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Annette Weinberg, LA Jewish Home

08/06/2020 06:49:07 PM

Aug6

This week we introduce you to Annette Weinberg, Lifestyle and Enrichment Director of the Residential Care Facilities at the Los Angeles Jewish Home Eisenberg Village Campus.

Annette Weinberg and her family are lifelong members of Valley Beth Shalom. Her son, Michael, graduated from our Day School, had his Bar Mitzvah here and was very active in our Youth Department programs. Annette has always been involved in many areas of our shul, including Sisterhood, Membership and the Youth Commission. She is also now a newly minted member of our Board of Directors. Annette’s Jewish values have always been at the center of her life, so when she saw an opportunity to work for the Los Angeles Jewish Home (LAJH) six years ago, she knew she had to take it. 

Throughout her time at LAJH, Annette has always taken on more responsibilities, going from a Care Transition Coach, to Community Liaison, to her current role as the Lifestyle and Enrichment Director for Residential Care. She began this latest position in January, mere months before COVID-19 impacted us here in LA. Before coronavirus, Annette had abundant opportunities for residents’ socialization, with various arts & crafts activities, movement classes, lectures, film screenings, visits to their own beauty salon, synagogue services, bingo, and more. When LAJH needed to adapt to the health regulations, Annette responded with creative ways to bring joy and community in a time of isolation. 

Faced with lockdown, Annette asked herself and her colleagues, “what can we do now that we can no longer gather?” All the sites for socialization had to be closed. The dining room was replaced with all meals served to the rooms. All the common rooms for various film screenings and lectures were closed off. The beauty salon and gift shop also had to close. Another major obstacle was the limited ability for residents to access online programming. 70% of the 150 LA Jewish Home residents are low-income MediCal recipients, and most of them do not have computers and have low technological literacy. However, all of the residents have phones and televisions. 

Annette wanted to give her residents a sense of normalcy, and emotional and spiritual well-being. The traditional bingo turned into dial-in bingo. Bingo sheets were distributed to each resident, as well as a conference call number to call. Now, movie nights are shown on the LAJH special TV channel, the synagogue on campus is also closed for services, but Shabbat services are broadcast every week for residents to connect to weekly rituals. Annette and her colleagues, Stacy Orbach the Director of Volunteer Services, and Rabbi Ron Goldberg walk through the halls as part of their “Spirit of Shabbat” program. They play music on a bluetooth speaker, sing along, and dance. Residents open their doors, some with tears in their eyes, to join in and sway to the rhythm of Shabbat, exemplifying that social distance doesn’t have to mean social isolation. 

Annette is constantly thinking of new ways to allow residents to engage with staff and take advantage of the large 9-acre campus. She says, “A big part of my job is to bring joy and keep their spirits up. Many have been missing their families and friends for months.” A popular, recurring program Annette implemented is “Nosh & Nibble.” Each week, she chooses a different theme which dictates a set of costumes for her, Lifestyle and Enrichment Aide Sandy Schipper and her colleagues, as well as the music for the speaker, and of course the nosh! They started with an international theme, highlighting different countries and cultures. Then there were the decades- the 20s flappers, the 60s hippies, etc. Holidays, like Mothers’ Day and The Fourth of July, were celebrated as well. Annette and her colleagues walk the halls, engaging each of the residents, sharing their smiles and sweet treats. It’s been a fun way to connect and be silly. Residents always look forward to these Nosh and Nibbles, and enjoy the various themes. They appreciate that their safety doesn’t have to come at the expense of having some fun with Annette and the other staff. 

Residents have started adjusting to this new normal. What used to be group yoga and tai chi classes are now a 15 minute one on one appointment with Annette and the Physical Therapist. Socially distanced activities are set up around the rec room, like bean bag tosses, inflatable bowling, and putting with some lively music. What used to be the gift shop is now the Happiness Cart, piled high with free word games and playing cards, and also some items for purchase. These small touch points create a lasting impact on the residents. Annette sees how just stopping to say hello and smile (with her eyes) makes a difference. It’s about creating that moment of connection, to show the residents that they’re never alone. 

Annette and her colleague, Katie Abelson, Director of Resident Care Services, also work together to provide mental health support. Twice a month, they host their “Hello Out There” call, which provides a safe forum for Jewish Home residents to express their feelings. There is still frustration over how the pandemic has disrupted their lives, but Annette is always impressed by the residents’ attitudes. They are making the most out of the situation that’s been handed to them, and they are so appreciative of the little things. 

One way VBS members can support the residents at this time is to order new magazine subscriptions, face masks, large print word searches, activity books, and iPads. Annette suggests magazines like Vanity Fair, Better Homes & Garden, American Patchwork & Quilting, Prevention People, Us, In Touch Weekly, OK, In Style, Sports Illustrated, and Sunset. Masks can be both purchased and handmade.

All items can be sent to: 

Los Angeles Jewish Home
Attn: Annette Weinberg
Lifestyle and Enrichment Director
18855 Victory Blvd.
Reseda, CA 91335

Article written by Nitzan Barlev.

Sat, October 24 2020 6 Cheshvan 5781