The Shofar, Change and Teshuva

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Campus Chaplain, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living

The shofar is described as the instrument to wake us up from our slumber. The shofar reminds us that it is time for introspection and change as we walk before G-d, “like sheep before the shepherd.”  Does this really work, awakening within us the desire to improve, the desire to change? Or are we so desensitized to the sound that we remain asleep?

On the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, we read the following verses in the Torah: “Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor it is beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (Dev. 30:11-14).” While most commentaries consider these verses to be a general explanation regarding the Torah and its commandments, I would suggest that these verses can teach a lesson about change, about Teshuva. It often feels that when we try to change, change doesn’t happen. These verses suggest change is something always close by, ready to be undertaken.

These verses also explain the shofar’s message. The shofar is an instrument that operates on one’s breath alone.  The sounds come from the depths of a person. It acts as natural alarm, acting as a wake-up call from one’s humanness.

May we hear the sound of the shofar and feel the stirrings of our hearts for another year of joy, another year of life.

Everyone Needs a Vacation — Especially Family Caregivers!

Summer is here, and many people are looking forward to hitting the road or taking to the skies for a getaway. What’s your favorite vacation? A week at the beach? A camping trip to a beautiful wilderness area? Taking the kids to Disneyland? Exploring a city where you’ve never been before?

If you’re a family caregiver, you may be tempted to stop reading this article right now. “Vacation, what’s that?” you are probably saying. And it’s true that for people who are providing care for elderly or disabled loved ones, going on a trip may seem like a dim memory from the past.

But experts tell us a change of scene and time off benefit our health. People who take regular vacations have a lower risk of heart disease and other stress-related illnesses. Most employers today know that vacation time is important for employee wellness, and that workers return from their time off refreshed and with renewed energy. Employees get burned out—and so do caregivers!

If you’re a caregiver, set aside for a moment the idea that a vacation is not in the cards for you. Here are a couple of questions you might be asking:

“I feel so guilty leaving my loved one at home.” This can be a tough one. If the person you care for is your spouse, or perhaps a parent who relies on you alone for care, you might think that going away for a week will be very hard for them. But remember: by taking off this time and enjoying a change of scene, you’ll lower your stress level, boost your immune system, and come home with your emotional batteries recharged—all of which also can improve the care you provide.

“But who will take care of my loved one?” This is the big question, but it’s worth doing some homework and brainstorming. If your loved one lives alone, or with you but can be home alone, friends and family may be willing to step in while you are gone. If your loved one needs quite a bit of care and supervision, look into respite care.

Stein Assisted Living, at the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset, NJ, offers short-term stays, which can provide a beneficial change of scene for your loved one. Your loved one can enjoy a 2-4 week stay with nutritious meals and enjoyable activities. Stein Assisted Living is a Jewish-based, non-profit community offering gracious, private accommodations. It also provides 24 hour/7 days per week nursing, social, fitness and educational activities, a beauty salon, housekeeping services, transportation and much more.  Most importantly, Stein Assisted Living provides peace of mind. Your loved one will enjoy all the benefits that the Stein Assisted Living caring community has to offer, and you will be able to enjoy your vacation, knowing that your loved one is well taken care of.

To find out more about respite stays, or Assisted Living in general, contact us at 732-568-1155 or

Stein Assisted Living, which includes Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, is part of The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, which is also comprised of Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport and The Foundation.

Stein Assisted Living Announces New Nursing Team

Stein Assisted Living, at The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, is happy to announce that Sally Gelpke-Page, RN, Certified Dementia Practitioner, has accepted the position of Director of Nursing (DON). Sally was previously the Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON) at Stein Assisted Living and has been a nurse for over 25 years. She has been a member of the Stein Assisted Living nursing team for over 13 years.

Sally joined Stein Assisted Living team as a staff nurse, was then promoted to Director of Dementia Services before becoming the ADON. Sally is excited for this new chapter in her nursing career. According to Sally, “nurses need to be critical thinkers, pay attention to detail, be flexible, multi task, and most importantly have empathy. I am thankful that our team of nurses embodies all these skills.”

Sally is a resident of Oxford. She enjoys spending time with her husband Edward, family and friends. Her 19 year old daughter, Casie, is following in her mother’s footsteps and enrolled in college for nursing. Sally’s 21 year old son, Justin, is in the United States Marine Corps. Outside of being a nurse, Sally loves to play tennis, go to the beach, and antiquing.

Filling Sally’s old position as ADON is Tatiana Dudjakova, RN. Tatiana joined Stein AL in June 2017 as the Dementia Service Coordinator. A 15-year veteran of nursing, Tatiana has worked in long term care, dementia care and home care settings. In addition to her boundless energy, Tatiana is committed to providing exceptional care to all our residents. Her warm, compassionate and friendly demeanor helps to put a smile on everyone’s face.

Outside of work, Tatiana enjoys the winter season where she spends most of her weekends skiing and loves being with family and friends. She currently resides in Flemington with her husband and daughter.

