilling, and rewarding work I’ve ever done.”

The Choir’s Monday rehearsals and performances start again the first Monday after Labor Day. Meanwhile, Barbara said, “New singers are welcome!”

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Volunteer Keeps “Employee of the Quarter” Alive

Bob Weinstein with Robison resident

Bob Weinstein with a Robison resident at a recent outing to Skamania Lodge, WA

The Employee of the Quarter program at Cedar Sinai Park started with a returned bill. Volunteer Bob Weiner’s mother-in-law and then-Robison Jewish Health Center Rhea Weinstein had given a few dollars to an aide as reimbursement for beauty supplies she used on Rhea. A head nurse brought the money back, saying staff don’t expect or take anything from residents. In an effort to acknowledge the good work of Cedar Sinai Park employees, Bob joined forces with his wife Marla and brother-in-law Steve Weinstein to endow the Rhea Weinstein Employee of the Quarter Fund.

“We wanted to do it to give thanks,” Bob said. “It’s like a family here.”

Since 2002, the program has honored many caregivers and other staff at both Robison and at Rose Schnitzer Manor. The Cedar Sinai Park official policy states the program recognizes “employees who have made substantial contributions to the organization or who have otherwise contributed or performed in a manner which will reflect favorably on the individual and Cedar Sinai Park”.

Each Employee of the Quarter receives a number of perks to acknowledge their work:

  • Plaque of Honor, prominently displayed at the entrance of each building; past Employees of the Quarter are added to a list running next to the plaque;
  • Check for $150.00; and
  • Assigned parking space for three months or a 3-month Tri-Met pass

All staff are eligible to be nominated. Additional qualifications include a 6-month longevity; being dependable, consistent, and willing to help; having a positive attitude, no absences or tardiness; and demonstrating a positive attitude.

Nominate an Employee

We invite everyone to nominate an employee for the award.

According to Bob, who visits Cedar Sinai Park frequently as a volunteer, “Staff do such nice things for residents all the time. It doesn’t take much to nominate. ”

Anyone can nominate an employee, including staff, residents, guests, and family members, whose nominations we particularly encourage. Blue nomination boxes are located at each building entrance, and another alternates between the main business office and the Robison time-clock nook. The online nomination form for Robison is here [pdf], the form for the Manor is here [pdf].

In addition to the initial endowment, the Fund accepts contributions by community members. If you’d like to help the program grow, call Chief Development Officer Debbi Bodie at 503.535.4303 or email her.

Survey Demonstrates Effects of Robison Care

Robison Jewish Health Center FrontAs part of their work with Cedar Sinai Park, interns Nancy Knopf and Matthew Powers conducted a small survey to find out whether discharged Robison Jewish Health Center residents entered hospital care within 90 days. The survey found that while 7, or 18 percent, of survey respondents did go to the hospital, none did for the reasons related to their reasons for coming to our nursing home care.

The “Resident Discharge Disposition Survey” helps us prepare for the impact of the health care reform: the new Accountable Care policies will affect organizations whose discharged clients experience hospitalization within three months of discharge. The survey’s promising results will also help us  take advantage of the resulting opportunity to work more collaboratively with our acute care partners, such as hospitals, and to collect information on services we could provide to help prevent the return to the hospital.

Asked to summarize her experience conducting the survey, Nancy said, “I felt good about the fact that the information we received was generally positive. The survey shows how we [Robison Jewish Health Center] help people avoid going to the hospital. It made me feel good about the services there and it further confirmed the good work everybody does.”

The interns mailed 94 survey questionnaires to residents discharged between May 2010 and April 2011. Thirty-nine, or 41% of discharged residents returned their questionnaire or completed it in a phone interview. Two of the 7 re-hospitalized discharged residents passed away in the hospital from causes unrelated to their reasons for coming to our care. Data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences software.

Both Nancy and Matthew graduated from PSU as Masters in Social Work on June 11th. Their Cedar Sinai Park supervisor, CEO David Fuks, participated in the hooding ceremony. Congratulations, Nancy and Matthew, and thank you for your great work!

Contribution credits: Robison Jewish Health Center Administrator Kimberly Fuson – copy, 2010-2011 Administrative and Social Work Interns Nancy Knopf and Matthew Powers – survey 

Volunteer Gerel Blauer Beautifies Robison Gardens

Volunteer Gerel Blauer

Volunteer Gerel Blauer in the Miriam Suite Garden, Robison Jewish Health Center, 6/16/11

For Gerel Blauer, volunteering as a gardener at Cedar Sinai Park is personal. Both her mother and cousin lived at Robison Jewish Health Center and she’s a gardening evangelist.

Gerel’s first encounter with Cedar Sinai Park took place in 1986 when her mother stayed at Robison; the second when she’d visit her cousin here in 2000. Both times Gerel felt the building’s entrance area could be more welcoming.

“Unless this place looks inviting, nobody would want to stay here,” she said.

