Ovation Communities | Jewish Senior Living in Wisconsin
Founded in 1906, Ovation Communities is a Jewish faith-based organization, and offers a full continuum of senior living and care options, from independent apartments to rehabilitation and skilled nursing services. Ovation Communities welcomes residents of all faiths.
Just five years ago, the concept seemed impossible. As the long-term care industry faces a workforce crisis, it’s been seeking a solution to the problem that will last years to come.
Today, a first-of-its-kind Geriatric Career Development (GCD) program at Ovation Communities is addressing the issue, and at the same time, helping local at-risk students attend college and secure job opportunities.
Through LeadingAge Wisconsin’s Research & Educational Foundation, Ovation was selected as the pilot site to launch the innovative new program. Modeled after a successful program at The New Jewish Home in New York City, its vision is to inspire youth and create the next generation of healthcare professionals. The need for personal care workers is on the rise, yet today the average caregiver vacancy rate in Wisconsin nursing homes is at 19 percent. GCD helps address these critical gaps in our workforce.
The program is also aimed at helping at-risk students and addressing Milwaukee’s lower high school graduation rate, which was 60.9 percent in 2016. Program leaders hope it will help close the education achievement gap and serve as a critical resource for students coming from challenging socioeconomic backgrounds. Job opportunities through Ovation Communities and other long-term care providers in Milwaukee are available to student program participants.
“I’ve always believed that you do well by doing good. Following the Jewish value Tikkun Olam, meaning ‘Repair of the World,’ it’s our obligation to help the entire world be the best it can be,” said President and CEO Mike Sattell. “With the GCD program, we’ve been given a great opportunity to reach out to local students and lift up those who may not have a career path in front of them.”
The program saw promising results at The New Jewish Home, where in 2017, 100 percent of participating students planned to attend 33 unique colleges. The students were offered $1 million in combined scholarships, and two of the students received full scholarships.
Ovation is already seeing impacts of the program in both students and residents. perhaps the most important is how many residents have expressed an interest and passion for being mentors. When asked for help, 14 Jewish Home and Chai Point residents volunteered the first day. “Residents are sharing their wisdom about aging and their experiences working with caregivers, and above all, they are sharing their life stories and lessons,” said Sattell. “Our residents have amazing gifts and stories to tell, and through that they gain students’ confidence and show that our elders are human beings like them, just at a different stage in their lives.”
Some residents and participants even attended the same high schools, with participating schools including North Division High School, James Madison Academic Campus and Washington High School.
Raniya Bunkley, one of the program’s Summer Ambassadors, shared the impact of the residents’ guidance, “This program has helped me have better communication, create positive bonds and relationships with residents and participants, to be attentive at all times and to respect my elders.”
If you’re passionate about this program and would like more information or want to get involved, contact Michael Sattell at email@example.com.
There’s no better way to bring different communities together than through song. Ovation Sarah Chudnow demonstrated this at its annual Interfaith Choral Concert in Posner Town Square, when 120 singers from different religions and nine different organizations shared a stage for an evening of music and merriment.
At the concert, each group sang three songs separately and together sang the grand finale, “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” For the first time at the Interfaith Choral Concert, a combined choir of Christians and Jews, North Shore Congregational Church and Congregation Emanu-El B’Ne Jeshurun, performed a set of songs together.
The annual concert started nine years ago when Larry Ladin, Rehab Admissions Coordinator for Ovation Sarah Chudnow and organizer for the event, wanted to find a way for residents to perform for others and get the larger community involved.
“It’s been a great way to expose our residents and the other groups to the community, and it’s fun to see the camaraderie with the different religions,” said Ladin.
This year’s participating groups included Grace Lutheran Church, Good Shepherd Catholic church, Crossroads Presbyterian Church, combined choirs North Shore Congregational Church and Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun, Milwaukee Jewish Community Chorale, Congregation Shalom, Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid and Sarah Chudnow Glee Club. The concert is open to the public and always draws a large crowd of family and friends.
“It’s not a competition, just a really spiritual, enjoyable evening,” Ladin added. “While Grace Lutheran Church brought along their bell choir, some bring electric guitars and other instruments. Each group does different things in their own way.”
Ovation Communities hosted its annual Golden Alliance Dinner in August at Ovation Jewish Home’s Monya’s Garden, where members enjoyed an elegant evening and learned about new programs that are positively impacting the community with the help of Ovation’s donors.
This year’s dinner showcased Ovation’s new Geriatric Career Development (GCD) program, and featured guest speaker John Cruz, director of the GCD program at The New Jewish Home in New York, which is run as part of a workforce development initiative for underserved youth. At the Golden Alliance Dinner, completion certificates were presented to two students in attendance who participated in the GCD Summer Ambassador Program. Ovation is thankful for the Golden Alliance members who make aspirations like this possible. Golden Alliance Membership is an annual unrestricted giving program, vital to the ongoing operation of Ovation Communities, run through the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation. Since 1992, members of this special and important group have played a significant role in providing residents with the best facilities and care. A new donor wall listing the Golden Alliance members will soon be unveiled.
This fall, residents, families, employees and supporters across Ovation Communities and beyond have been involved in a very special, once-in-a-lifetime initiative. The organization has had the unique opportunity to commission a new Torah for the Kohl Family Synagogue, under the guidance of Rabbi Levi Emmer and Rabbi Steve Adams.
