Herbert Friedman, director of Gurwin
Herbert Friedman,  director of Gurwin
Herbert Friedman, director of Gurwin

By Larry Gordon

Finally, after so many weeks of planning a day out of the office to drive out to Commack–not so far away, just over the Nassau/Suffolk border–to visit the Gurwin Jewish campus and my good friend Herbert Friedman, it all came together and began to make sense. This is what Herb meant, this was one of those “really something else” experiences that stays etched in your mind.

I was joined by David Fox, from my office, and we toured the campus of the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Gurwin Jewish—Fay J. Lindner Residences assisted-living community with Herb. There are so many interesting things going on here, with one underlying theme that is consistently articulated by Herb and anyone else you encounter at Gurwin: the mission is to truly care for and about people as they get older and may need some assistance to live healthy and dignified lives.

But these 64 acres of buildings and housing, recreational areas, dining rooms, theaters, a shul, and a broad array of medical services provide just a glimpse into what the board of directors and staff here at Gurwin have accomplished over these last 25 years. Everywhere you look, the vision of a few people has been brought to life and made real by the hard work and dedication of Herb and his team of professionals.

Back in the 1980s, a group of community-minded people realized that there were no kosher nursing homes in all of Suffolk County. Support for a new nursing home in Commack came from UJA Federation, countless community members, and Joseph Gurwin, a manufacturer and philanthropist who made the naming gift. Gurwin felt an obligation to “care for other people’s parents,” since his own were lost in the Holocaust.

Today, there are more than 80,000 people over the age of 100 in the United States alone. The team at Gurwin Jewish recognizes the need for services for this aging population, and they have grown over the past 25 years to be so much more than a community nursing home. Gurwin Jewish runs the gamut when it comes to caring for seniors. The 460-bed nursing and rehabilitation center offers long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, medical and post-surgical subacute care, ventilator-dependent care, hospice care, palliative care, and a 12-station dialysis center for in-house and outpatient dialysis. There is an in-house clinic with fully equipped X‑ray, dental, optometry, and audiology suites, where residents can see virtually any specialist without leaving the building.

The assisted-living community offers 201 full apartments, complete with tea kitchens, dining and living areas, bedrooms, and full bathrooms with showers, plus three kosher meals and activities each day. There is also a 14-bed secure unit for those requiring dementia care. Other Gurwin Jewish programs include two home-care programs serving Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens, and an adult day health program for outpatient care. Gurwin Jewish offers all the services necessary to address the challenges that come with living longer lives.

Through all of their services, Gurwin Jewish serves more than 1,500 individuals each day, all under the care of more than 1,200 employees. The buildings are beautiful, but what is most impressive is the care and concern shown to each of the residents by the staff.

At Gurwin’s assisted-living community, the comfortable and elegant décor is inviting. People are happy and feel at home, surrounded by Judaica and Jewish culture, as they are on their way to lunch in the restaurant-style dining room, to the theater for a matinee, or to their own apartment for an afternoon nap.

We stopped in one of the two-bedroom apartments to take a glimpse at what life is like for the typical Gurwin assisted-living resident. Although the day was bright and sunny, it was very cold outside; yet the apartment we visited was warm and inviting. Apartments are decorated by the residents with their own furnishings, and this particular apartment was beautiful. The resident, who was in her nineties, showed us around while she waited for her daughter, who was coming by so that they could go shopping at the nearby mall.

Back at the nursing and rehabilitation center, we attended Minchah, which is held in the on-site shul. We were joined by some of those who reside at Gurwin as well as several men who work in the area and come in daily for the minyan.

Like the assisted-living community, the nursing and rehabilitation center is full of lively activity. Therapeutic recreation programs, including continuing-education workshops, pet therapy, music activities, and holistic programs, are offered throughout the day. Short-term residents come and go from the two rehab gyms. Visitors walk the halls, often stopping with a resident to admire one of the hundreds of large photos that are hung throughout the facility, the winners of Gurwin’s annual photo contest. If they choose not to attend the many programs offered, residents I spoke with enjoy spending time in the outdoor courtyards, reading books they never had time for, or playing bridge with their newfound friends.

The newest component of Gurwin Jewish’s full continuum of care will be an independent housing complex, for which final marketing studies are being completed in the next month. Ten additional acres have been added to the current campus, and the community will offer an independent, active lifestyle in a beautiful setting, with the ability to move between levels of care if needed. The setup is what Herb Friedman refers to as the opportunity to “age in place”; as we grow older and may need assistance, it gives us the option to stay in one community, without the strain of uprooting ourselves and moving.

It looks like life is good here from an array of perspectives. For Herb Friedman, hired by Gurwin more than 25 years ago, it is about building something special and reaching out and helping people. As many of our neighbors know, for those who appreciate quality and the depth of services Gurwin Jewish offers, it’s well worth the trip. v

Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at editor@5tjt.com.

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