State of the HomeLife 2023
Jeffrey A. Gopen, President & CEO
What an inspirational morning this has been.
First, I’d like to congratulate our honorees,
- Founder’s Award recipient Michael Axelrod, who couldn’t be here today;
- Chair’s Award recipient Barry Berlin, whose work with our Finance Committee and foundation has really made a significant impact to the organization
- And to our new London-Rinzler Volunteer Service Award recipient, Joel Lobel. Joel, I see you here multiple times a week, every week, always bringing smiles to our residents’ faces when you are engaging with them. Thank you for not giving up on volunteering during the pandemic. We love having you here.
This is my second year speaking to you as CEO of Jewish HomeLife, and looking around the room at all of you today reminds me of how grateful I am that Jewish HomeLife is about more than just caring for older adults.
We are family.
Our caring staff—from the Executive Directors and clinical team, to maintenance, dietary and housekeeping—we care for our residents and clients as if they are our own family. All of us are committed to the sacred work of helping seniors live their best possible lives for as long as they are in our care.
Our generous donors—from those who give a single tribute to honor a loved one to others who provide legacy gifts and endowments—you are unified in your passion for helping sustain our organization so we can serve our community for generations to come.
Our volunteers—from musicians and school groups who entertain the residents to our massively successful Auxiliary—you provide the heart and soul of our engagement programs and light up a room when you spend time with us.
Together, we are a family unified in our mission of serving older adults, but also mindful that what we do today matters for future generations. Aging happens to all of us. And Jewish HomeLife embraces it with a passion and energy unmatched by any other Jewish organization in Atlanta.
I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Jewish Federation’s recent mission to Israel. This was my first time there, and as many of you can appreciate, it was life-changing. As a recent Atlanta transplant, my goal was to meet as many new people in order to build meaningful relationships with other Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders and community friends. What I didn’t anticipate was how this experience would enhance me as a person, as a Jew, as a leader in this organization and in this community.
I learned that what we do at Jewish HomeLife connects us to nearly everyone. Not everyone on the trip had heard of Jewish HomeLife, but nearly everyone could tell me about an experience they’ve had with an aging parent or loved one. Aging transcends everything, and it’s our job to build community around it. To wrap our arms around those who need our services, and to ensure we can serve everyone for generations to come.
What we do is special. And I was so proud to share a bit of it with the others on this journey. It was soul-enhancing to stand at the Kotel and place the prayers from our residents and families into the cracks of the wall. Standing there with my community of new friends, peers and colleagues, they were able to share my excitement and awe at being part of an organization that has meant so much to so many. I am hopeful that the new relationships built and the new ideas generated will be seeds that continue to grow for Jewish HomeLife as we work to be the best senior care organization in Atlanta.
Where is Jewish HomeLife today? My friends…this staff, this team, is stronger and more unified than ever. Although there has been a recent spike, the devastation of Covid is in the rearview mirror. We are diligently working towards being a stronger organization than we were prior to the pandemic. And, slowly but surely, we are seeing the results of that work.
It’s a new day at Jewish HomeLife. Gone are the days that we stay under the radar hoping the AJC doesn’t point to us as an example of COVID gone wrong. As CEO, I’m leading the way both in Jewish Atlanta, and in the local and national senior care industry to put Jewish HomeLife on the map. And people are taking notice. We are meeting with foundations and community donors who have never before invested in our organization at significant levels and are now taking interest. I have been asked to serve on the board of the Association of Jewish Aging Services, known as AJAS, the national association of organizations like ours. As a result of my involvement, AJAS is bringing their 2025 annual convention to The William Breman Jewish Home so our counterparts across the country can see what a jewel Jewish HomeLife is to the Atlanta community. I have also been elected to on the board of the Georgia Health Care Association, our local industry association, the most influential senior care industry association in the state. Jewish HomeLife now has a seat at the table, and I will continue to find opportunities to lead by example. It’s time Jewish Atlanta, and the greater Metro area, looks to Jewish HomeLife as a leading, premier senior care provider.
Today we are a $35 million dollar organization on 2 campuses, with 7 different business lines. We are unified by our mission and driven by our passion. Management is solid at all our entities, and our staff retention is about to surpass our pre-pandemic levels.
Let me share with you some of our successes this year:
- Our quality metrics are on the climb at all our business lines, improving month over month
- Weinstein Hospice is now the only 4-star hospice in Metro Atlanta, and there is no 5-star. Our quality metrics as measured by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s Hospice Compare shows we surpass nearly all national and state benchmarks for quality as measured by families.
