Charles Berkowitz, the 69-year-old president and CEO of the Jewish Home Family who is marking 40 years with the Jewish Home this year, has no intention of slowing down.
“I feel good,” he said. “I like what I’m doing, and I like who I’m working for, and who I’m working with.”
The organization will honor Berkowitz for his four decades of service at its Oct. 24 95th-anniversary gala. Berkowitz is credited for leading the way for the opening of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and the Jewish Home Assisted Living, major fund-raising for Jewish Home programs through the years, and launching the Jewish Home at Home program last year.
“There’s a very strong positive reinforcement when you’re dealing with the elderly,” Berkowitz told The Jewish Standard. “It’s a population that’s needy and appreciative of what you do for them.”
Only 4 percent of the elderly population ends up in nursing home facilities, Berkowitz said. To address the needs of the aged who want to remain in their homes, the Jewish Home unveiled its Jewish Home at Home program earlier this year, under Berkowitz’s guidance.
“We will take care of people who never get into nursing homes,” he said.
Demand to get into a Jewish Home facility is high and, according to Berkowitz, its facilities have an almost 99 percent occupancy rate – 180 people in Rockleigh and 124 in River Vale. The Jewish Home at Home program will ease demands on inpatient care and delay when people actually need to enter a nursing home. The program will also acclimate people to the idea of a nursing home if and when they need one later, Berkowitz said.
“We’ll be in a position to help those people,” he said. “When their time comes and they need the Home, they’ll be way up on the waiting list.”
Berkowitz’s work with the Jewish community began while he was a Yeshiva University graduate student in social work on a scholarship from the Englewood predecessor to the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades. The understanding was that he would work for the JCC after graduation. After a recommendation from then-JCC director George Hantgan, the Jewish Home offered Berkowitz a job in 1970 as an assistant administrator. He became CEO of the Jersey City site in 1982.
“He has been a godsend to the Jewish Home,” said Ary Freilich, chairman of the Jewish Home Family. “It’s hard to imagine that our organization would be where it is had Chuck not been its steward for the last 40 years.”
For about as long as Berkowitz has been involved with the Jewish Home, so has Sandra Gold, president of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh, who began her work with the organization shortly before his arrival.
“Chuck’s role … is so important because the Home has never stood still in its desire to meet the needs of aging people, particularly the Jewish aged,” said Gold. “He has the wonderful capacity to be both a passionate social worker and a skilled nursing home administrator, combined with the ability to visualize the big-picture needs of those who are aging.”
Berkowitz serves also on the boards of the Adler Aphasia Center and the Jewish Association for Developmental Disabilities. He continues to inspire others, said Gold, also a member of those boards.
“He is capable of inspiring leadership in those around him,” she said.
As the Jewish Home moves closer to the 100-year mark, Berkowitz has his sights set on continued growth. He dismissed rumors of his retirement, circulating because a new administrator is being brought on board to run the Jewish Home at Rockleigh. Berkowitz will instead focus his efforts on growing the Jewish Home at Home and running the umbrella organization, Jewish Home Family. Berkowitz foresees physical expansion to meet the needs of the Jewish Home at Rockleigh and Jewish Home at Home. He also pointed to the need for fund-raising, particularly since 20 percent of the Jewish Home at Home care will be given to people unable to afford such care on their own.
Through the Jewish Home at Home program, a geriatric care manager will assess a candidate’s home and work on a care plan with the applicant and perhaps with a social worker or nurse. The Jewish Home then helps fulfill the patient’s needs, which, Berkowitz said, may be as simple as changing a light bulb and helping with chores, or helping with medications.
With many challenges ahead, Berkowitz is looking forward to continuing to aid a vulnerable elderly population.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It makes life worthwhile doing the things I do.”
|Charles Berkowitz, a snapshot|
Resides in: Glen Rock
Past leadership roles:
Chair, New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging
Chair, Association of Jewish Aging services
Delegate, 1995 White House Conference on Aging
Treasurer, board of directors, UJA Association for the Developmentally Disabled
Treasurer, Adler Aphasia Center
Anti-Defamation League Distinguished Community Service Award
New Jersey Association of Non-Profit Homes for the Aging Distinguished Service Award
New Jersey Association of Jewish Communal Services Saul Schwartz Award
Solomon Schechter Day School Community Award