We are also excited to welcome back to Stein Abdul Sesay, RN, who will now serve as our Dementia Service Coordinator. Abdul previously worked at Stein for over 10 years as a Licensed Practitioner Nurse. Abdul has since obtained his degree as a Registered Nurse and will complete his Bachelor degree in nursing next month. Abdul also worked at an acute care facility for the past 13 years. He says, “I have done it all in terms of positions, from charge nurse, facility educator, supervisor to unit manager. It is time for me to move to other ventures, like coming back to Stein Assisted Living to rejoin a winning team.”

Abdul lives in Columbus with his wife and three boys, ages 21, 17 and 11.

“We are so blessed at Stein Assisted Living to have such dedicated, talented and caring professionals at the helm of our nursing team,” says Anna Simmons, Stein Assisted Living Executive Director. “Each manager brings his or her own unique qualities and somehow these qualities blend together to make the whole larger than the sum of the individuals. The residents and families can rest assured that not only will they be care for, but that the nursing team cares about them!”

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living Breaks Ground for Education and Resource Center

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living broke ground on its Education and Resource Center on Friday, April 20th. The new $3.5 million, 12,000-square-foot, two-story building will be built on the Campus property on DeMott Lane in Somerset, NJ.

“The Education and Resource Center will be a great addition to the two existing buildings and the full spectrum of services already offered,” said Donna Oshri, Director of Marketing and Community Relations. “Enabling us to expand our services and programs across our Campus and the greater community.”

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living has been a leader in elder care and senior services in Central New Jersey for more than 40 years. The Campus consists of:

  • Stein Assisted Living, which provides housing and high-quality care and daily support for seniors.
  • Wilentz Senior Residence, which provides spacious, private apartments for income restricted seniors.
  • Wilf Transport, which provides assisted non-medical, social and quality of life transportation for seniors and individuals with special needs who are over the age of 18.
  • Stein Hospice, which provides end of life care to patients and support to their families. Care is provided where the patient lives – home, assisted living facility, or nursing home.
  • The Foundation at The Wilf Campus – the fundraising arm of the Campus, which enables the Campus to offer programs and services that benefit seniors at the Wilf Campus and the greater community.

Due to lack of space, Stein Hospice is currently located off-campus, on Veronica Avenue in Somerset. The Wilf Campus Corporate offices are currently located at the Stein Assisted Living building. Once the new building is complete, Stein Hospice, Wilf Transport, The Foundation and the Campus’ Corporate and Marketing offices will all relocate to the new building, centralizing all of resources at The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living. This will also free up the rooms that the offices currently occupy at the Stein Assisted Living building.

Most importantly, the Education and Resource Center will include a variety of meeting rooms as well as a multi-purpose room, which will allow the Campus to expand its health, wellness and educational programs, such as speakers, workshops and continuing education programs and make these programs available to the greater community. Social and creative arts programs, such as holiday celebrations, movie and theatre programs, and other programs, are also planned. The Wilf Campus also plans to expand the support groups that are already offered and offer various resources for the senior community. A Resource Room for seniors to find information and resources available to them through a small library area, computer work stations, and an information area, will be included.

The Education and Resource Center is being funded through a combination of sources, including money set aside by the Campus as well as private donations. Donor naming opportunities are available, and a fundraising campaign is currently underway.

For more information about The Education and Resource Center or any of the services offered by The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, please call 732-568-1155.

“And You Should Teach it to Your Children”: Passover and Holding a Dialogue with Oneself

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Campus Chaplain, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living

The Passover Seder’s liturgy contains multiple references to the holiday’s multi-generational focus, reflected in the statement “In every generation, one is obligated to see oneself as if s/he left Egypt.” Part of creating this multi-generational atmosphere is further described in the section about the four sons – the wise, wicked, simple and one who doesn’t know how to ask. The “parent’s” responsibility is to elicit conversation through dialogue and storytelling.

What would happen if a person is alone on Passover night? How would the storytelling piece work? According to Maimonides, “When a person does not have a child, his wife should ask him. If he does not have a wife, [he and a colleague] should ask each other: ‘Why is this night different?’ This applies even if they are all wise. A person who is alone should ask himself: ‘Why is this night different?’” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Leavened and Unleavened Bread, 7:3).

In my chaplaincy work, I am regularly confronted with the challenge of loneliness. People express feeling alone after the death of a close loved one. While death removes a person physically from our lives, those people remain in our memory. Many describe “hearing” our loved one’s voices during those times we need to find a path, a way, an answer to a troubling question. Perhaps Food of Passover“hearing” is a reminder of never being truly alone.

On Passover, we are doing the same. To truly feel as if we were redeemed from Egypt, it is essential to ask “why is this night different?” The question implies a rupture, a change in our routine. In that moment when we ask about the ritual differences between Passover and the other holidays, we are looking for a sense of stability in the midst of the chaos. It is in the chaos that one is obligated to not ignore the instability but rather to confront it. This is true whether other people are present to express the questions to or not. As Maimonides acknowledged, even a person alone must confront the changes of the night, asking the hard questions of oneself. It is through the hard questions that one can move beyond the loneliness to the remainder of the Haggadah’s message, which is one of finding redemption out of the depths of servitude.

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living and the Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, or visit us at