- Berman Commons was chosen as Best of Perimeter in the Senior Living and Memory Care categories for the 3rd year in a row by readers of the Dunwoody Crier. And, once again ranked in the Top 3 for Best of Jewish Atlanta by the Atlanta Jewish Times.
- At The William Breman Jewish Home, AND at Berman Commons, our 5 star Google reviews are at an all-time high. Our families are happy with our care and referring us to friends and colleagues.
- Provide compassionate, engaging, and person-centered, high quality of life care to over 350 short and long-term residents at The William Breman Jewish Home per year;
- Serve more than 400 families in Hospice and Palliative care with spiritual, emotional and medical support through Weinstein Hospice; and another 200 families through Eckstein Home Care
- Provide care for more than 750 residents and their families through our network of residential communities.
Speaking of residential communities, we made some significant changes this past year that I’m glad to report have all had positive outcomes.
- We expanded our dining options at Berman Commons, our assisted living community in Dunwoody, to offer kosher style dining as well offering a strict kosher option. Our two separate kitchens were adjusted and now provide a wider variety of choices for an increasingly diverse community.
- We made the very difficult business decision to close The Cohen Home and consolidate our assisted living communities into one thriving community at Berman Commons. The move was based on forecasts of what the future holds for our industry, the demand in that area of Johns Creek, and the need to protect the organization so it can be sustainable for future generations
- 7 assisted living communities closed in Johns Creek area since January
- 25 of 29 residents moved with us. All are happy and thriving with more activities, larger apartments and better amenities
- 60% staff moved with us—most to Berman Commons, though everyone was offered an opportunity to continue working for JHL.
- Made the move at a time when we could accommodate everyone at Berman. Berman is filling up, so the timing was critical.
- Our renovation at The Jewish Tower is well underway. We already have residents who are now living in their beautifully renovated apartments. Additionally, Berman Commons will also get a facelift in most of the common area spaces this fall.
The future of senior care is, of course, growing. But it is growing in an alternate trajectory than it had been three years ago. Jewish HomeLife Board and Staff have been working to strategically adjust our business lines to be ready to meet these challenges:
- People are living longer; aging in place longer, and running out of funds that they once thought would be enough
- Costs are increasing on all sides, for the end user and for health care workers
- Competition is fierce, not just for qualified and compassionate workers, but also for physical spaces and amenities
We are making moves to ensure Jewish HomeLife will be ready for future generations, including creating and growing funds that will help people afford our services and to attract and retain staff.
We still need financial resources. The $1 does not stretch as far as it used to. Everything from food and supply costs to wages to attract and retain high quality healthcare workers is significantly more expensive than it was just 3 years ago.
- Medicaid coverage does not cover the gap in actual cost of services plus this gap continues to grow.
- People desire to age in place and do not come to our communities until later
- Care needs are higher than ever before
- Financial resources are scarce for many
- Staffing shortages require us to be nimble and strive to be best place to work in order to keep talented staff
- That said, we need more than just best in class salaries and benefits to retain staff. We must have the best work culture and nurturing environment for our staff to grow and flourish.
Looking forward, investing in our staff is one of our highest priorities. We just completed our first leadership training cohort for mid-level managers and our second cohort will begin in a few months. Thanks to generous donors we can offer tuition reimbursement and pay for certification programs that provide career ladder opportunities for staff. And our staff has noticed the difference. Our turnover is back to and ready to surpass our pre-Covid retention levels. We continue to see employees who left this great organization realize the grass is definitely not greener and have come back to us from other communities.
Before closing, I’d like to take a moment to thank our Board for their incredible support of me and this organization. I’d also like to thank my senior leadership team, Neelam, Shari, Stephanie, Angela and Jaz for working in lockstep with me to make Jewish HomeLife successful.
Let’s also give a shout out to our incredible dietary staff. Chef Rodney Leverette and his team always bring it—whether it is serving lunch in Helen’s Place or crafting made-to-order omelets at this spectacular brunch. Thank you, and also thanks to our maintenance and housekeeping team for being here on a Sunday morning. You guys are amazing.
The state of our HomeLife is getting stronger every day and we are a unified voice for senior care excellence and are excited about the future. Many thanks to you, our family, for supporting us with your time, your money, your positive Google reviews, and your kindness.
With your support, I know we will continue to be the best senior care organization in The A-T-L.