Forty years ago, the numerous senior care services located in the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living began as a single nursing facility, the Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged. Over the years the Somerset facility expanded and added several new ones, including the Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence, the Martin and Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence, the off-campus Stein Hospice, and the Wilf Transport service which assists seniors with transportation to medical appointments and social programs. The Stein residence is kosher and has a staff rabbi, Bryan Kinzbrunner.
However in 2007, after years of financial instability, the Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers assumed management of the original Central NJ nursing home, renaming it the Regency Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Its Jewish nature was retained.
“I think what they do for the community is offer a tremendous service by offering a range of living opportunities for seniors in a top-notch setting overseen by a highly committed lay leadership and very competent staff who provide a structure that is based on Jewish values,” said board president Mickey Kaufman of East Brunswick.
The facility, which held a 40th anniversary celebration on its campus in September, is in the midst of its latest project, a new administration building; they expect to break ground in the coming months, Kaufman said.
The new structure will contain an atrium, conference center, and office space for staff, allowing all personnel to be housed in one building. Currently office space is so cramped that hospice staff work in off-campus rental space.
“This was long overdue and terribly needed,” said Kaufman. “It will give us a place for the campus board and other local agencies to meet.”
The campus, a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, is also supported through fundraising efforts of its foundation. Kaufman noted because the finances of the non-profit campus are so well managed, it is able to offer broad services that have earned it a well-deserved reputation in the community.
“There is a waiting list for Wilentz and Stein, and our hospice is incredibly successful and has a following in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities, who see what we do is done compassionately,” he said.
Peggy Mombert began working for the Central NJ home in 1983 and retired as president of the foundation in 2010. Since then she has been compiling a campus archive for the Jewish Historical Society of Central Jersey.
Mombert, who is not Jewish, said the first planning meeting took place in May 1963, but it wasn’t until 12 years later that the Janice and Philip Levin Wing opened. The former Jewish federations of the Raritan Valley, Northern Middlesex County, and Central NJ were involved in the process.
Later the Jewish Federation of Somerset, Hunterdon & Warren counties came on board, making it a facility serving the needs of Middlesex, Somerset, and parts of Union County.
The Central NJ home grew in 1988 from 120 to 255 beds when the Lydia and Morris Goldfarb Pavilion opened.
Mombert said when a feasibility study showed a need for a low-income Housing and Urban Development building, the Wilentz residence, formerly known as the Somerset residence, was opened in 1985 for 100 low-income seniors. The area housing all the facilities became the Wilf campus in 2002.
“It was a great place to work,” said Mombert. “We celebrated all the Jewish holidays. We had services every morning and afternoon.”
During the 40th anniversary celebration in September, Susan and Ivan Greenstein of East Brunswick were honored for their many years of service.
“We saw how involved people were and it became apparent immediately this was an important institution in Middlesex County,” she explained, adding how she became involved in its annual fashion show, which became “the event of the year.” The couple, both longtime board members, also witnessed the outstanding care given to Susan’s late mother, Helene Feigelman, who was the third resident at what is now the Stein residence.
“At first it was difficult because she lived in a big two-story house in Brooklyn and was used to being independent,” said Susan. “But as time went on, she saw it was nice to have her meals prepared for her and be able to socialize with others. They had and still have wonderful programs with music and entertainment.”
For many years the couple volunteered on Sundays at the on-site Bubbe’s Bistro, where they got to know residents.
“I have hysterical stories that I could spend hours telling you, including one woman who proposed to my husband,” said Susan. “We got great satisfaction out of volunteering because so many had no family or no family coming, and we became their family.”
Stein resident Harriet Krasky, who will turn 93 on Jan. 4, said she came to Stein because her daughter, Wilf board member Paula Masciulli, “told me what a great place it is.”
Krasky had lived in Newark, Irvington, Clark, and Manchester, and prior to coming to Stein, was in a rehabilitation center after a fall.
She likes Stein because “it’s very friendly, the staff always tries to please you, and medically they really take great care of us. I have made many friends and I enjoy playing mahjong and cards.”