When Mickey Kaufman, former board president of the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, was looking for a quote to describe the arduous seven-year journey to build a new education and resource center on the campus, he turned to King Solomon.
Citing verse 24:6 of Proverbs, “The righteous man falls down seven times and gets up again,” he noted that campus leaders have themselves “fallen down a few times” over the past seven years.
Kaufman, who served as board president from January 2015 to December 2018, told the crowd gathered May 17 at the Franklin Township campus for the grand opening that despite architectural changes and challenges and “significant opposition” at its inception to its scope, leaders “conquered and persevered, and it gives me enormous pleasure to have a realization of this dream, although at times it felt like a nightmare.”
The new two-story, 12,000-square-foot building is the first new construction on the campus since the Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence was built 19 years ago.
Local political and civic leaders joined staff, administration, and board members for a ribbon-cutting, speeches, and affixing of the mezuzah to the doorpost by campus chaplain Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, followed by brunch.
The $3.5 million building came in on time and on budget, noted current president John Wolf, who said being involved with the campus and development of the building gave him a new perspective on its value.
“We take turns in this world and we will all be of this age if we’re lucky, and if we need it, to have services that will be of as high quality as this,” he said. “This forces us to confront our own mortality. I wanted to know about this next stage of life.… I have gotten so much more out of this campus than I could get in return.”
Franklin Township Mayor Dr. Phillip Kramer, a neurologist, welcomed the expanded facility to the municipality, noting doctors such as himself see a lot of issues among seniors as they age that are being met by the many services of the Wilf campus, which, he pointed out, serves both the Jewish and general communities.
Ground was broken in April 2018 on the center, which will allow the services offered by Wilf to be brought together on one site for greater collaboration.
The Stein Hospice office had been located off campus on Veronica Avenue, and has now been joined by Wilf Transport, which assists seniors with medical appointments and socialization programs, as well as the campus foundation, marketing office, and other campus corporate and administrative staff in the new center.
The building also houses a variety of meeting rooms and a multi-purpose room allowing sponsorship of health, wellness, and educational programs, including speakers, workshops, and continuing education programs, holiday celebrations, movie and theater programs for both residents and the general community, a resource room with a library, computer workstations, and a resource information area. As part of the project, 60 critically needed parking spaces were also created.
The educational center opened last month and has already hosted a number of community and professional programs, according to campus marketing and communications director Donna Oshri.
“The goal is to expand our health, wellness, and educational programs for the community, as well as continuing education programs for professionals,” she said. “We are also planning social and creative arts programs, and additional support groups.”
What is now the Wilf Campus began 43 years ago as the Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged. In 2007, the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers assumed management of the Central NJ facility, renaming it the Regency Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, although it continued to retain its Jewish nature.
After a feasibility study showed a need for a low-income HUD building, the Wilentz residence — formerly known as the Somerset residence — was opened in 1985 for 100 low-income seniors. It became the Wilf campus in 2002; the next year the Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living opened. The hospice began in 2005 and in 2012 Wilf Transport was added to assist Stein residents and the general community.