The current Torahs were inherited by Ovation, and have been in use since the 1920s. In many cases they are too heavy, and difficult for residents and rabbis to hold for ceremonial purposes. The new Torah is being created specifically for the Ovation community with participation from a wide variety of audiences. Over a series of events, residents and members of the broader community have been invited to letter in the new Torah alongside a commissioned sofer (scribe), working with quill and ink in hand. This unique opportunity also fulfills a mitzvah (commandment), that of writing a Torah scroll. Following tradition, participants have also been invited to mark their legacy and make dedications to support the development of the religious artifact. “This isn’t something people get to do every day,” says Tanya Mazor-Posner, Vice President of Development. “We’re grateful to have the opportunity for our community to unite around such a meaningful, spiritual life event.”
To further celebrate the milestone, a Torah Art exhibition filled with related artifacts traveled to Ovation Communities from Congregation Emanu-El B’ne Jeshurun. Residents and families also participated in a holiday concert and lively Torah Fair.
Everyone is welcome and invited to celebrate the new Torah. A Grand Torah Celebration will be held December 9, as the piece is welcomed into its new home. The event will kick off with a final lettering opportunity, followed by a processional escorting the Torah from Ovation Chai Point to Ovation Jewish Home under a chuppah. The entire community is welcome for a Chanukah lighting ceremony, food, entertainment and celebration. “The Kohl Family Synagogue is a gathering place and is open to everyone, regardless of religious affiliation,” said Mazor-Posner. “Created with love and purpose by so many different hands, the new Torah is truly an extension of our community.” Dedications can still be made after the December 9 event. Please contact Tanya Mazor-Posner at 414-721-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ovation employees make a difference in the lives of residents and their families every day. In order to continue to provide the best care, our communities strive to offer the best possible work environment. In August, Ovation opened a new employee center at Ovation Jewish Home.
The center is versatile, offering different amenities to accommodate the varying ways employees may want to use the space. While one room serves as a place to socialize and eat meals, another provides a space for respite. In addition to comfortable seating and desks to work at, there are docking stations for employees to charge their phones, and a lactation room, which is also used as a meditation space.
“We want to make sure our employees have a place to relax and rejuvenate, and take a well-deserved break,” said Marlo Graceffa, Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development.
Like the rest of the community, the facility is art focused, showcasing artwork created by Ovation’s own employees. “We have several employees who are so talented, and we’re excited to offer this new opportunity for them to display their art, and show another side of them we normally don’t see at work,” said Graceffa.
Ovation also kicked off a new employee wellness program in September, working closely with wellness coach Sara Fox Reilly, who visits one of Ovation’s communities once per week. Moving forward, each community plans to begin goal-oriented check-in programs and walking clubs.
“With how hard our employees work and care for our residents, the last person they think about is often themselves,” said Graceffa. “We want to help them live happier, healthier lifestyles and achieve their personal goals.”
A new sculpture exhibit was unveiled at Ovation Sarah Chudnow on June 10. The exhibit, “Steel the Light,” by Wisconsin artist Joel Pfeiffer included the unveiling of his newest sculpture “When Spirit Speaks” the first in his new GATEWAY series.
Pfeiffer’s recent sculptures are an exploration of how light, color, steel and glass can be melded together in new and unexpected visual delights. The sculptures capture both the eye and “steel” the light, holding them for conversation and thought.
Pfeiffer’s sculptures came to Ovation Sarah Chudnow on May 25 and were on display until July 17.
On June 24, Ovation Sarah Chudnow hosted a Gubernatorial Forum in partnership with Grassroots North Shore. The seven top-polling candidates for the Democratic nomination for Governor responded to a wide array of questions and issues facing our community.
The crowd was standing room only, with over 230 community members in attendance.
The annual July 3rd Fireworks Fest brought entertainment, delicious food, and fun to the Rubenstein Pavilion as residents, community members, and guests celebrated Independence Day. Musical entertainment was provided by Joseph Deveraux, and balloon twister and family show performer Peter Lindsay brought fun and laughter to the crowd.
The proceeds from the event benefitted the Monya’s Garden Fund through the Jewish Home and Care Center Foundation. In September 1996, the three daughters of Monya Tolkan, a resident of the Helen Bader Center, established an endowment in Monya’s memory. The endowed gift brought a new array of colorful beauty to the outdoor terrace of the Bader Center. Donations through the July 3rd Fireworks event helps maintain this lovely haven for our residents and guests.
Thank you to our sponsors and all who celebrated with us this year!
Discovering an unknown passion … unearthing joy and creativity
It is never too late to find your passion. Helen Sher started taking art classes at age 60 when she attended a woodworking class at Cardinal Stritch.
Helen Sher, daughter to Morris and Minnie Rabinovitz, was born and raised in Milwaukee, where she also raised her two children Armin Sher and Robin Kasch with her husband Jerry. Helen is a wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother who puts other people’s needs before her own.
Helen loved the challenge of working with watercolors. After realizing that woodworking was not for her she moved on to painting where she tried working with oils and acrylics before working with watercolors. Helen and Jerry spent most winters in Florida to escape the Wisconsin winters. While in Florida Helen worked on her paintings while also taking more art classes.
Helen has always had a strong interest in art, whether she was clipping pictures from magazines to frame and put up in her home or collecting pieces of art while traveling. Helen discovered that art was a creative and peaceful outlet for her where she could lose all worries or concerns and focus on the colors and her painting. “Water color painting gave me such a feeling of relaxation. All of my worries would go away and I would just think of the color. The pieces I painted are still therapeutic to me today.”
Helen has never thought to display her work before, but for her 100th Birthday Ovation Chai Point put Helen’s artwork on display for all to see. Helen had a difficult time picking the pieces she wanted to exhibit, because “they are like my children…I love each one of them”.