Fulfilling the Covenant

Later this month, residents from Covenant Place’s  old Covenant II building will move into the new Cahn Family Building. Photo: Eric Berger

JEWISH LIGHT EDITORIAL

“Honor your father and your mother, that you may long endure on the land that the Lord your God is assigning to you.” —Exodus 20:12

With the completion of the new Cahn Family Building of Covenant Place, the Jewish community of St. Louis has taken another major step forward in its ongoing commitment to provide for its growing older population.

In the words of the Fifth Commandment, part of the Decalogue given to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai, we are explicitly told to honor our fathers and mothers. The new building at Covenant Place does precisely that.

As reported in these pages last week, the new Covenant Place II Cahn Building on the Millstone Campus in Creve Coeur is the second part of a three-phase project. The $34 million, 111,697-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, named after generous donors Paul and Elissa Cahn, features 102 one-bedroom apartments, all federally subsidized to make them affordable.  

The new building, which celebrates a formal ribbon cutting this week, features on its first floor the Mirowitz Center, named in honor of donor Helene Mirowitz. The center includes substantially expanded space for dining, medical and social programs for the community.

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The affordability of the new housing units, and the increased program space, carry forward the goals of the Covenant Place project to provide the best possible facilities for our precious elderly.

When it was built in the early 1970s, Covenant Place became a model and an inspiration for other American Jewish communities to develop similar facilities. Covenant Place (originally called Covenant House) joined the Parkview Towers and the Crown Center in University City as facilities to care for the area’s growing aging population. 

Today, in addition to the community’s nonprofit senior living facilities, the Jewish Federation-administered Naturally Occurring Retirement Community works to provide programs and services for elderly people who continue to live in their own homes in the community. Such independence is vital for people seeking continuity and a feeling of well-being.

As a federally funded program, Covenant Place serves not only the Jewish community but the community at large. Residents include non-Jews from all faiths and ethnic backgrounds, which provides valuable diversity and an interfaith dynamic that contributes to a thriving metropolitan area. 

The goal of the new Covenant Place expansion is to better serve this growing senior population. Joan Denison, president and CEO of Covenant Place, says that because many Jews are living well into their 80s and 90s and even into their 100s, they increasingly require facilities that can meet their needs.

Denison told the Jewish Light that Covenant Place started planning for the revamp in 2012 after determining that existing facilities were becoming functionally obsolete, in part because they were built before passage of Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines.

She also says that communities like Covenant Place often have a difficult time keeping pace with the growing demand for older adult housing and support services. The latest project was financed with private donations, mortgages, and state and local tax credits and grants.

With the opening of the new Covenant I building in 2017 and this year’s opening of the new Covenant II, Covenant Place will begin fundraising for the third phase of its master plan. That phase will include the demolition of the old Covenant II and the construction on that site of a replacement for the CHAI Apartments building.

The word “covenant” is sacred and holy in the Jewish tradition. It defines a sacred spiritual contract between the Jewish people and God, spelled out in our Scripture, Talmud and other holy texts. The visionary leaders and very generous donors who have made the Covenant Place expansion possible have assured their place in the world to come with this major step forward for our community.