Convinced she could help, she asked Administrator Kimberly Fuson and Community Program Director Kathy Tipsord whether they’d be interested in  the Home — Robison Jewish Health Center used to be called Robison Jewish Home — being beautified. As is Cedar Sinai Park’s philosophy, they said yes, provided Gerel would take the lead.

Gerel answered the bell: she’s been taking care of the six Robison gardens for over 10 years now. She tends to plants, flowers, and shrubs, some of which she brought from her own garden.

A few years in, Gerel realized the job is too much for one person. Since 2005, she’s had occasional volunteers help with the work. She said additional volunteers are always needed and welcome, needing only energy, strength, and interest in exercise. Her volunteer recruitment strategy mirrors Cedar Sinai Park’s and is simple : “When a family member or a friend comes by and they notice something needs to be done, I accept no complaints, I accept volunteer help.”

On the day of the interview, new Rose Schnitzer Manor Queen Lois Poplack’s son was helping Gerel spread bark mulch in the Zidell Garden, underneath the 100-year old heritage tree. He said, “You just can’t say no Gerel. I’ll help whenever she asks me.”

Still, Gerel does most of the work. So much, in fact, that she cannot estimate the number of hours she puts in every week.

“When the spirit moves a volunteer,” Gerel said in general terms, but referring to herself, “and the volunteer has the time, the volunteer volunteers as much as she can give.”

The sense of satisfaction Gerel derives from her volunteer work is palpable to anyone who talks to her. She said, “There’s the satisfaction of providing a pleasant environment, making the Home a more beautiful place, and knowing I helped others.”

Just then, a daughter of a Robison residents walked by, glanced at the Zidell Garden, and said, “Looks beautiful!”

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“Older but Wiser” Playwriting Project Enters Final Stage

Eddy Shuldman With Playwright Martha Pomeranz

Eddy Shuldman with playwright Martha Pomeranz, Rose Schnitzer Manor, 5/17/11

Members of volunteer Eddy Shuldman’s “Older but Wiser” playwriting class are hard at work finalizing their one-act plays. 

Last Tuesday, Shuldman and fellow volunteer Laurie Fendel visited with the playwrights one-on-one to make final revisions to the plays.

The project will culminate in June with two readings, which have yet to be scheduled. The first will take place in a community venue and include professional actors. Shuldman plans for the public reading to “generate exposure to the notion that golden years can be creative and thoughtful.” Residents will perform the second reading at Rose Schnitzer Manor.

Playwright on Two Missions

Rose Schnitzer Manor resident and now also playwright Martha Pomeranz has enjoyed the creative process.

“I joined the group just to see what it’s about. At first I wanted to write about bullies. Then I changed my mind and decided on something more humorous because everything is so serious these days.”

Pomeranz has another mission in mind for her one-act play “Birthday Surprises”. She said, “I’ve found it very delightful to listen to others and their plays. It’s the only way to learn. But I’m also trying to get others to understand how much happens here. Maybe I do a little too much.”

At the final review session, Shuldman and Pomeranz discussed character development and how to add tension to the play.

Other “Older but Wiser” playwrights include Barbara Dubin, Ruth Henning, Evelyn Hirsch, Mike Mogell, Fran Stone, and Charlotte Wiener.

“Older but Wiser” Builds on Its Success

Shuldman has led the “Older but Wiser” writing group since 2009. Aiming to create a writing community at the Manor, Shuldman said she focuses on the writing process and creating a space for Manor writers to exchange critique openly and freely”.

The Group’s inaugural project culminated in early 2010 with the publication and reading of “Older and Wiser”, a collection of short stories and poems by residents.

“I saw the writers’ confidence grow,” Shuldman said. “The program turned out to be quite empowering for them.”

The playwriting class it the group’s second project. The final individual sessions were preceded by 8 classes, running between February and March 2011, facilitated by an experienced playwright and playwriting instructor Matthew Zrebski. Shuldman has coordinated and fellow volunteer Laurie Fendel assisted with the playwriting project (Fendel also facilitates “Mussar“, a personal practice group at the Manor).

“Older but Wiser” itself is an extension of the Jewish Arts Month, which Shuldman coordinates. “The JAM”, as she calls it, is funded by State of Oregon and National Council of Jewish Women grants.

Volunteering at Cedar Sinai Park as a Lifelong Project

A Portland, Oregon, native, Shuldman spent most of her career in education: for 23 years, she directed an alternative high school. After retiring from public schools, she started doing more work in the community.  She’s a fused glass artist, a blogger, and a Bar/Bat Mitzvah instructor. Because she has also volunteered with Cedar Sinai Park since her childhood, she proposed a few potential projects to the Activities Department; the writing group won.

“I just love this place,” Shuldman said.

The feeling is mutual. Community Program Director Kathy Tipsord described Shuldman as “delightful and a wealth of information.”

Following the June readings, “Older but Wiser” will take a summer break and resume in the fall, expanded into two groups.

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