One hundred years ago, Lena Goldberg started Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home by turning a small multi-family building into a welcoming home for elders. Today that home has grown into Chelsea Jewish Healthcare, one of New England’s leading healthcare organizations. The non-profit operates campuses in Chelsea, Peabody and Longmeadow, employing more than 2,000 individuals and taking care of more than 1,000 individuals every day. While there has been extensive growth and expansion throughout years, one thing never changed: the organization’s unwavering commitment to provide high-quality, compassionate care in a “real” home setting.
“From the very beginning, our goal was to provide the best possible care,” said Barry Berman, who has been CEO of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare for more than 40 years. “We encourage our residents to make their own choices and live their own lives by creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere with a caring and compassionate staff.”
He further explained, “Living in a residence that offers all the amenities of a real home greatly enhances the quality of life for elderly and disabled individuals.”
Berman recalled coming to Chelsea Jewish when he was only 23 and fresh out of graduate school.
“When they started this organization, that was before MediCare, MediCaid and public health programs,” he said. “It was just a bunch of Jewish women who saw elders that needed services and they decided to buy a home and help them. When I started, I was only 23 and just got out of graduate school. It was a small, 60-bed home that really needed an incredible amount of work. I went to the Trustees and I was honest with them. I said them I didn’t have a lot of experience, but we could all work together and figure out how to do this so we can improve the home.”
By 1983, they were able to demolish the home on Lafayette Avenue and build the brand new Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home – a home that was just completely renovated and modernized this past year.
Over the past 100 years, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare has achieved many similar and significant milestones.
The opening of the award-winning Leonard Florence Center for Living in 2010, the first urban Green House skilled nursing facility in the country, is one example. This revolutionary nursing home in Chelsea includes 30 rooms devoted to individuals diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and MS (multiple sclerosis). Individuals are able to live as independently as possible through the cutting-edge technology built into the center. Today the Leonard Florence Center takes care of more individuals living with ALS under one roof than any place in the world.
The organization greatly expanded in 2016 with the addition of a Peabody campus and again in 2018 with the affiliation of JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow. All three campuses reflect the organization’s mission: to be the most respected provider of service-enriched residential care and post-acute care for seniors and individuals living with debilitating neurological conditions.
In 2017, the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home underwent a dramatic $16 million renovation. The new building reflects a legacy Green House skilled nursing model that can be easily duplicated by nursing homes across the country. This concept sets the stage for new level of care in senior housing.
“We came back to the home atmosphere that our founder, Mrs. Goldberg, originally had in mind,” said Adam Berman, president of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “What’s so unique about our model is that we’ve combined contemporary design elements with the traditional concept of making one’s home as warm and inviting as possible.”
On April 28, employees, residents, families, friends and community members came together to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. Governor Charlie Baker recognized this momentous day by issuing a Citation in honor of this special anniversary. Amidst dinner, dancing and emotional speeches, attendees viewed a slide show with over 200 photos spanning the last 100 years. A highlight of the event was a heartfelt tribute to the 49 staff members who have worked at the organization for 25 years or more.
Barry Berman summed up the night perfectly: “Our employees are the real reason behind our longevity. Without them, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Looking to the future, Berman said they will look to grow, but not hastily.
“We believe in growth, but we also believe in very calculated and smart growth,” he said. “Some companies can grow too fast. Although we are ready to grow, we are cautious about it…We do it with our eyes wide open because we’re not going to grow just to grow.”