Numerous elements produce a lovely, inviting place to visit and live. Warm and friendly people, of course, set the tone, but the physical surroundings speak volumes about the thought that went into building Berman Commons—the newest assisted living and memory care community in the Jewish HomeLife family of services. Indeed, those who have visited simply can’t get over all of the meticulous choices made to delight and inspire residents and their families.
“We’re right next to the MJCCA [Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta], so quite a few have watched the building take shape from the outside,” says Jenice Holtz Cunningham, Executive Director of Berman Commons. “Even so, I can’t tell you how many people step into the lobby and look around as if they’re in the wrong place. Inevitably, they’ll say the décor is more like an exclusive resort.”
Offering concierge services, Berman Commons certainly caters to the individual, but unlike a posh resort, takes a more personal approach and feels like home. Moreover, all of the beautiful design choices serve deeper purpose, as JHLC’s guiding principle, “Honor thy father and mother,” lies at the heart of this special place.
“By following the Fifth Commandment, we’ve created a space worthy of the people who live there,” says President and CEO of Jewish HomeLife, Harley Tabak. “We want all of our seniors to live the best possible life every minute.”
Named for JHLC Past Board Chair Steven M. Berman to honor his dedication and support for the elderly for more than 40 years, Berman Commons–which opened on March 8–became a labor of love over the past seven years for a dedicated team of volunteers, dubbed by JHLC leadership as the Berman Commons “Dream Team.” In addition to Steve Berman, community leaders Joe Rubin, Jerry Weiner, David Weiss, Fred Halperin and Bob London were each responsible for different components of the project, from financing and vision (Weiss and Weiner), to design/build management and interiors (Rubin and London). All were equally responsible for the successful completion of the new community, on budget and on time.
Led by Fred Halperin, the Berman Commons capital campaign raised more than $10 million from 170 families and several foundations that were impressed with JHLC’s reputation for quality and service. To acknowledge the donors, the walls of the entranceway, distinguished as Founders Hall, bear the names of individuals and families who contributed to the spectacular look and feel of Berman Commons.
Family names also differentiate rooms and cozy nooks throughout the building. More than a dozen seating areas in the open-concept main floor offer plenty of places for residents to socialize play cards, mah-jongg or read. Private rooms also offer families their own areas for an occasion like a birthday party, while floor to ceiling windows allow for them still to feel part of the community. Inviting furniture, too, adds elegance, and feels so comfortable.
Quickly becoming the talk of the town, Berman Commons impresses all with a gorgeous reception area, featuring contemporary crystal chandeliers, natural stone accent walls, and vibrant fabrics and carpets. Two other chandeliers establish a stately quality for the adjacent study, as does a massive bookcase with large-print books, for ease of reading.
Consideration for the residents has guided every appointment. A grand piano, for instance, that sits in a dignified corner is a player piano. Residents will hear music every day, which studies indicate has a positive effect on the mind—especially in older adults with dementia.
Beautiful colors and textures also nourish the senses and exist in many forms. Perfectly positioned, charming flea market antiques mingle with fantastic replicas, whimsical trinkets, stunning modern objects, and meaningful Judaica.
“By surrounding our residents with beautiful Judaica and infusing activities with traditions and foods reminiscent of their heritage, both Ashkenazi and Sephardic, we provide moments of context and familiarity,” said Cunningham. “Even those who were not observant later in their lives appreciate and enjoy the comfort of memories evoked by our shared culture and experiences.”
Adding an important layer of Judaica, an impressive ark stands beneath a vivid stained glass Mogen David window, made by local artist and friend of JHLC, Dr. Gary Saban (see sidebar). Chaplain and Kashrut supervisor Fred Glusman has arranged for a daily minyan and hopes to hold high-holiday services for anyone wanting to participate. For other occasions, the assembly hall contains a giant screen for showing movies and other entertaining programs for residents all year round.
Other well-appointed yet functional spaces on the main level include a beauty salon and physical therapy room, so residents feel pampered and get the therapies they need to restore strength and mobility as needed.
While wowed by the public areas, some might imagine that the rest of the community isn’t quite so bright. Instead, they find that Berman Commons retains its allure throughout. Resident apartment hallways, for example, all display captivating pictures of synagogues from around the world, including South America, Eastern Europe, Maryland and New York. Equally mesmerizing are photographs of famous sites in Israel, such as Masada, the Dead Sea and the Old City. Once again, the 5th commandment drives the choices. The oversized photos inspire memories and honor the residents and their own personal histories, travels and experiences.
One of most appealing areas of Berman Commons is the third-floor Porch located in the Ackerman Memory Care. While relaxing in the fresh air, residents enjoy what staff members refer to as “club level seating” for whatever ballgame is in play just below them at the MJCCA.
Numerous aspects of nature flow through Berman Commons. Picturesque outdoor gardens with a waterfall and pretty wooden benches provide ideal spots for taking in the scenery, socializing and walking. A walking path also leads directly to the MJCCA. Encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle, Berman Commons pays for each resident’s MJCCA membership, which includes use of the terrific facilities and extensive programs.
“All things considered, Berman Commons probably seems rather fancy,” said Steve Merlin, JHLC Board Chair. “Well, it is, but after a look around, people quickly find all of the comforts of home and a feeling of warmth and hospitality that can’t be manufactured.”
Jenice Cunningham added, “We’re here to make older adults feel cared for, loved and appreciated. Every one of our residents is someone’s parent, grandparent, sister or brother, and our staff honors each one like they would a beloved family member.”