The only nursing and rehabilitation facility in the state that receives exclusively Jewish patients and residents opened in Freehold on Sept. 17.
Of the 150 beds in the 90,000-square-foot Jewish Home for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 60 will be dedicated to those undergoing subacute rehabilitation after a hospital stay, and 60 to long-term rehabilitation; the remaining 30 will be for long-term-care residency in a secure memory-care unit for those with advanced dementia.
Following a final inspection by the state Department of Health, the facility is now able to accept up to 30 residents, according to Jolie Fromm, the home’s marketing and communications director (as of the opening, there is a single resident). She said during its early operation, another survey will be conducted by the state. If all regulatory requirements are met, the home will then be allowed to accept additional residents beyond the 30 permitted now and will apply for federal Medicare and Medicaid license numbers for post-acute and long-term-care patients.
The new home obtained certification under a state provision that allows such a facility to serve one religion or fraternal organization if it can demonstrate such a need.
“The state has a moratorium on new certificates of need [for nursing facilities] for the general population, but they gave us this one because it meets the needs of a specific clientele,” said managing partner Ben Schachter. “We did a very detailed demographic study,” and found that many people are interested in an exclusively Jewish home. He added that they are “targeting the entire tristate area,” particularly Monmouth County and the surrounding counties. “We are the only facility in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania area targeting this population.”
A marketing plan prepared by the home’s development team found that eight counties in New Jersey rank among the highest nationally in percentage of Jewish population; Monmouth County itself has about 64,000 Jews while adjacent Ocean County has 61,500 and Middlesex, 50,000.
At the request of NJJN, the state Department of Health checked to see if there are other nursing homes in New Jersey with a certificate allowing them to have an exclusively Jewish clientele. Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner said she and her colleagues believe that not only is the new home the only facility to have been granted a certificate allowing it to accept only Jews, but that “as far as we can determine it is the only one currently [in operation] specially for any religious community.”
The idea for the facility goes back to 1992, when David Portman — president of Triad Property Management of Eatontown and then president-elect of what was the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County — chaired a project to build an assisted-living and congregate care center because, he told NJJN, “at that time we did some research and saw there was a great need.”
Federation planners were looking to locate the facility in Asbury Park, which was in decline, and looked into a number of hotels that would lend themselves to a redesign. They settled on the Berkeley-Carteret Hotel, located on the boardwalk, which at the time was undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.
“We put together a project and were going to buy the hotel,” said Portman. “We went before the city council with drawings, and they turned us down. They were concerned about losing a major hotel in the city, so they vetoed it, and the project went dormant for a number of years.” But, he added, “I never lost interest.”
About five years ago, Portman said, developer Barry Franklin of Barcon Inc. of Freehold approached him and offered to help develop a plan. Franklin financed the $24 million project.
BH Healthcare Management LLC, an affiliate of Caring Health Systems of Lakewood, is handling the facility’s day-to-day operations.
“In New Jersey you cannot get a license for a nursing home anymore; you have to buy one,” Portman explained. “The only way to acquire a license from the state is to show a specific need. That’s the law.”
The committee worked with the Workmen’s Circle — a Jewish social justice organization — which sold its New Jersey Multi-Care Center in Elizabeth in 2006 after the city’s Jewish population declined. Workmen’s Circle had been planning at the time to open a state-of-the-art nursing facility in Freehold, but the project never came to fruition because of a lack of financing.
“I stepped up and got the certificate of need for a Jewish facility transferred to me,” said Portman, who is serving on the home’s board. “We got approval for the certificate of need from the State of New Jersey and then went forward with it.”
The not-for-profit home houses a synagogue, has a “Shabbat elevator,” and observes glatt kosher laws, under Orthodox Union supervision. There are provisions for Shabbat hospitality for residents’ guests.
Clinical care will be managed by an interdisciplinary team under the auspices of the facility’s medical director. Subacute rehabilitation will be conducted in a state-of-the-art therapy gym. Other services include speech and respiratory therapy, wound care, IV therapy, psychiatry, psychotherapy, podiatry, radiology, diagnostic lab work, and hospice and respite care. Dementia-care residents will have “enhanced activities” suited to their individual level of ability.
A “special Jewish flavor” will be infused in recreational programming as much as possible, said Fromm.
She said the facility has an “upscale, hotel-like ambiance,” and bedrooms are equipped with private bathrooms, individual climate control, free Wi-Fi access, flat-screen televisions, and bedside USB ports.
The facility will have “a truly Jewish environment” to suit residents from a wide range of Jewish backgrounds and affiliations, said Fromm. “We want to provide a warm, welcoming environment because we understand it’s often very uplifting for seniors to come back to their Jewish roots in their golden years.”