Do you remember that Heinz ketchup commercial? It was such a good message, one of which I was recently reminded.
Sherri Zaslow, director of marketing and sales for Tudor Heights, had been hounding me for months to come and see the facility. For months, I did not make it. Maybe it was because I was too busy. Maybe it was because I had been to other assisted living facilities and I figured if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Maybe it is because I thought it would smell or that it would make me sad to see elderly people who had contributed so much to society living out their last days in a “facility.”
Boy, was I surprised.
Admittedly, I ran nearly 30 minutes late for our meeting, but Zaslow and Executive Director David Lapin greeted me with smiles (as did the receptionist and a group of seniors gathered near the entryway). I was led to a plush sitting room with gorgeous hardwood floors, a soft sofa and a set of plaid arm chairs. The furniture sat before an inviting fireplace. Even in the summer, I could envision a cup of tea and an intimate chat in that room.
Lapin explained that when he started — a little less than two years ago — the facility was empty; there were more than 30 free beds. Today, less than a handful remain unfilled.
Tudor Heights, located off Seven Mile Lane and Park Heights Avenue and operated by Senior Lifestyle, is the only local kosher-certified assisted-living facility, with Star-K and Star-D certifications. There is a mashgiach that works with them to ensure the highest standards.
When Senior Lifestyle took over, it renovated the entire community, putting in new carpets and colors reminiscent of Jewish Baltimore. Each floor is designed with the look, feel and patterns of a historic Baltimore synagogue — Lloyd Street, Bnai Israel, Beth Am, etc. The artwork brings residents back to a time when they were more vibrant (not that they are not now!) and active in the community.
Daily activities, classes and community programs keep the residents involved and also draw people from the Park Heights area inside for a visit. Zaslow said she has put an emphasis on offering activities that keep Tudor Heights a staple of Jewish Baltimore. On Shavuot, for example, the facility hosts an ice cream social, and many people from the area — not just the residents’ families — attend.
Not too long ago, Tudor Heights put in a synagogue and raised money for a sefer Torah. The congregants take part in services weekly; a rabbi from the area comes to lead prayers.
Zaslow remembered last year’s hachansas sefer Torah ceremony and how the residents had tears streaming down their faces. Some were Holocaust survivors who had not seen a ceremony like that for generations. It is special to know they will live the last years of their lives immersed in Jewish culture and tradition, some more so than they ever had.
There was no smell in Tudor Heights, unless you count the inviting scent of warm meals being prepared in the kitchen. There was nothing pathetic or sad, unless you take a minute to consider that not everyone who deserves to live in Tudor Heights can afford to be there and that there are those who can but may not take advantage of it.
Maayan Jaffe is JT editor-in-chief — firstname.lastname@example.org