“This is the inaugural year of an annual grant program which was made possible and permanently endowed by funding from the Jewish Home Building, Corporation,” says Dr. Craig Sklar, the Jewish Foundation’s Chair.  Our intention is to award $130,000 every year, and as the fund grows, that amount can increase.”

The first year grant awards went to three organizations providing essential programs for our area’s seniors:  Jewish Family Service, for their geriatric social work, The Towers at Tower Lane, to feed residents in need and Madison’s Temple Beth Tikvah  for “2 Way L’Dor V’Dor,”– an intergenerational program targeted to reduce risk of social isolation and loneliness for the Jewish elderly.

Foundation Board member and past Jewish Home Building Fund, Corporation President, Gary R. Ginsberg feels “privileged to have served as a board member for the Jewish Home and the Building Fund for over 50 years”.  The Jewish Home for the Aged, on Davenport Avenue, was, at one time, the primary caregiver to the Jewish elderly of Greater New Haven. It also functioned, “as an important gathering place for the large Jewish community that resided in the Hill, it included a synagogue that served the local community, its daily minyan was important and it served the traditional holiday function as well as a place for many Bar Mitzvahs.” Ginsberg recounts.  When the Home ceased operations, Building Fund members diligently sought to find a way to continue their mission.  After exploring several options, “It was recognized that establishing a Fund with the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven was the best alternative.” He notes that the transition of Building Fund assets to the Jewish Foundation–including the transfer, storage and archiving of the Jewish Home’s historic artifacts, “has been extraordinarily successful.”      

Jewish home facade
Jewish home facade

“For JFS, this vital funding allows us to greatly increase our impact,” says CEO Amy Rashba. “Most importantly, it expands our ability to offer individual and group therapy to isolated seniors and to also provide emotional support to their families.”  JFS Aging Adult Coordinator Andrea Joseph, LCSW, looks forward to, “working with another part-time social worker to help meet the surging demands for our services.”

Jennifer Bayer, M.A., the Director of Development and Community Relations for theTowers at Tower Lane is grateful to “have the support of the broader Jewish Community. This has been incredibly helpful in reducing anxiety, exposure and risk”, she adds, “keeping our most vulnerable population at The Towers safe, providing meals in-house and by subsidizing those in financial need.” 

Gerontologist, Temple Beth Tikvah member, and project leader of 2 Way L’Dor V’Dor, Donna B. Fedus, details how grant funds will be used to nurture a greater understanding between younger people and older adults. “We are creating 2-way connections between generations through religious school interactions and home delivery of special items a few times a year,” she points out. “We are doing it to decrease social isolation of older adults, to strengthen community, as well as to reduce stigma about aging while preparing younger people for the age-diverse world in which they will live and work.”

“It is extremely gratifying to carry out the mission of the Jewish Foundation,” Sklar emphasizes. Through the Jewish Elderly Initiative, “we will continue to provide essential financial support and services to our community.” 

The New Jewish Elderly Funds and the Transferring of the Assets

The Jewish Home for the Aged on Davenport Avenue and the Jewish Home Building Fund, Corporation, were always separate corporations. In December 2019, The Jewish Home Building Fund Corporation irrevocably transferred all of their assets to the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven to establish two new, Foundation owned restricted funds to benefit the Jewish elderly- the Leo Links Fund for the Jewish Elderly and the Jewish Elderly Services Fund.  In addition, previously existing funds for the benefit of the Jewish Elderly, held at the Jewish Foundation, (which also fund this initiative) are Isaac & Mary Liveten Fund for the Jewish Home for the Aged, Marion Litsky Fund for the Jewish Elderly and Congregation Or Shalom, Irvin Shiner 75th Birthday Fund for the Jewish Home for the Aged, Benjamin & Freda Cohen Memorial Fund for Jewish programs for the Frail & Elderly, Eva Kahn Fund for Elderly Services, Harry Braffman Fund for the Jewish Elderly, and the Community Endowment for the Jewish Elderly.

Upon receiving the assets, the Jewish Foundation Board formed a grants committee which developed policies and procedures which include the following goals for this initiative:

  1. Enhance the quality of life for Jewish elderly currently residing in greater New Haven; and/or
  2. Fund new and innovative projects for the benefit of the Jewish elderly;
  3. Encourage collaboration between Jewish organizations in order to maximize use of resources; and/or
  4. Outreach to the Jewish elderly.

Lisa Stanger, Executive Director of the Jewish Foundation, discussed that In addition, to receiving the funds of the Jewish Home Building Fund, Corporation, the Jewish Foundation received many tangible assets from the former Jewish Home which had been in storage since the Home’s closing. This included many of the Jewish Home’s synagogue’s artifacts such as memorials for donors, yharzeit plaques, as well as photos and painted portraits of founders and contributors (all of which include many of the prominent members of our Jewish community). These items remain in a secure, climate controlled storage facility. “The Jewish Foundation will be working with the Jewish Historical Society to properly catalog and archive these items, which will include a digital archive. The hope is for all of these items to be available and searchable online and for some, if not all of these items, to have a wall to hang on, somewhere in our community,” states Stanger.

Members of the Jewish Elderly Grants Committee are: Craig Sklar, Foundation Chair, Rabbi Richard Eisenberg, Betsy Hoos, Jocelyn Hurwitz, Edward Konowitz, Ken Sandberg, and Richard Weiss.