The first Jewish Home was established in 1906 as part of our commitment to meet the needs of Milwaukee Jewry from birth through death. We’ve undergone expansions and change, but throughout our history, our mission of care for the Jewish elderly of Wisconsin has never changed. Explore our history below.
The Early Years: 1906-1930
In 1906, the Moshav Zekanim, or Home for the Aged, was conceived when eight individuals, three men, and five women, came together to start a Home that would benefit the entire Milwaukee Jewish Community. The Home for the Aged was created to care for those elderly Jews who did not have the family or funds to sustain themselves without public charity. The B’Noth Israel Society, under the leadership of Mrs. B. Rubinsky, was instrumental in founding the first Home at 727 Galena Street in Milwaukee. Mrs. Rubinsky and the other women of the Society not only raised funds, but also worked as volunteers to aid in the comfort of the residents.
By the late 1920s, the growing needs of the senior Jewish community and the limited capacity of the house on Galena Street forced leaders to consider a larger facility. Nat Stone, Milwaukee’s leading Jewish philanthropist, made the largest donation in local history—$10,000—towards the building of the new Jewish Home. Mrs. Sig Ruscha led the largest fundraising drive of its kind, ultimately raising the funds for building the second Jewish Home.
Building a firm foundation: 1930-1950
The expansion of the second Home began in the 1940s and cost $275,000. The new addition was formally dedicated on September 27, 1950. With the expansion came new services and more professional attention to the residents. The main building housed an infirmary that was financially supported by the Milwaukee chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women. The facility also had its own medical staff and increased ability to offer recreation. A Physical Therapy Department was formed as doctors of gerontology became increasingly knowledgeable and aware of the need for improving the physical capabilities of the elderly.
Expanding to meet growing needs: 1950-1960
The 1950s were an important time in the organization’s history because it marked an explosion of “growth” in services to residents. Professional administrators were hired for the first time and Ferdinand Rosenthal became the first Executive Director.
As a leader in senior care, the Home drew the attention of the Wisconsin State Board of Nurses, who used it as a training center. The Home also received national recognition and praise from the U. S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
One of the most noteworthy events was the purchase of an apartment complex to house 30 residents, made possible by a generous donation from Regina Kaufer in 1951. The Regina Kaufer Annex was ready for occupancy in 1956.
As the Home grew in importance, it reached out to form relationships with Jews in Madison, Appleton, Oshkosh, and Sheboygan. It also drew closer to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service and Mount Sinai Hospital to better coordinate quality services to the elderly.
As the 1950s came to a close, the professionalism and quality of care continued to grow. The Home had long realized that its emphasis was not just on custodial care, but rather on expanded services improving the quality of life. Medical and dental care, psychiatric consultation, podiatry services, and social activities took center stage.
As the demographics and life span of Americans increased, the number of elderly who would need services in the final quarter of the century increased as well. The capacity of the second Home had already doubled with the addition of the Regina Kaufer Annex. Once again, it was time to expand.
A new home rises along the lakeshore: 1960-1980
The 1960s saw steady growth in the number of residents and the services provided for their care and comfort. Community leaders recognized the need for a larger facility with increased medical and social services. Under the direction of Bernard Soref, Philip Rubenstein, Ben Marcus and Benjamin Saltztein, over $2 million was raised to build the third Jewish Home on North Prospect Avenue. The impressive facility overlooks Lake Michigan and is located close to the cultural and entertainment center of Milwaukee. In 1973, 115 residents moved in and two years later, occupancy rose to over 200.
In 1978 Nita Corré, who began her service years before as a volunteer serving tea to residents, became Executive Director.
Years of incredible growth: 1980-2000
Rabbi Arthur Levin became one of the few full-time rabbis serving a Jewish Home anywhere in the nation in 1981. The Rubenstein Family Kosher Oasis opened in 1989 at the Jewish Home and Care Center as the only kosher restaurant in Milwaukee.
Jack Rosen was a volunteer barber at the Home when it was located at 50th Street. Through hard work and dedication, Jack was able to bequeath over $400,000 to the Home, allowing the establishment of the Rosen Hydrotherapy Center.
Other prominent additions included Monya’s Garden in memory of Monya Tolkan; the Rubenstein Pavilion, which houses the Senior Adult Day Care Center; and the Milton Soref Promenade with a panoramic view of Lake Michigan. After their incredibly generous $2 million challenge grant from their foundation, the entire campus was renamed the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Terrace.
Groundbreaking for Chai Point Senior Living took place in April 1991. An enthusiastic crowd celebrated the milestone event. The guest speaker was Senator Herb Kohl with Martin F. Stein, Chairman of the Board; Nita Corré, President of the Jewish Home and Care Center; and Board members Lawrence Appel, Avrum Chudnow and James Plous.
In 1992, our memory care unit opened as a state-of-the-art treatment center for residents afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. It was developed to be not only a residential memory care facility, but an institution known for research and education. It continues to be recognized nationally and internationally as an innovative and respected leader in the senior care industry.
The Milwaukee Jewish Home merged with the Milwaukee Jewish Convalescent Center in 1994.
Continuing to meet the needs of our community: 2000 to today
In 2005, the Sarah Chudnow campus opened on 20 acres in Mequon fueled by the vision and financial commitment of the Chudnow family to honor their matriarch, Sarah. (The Sarah Chudnow Community was sold in October 2020). In 2013 Adult Day Services were expanded, welcoming participants from other senior living’s discontinued programs, and expanded into memory enhancement programs and services including for those with Young-Onset Alzheimer’s. And in 2015 we established our Research Department with the goal to find low-cost and considerate interventions to help our residents lead less painful and longer lives, while advancing elder care research worldwide.
In 2020, our residential population included 80% Jewish residents at Ovation Communities. Currently, 70 percent of residents at the Jewish Home and 22 percent at Chai Point are receiving some type of governmental assistance to help pay for their care.
Our Mission speaks to the strength of our Foundation in being able to work with families and provide services for their loved ones, regardless of their ability to pay. The guidance of our past and current leadership keeps us on the path of fiscal responsibility to those whose hard work and earnest vision paved the way for the successful organization we are today.
Today, both residences have become a gathering place for the Jewish Community. Entertainment, lectures, political discussions, and other group activities take place on each campus to engage and inform both the residents and community members.