Israelis in St. Louis show support for staff at assisted living facilities

From left: Andrea Haller Jacobs (Estates of Hidden Lake), Orly Peters, Zev Rosenberg (Estates of Hidden Lake), Shimon Ohana and Carrie Craven (Estates of Hidden Lake). Photo: Bill Motchan

By Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

Healthcare workers have been hailed as heroes for their tireless work during the pandemic. That effort is accompanied by stress and long shifts. A group of Israeli-American St. Louisans last week showed their appreciation to nurses and staffers at two local assisted living facilities. On May 13, the St. Louis chapter of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) provided face masks, cookies and cakes to nurses and employees at the Estates of Hidden Lake in Spanish Lake and another skilled nursing facility in nearby Dellwood.

The effort is part of a national program called IAC Care. Since the initiative began in early April, IAC has recruited over 400 volunteers across its 20 regions to deliver face shields, medical and N95 face masks, hygiene kits, and warm meals to 82 hospitals and nursing facilities.

In the St. Louis area, COVID-19 is still a serious health threat. However, hospitals here aren’t as inundated with patients as they are in larger cities like New York and Chicago. So the St. Louis IAC team found an alternative, according to Orna Dar, program manager for the St. Louis IAC chapter. 

 “I connected with a local nursing home and I asked what they needed,” Dar said. “They said the need was to cheer up the medical team, so we recruited a team of volunteers to bake cookies and cakes to deliver there, with posters that show we appreciate all the hard work that they’re doing.”

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 The IAC focuses on strengthening the Israeli-American community, whereas IAC Care is a volunteer network of Israeli Americans who volunteer their time and efforts locally and collaborate with non-Jewish organizations. The pandemic gave IAC Care a perfect opportunity to mobilize its volunteers, said Galit Lev-Harir, the IAC St. Louis Council representative.

 “This has really been a new area of focus,” Lev-Harir said. “The initiative was developed because many people felt like they wanted to do something in this time of crisis. We felt we could do something to recognize our health care workers and to support them.”

 The Estates of Hidden Lake offered a perfect opportunity, Dar said. It’s owned by Jewish St. Louisan Zev Rosenberg, and has a diverse group of residents and staff.

 “It’s a big facility with about 200 workers,” Dar said. “Zev said his staff works very hard, and they deserve to get some appreciation. So we said we would love to do it. People appreciate what we’re doing. They’re working so hard and to have some treats in the middle of the day with a note that says, ‘We love you’ really makes them feel better and happier in this difficult time.”

 Rosenberg said the gesture means a lot to his staff, many of whom are caring for residents with COVID-19. Those health care workers wear full protective gear for their entire shift. It’s a job that requires care and compassion, so the kindness from the IAC was welcome. The week of May 11 was also National Nursing Home Week, making the visit from IAC particularly timely.

 “What makes this special is that every year we celebrate nursing home week,” Rosenberg said. “We celebrate the staff and residents, and we’re celebrating life. If you summarize it, the theme would be ‘L’chaim.’

“Thank you from the Estates at Hidden Lake for supporting our health care professionals,” Rosenberg continued. “This is a great opportunity for us to showcase what ‘one community’ means to the city and to the Jewish community of St. Louis.”

 For volunteers in the St. Louis Israeli-American community, the project was about respect, said Shimon Ohana: “For me, it was giving my kids an example about respecting the elderly.” Another volunteer, Orly Peters, said of the experience: “I enjoy working with the elderly and supporting them.”

 Dar said the IAC and its network of volunteers were happy to offer their help to the project.

 “This was able to happen because of the support of the Israeli-American community in St. Louis,” she said. “Some of them donated money and some of them baked the cakes. Without them, we couldn’t have done this.”

 The St. Louis chapter of the IAC is eager to spread the love to other health care professionals. Any organization that would like to get some treats and thanks for its staff can contact Dar at [email protected]