The Shmooze

Village Voice Turns Spotlight on Jewish-Staffed Adult Home

By Michael Kaminer

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A 4,500-word story in this week’s Village Voice tells the tale of Solange Lambert and Cosmo Salerno, coupled residents of Brooklyn “adult home” Surf Manor who are fighting to move into a state-subsidized apartment.

But the story carries a heavily Jewish subtext. “As with most other adult homes in the city, Surf Manor’s operator, Robert Lichtschein — who opened it in 1978 — and virtually his entire administrative staff are Orthodox Jewish men,” the Voice reports. And “like Surf Manor’s owners, its resident population is also substantially Jewish,” Norman Bloomfield, president of the Residents’ Council, told the Voice. But “most residents aren’t particularly observant and don’t keep kosher, which can lead to some friction with the home management,” the Voice said.

In New York, Surf Manor’s ownership represents the rule, rather than the exception, according to the Voice. But “No one really knows why Orthodox Jewish families run a high percentage of New York City’s adult homes.” Jeffrey Sherrin, Surf Manor’s attorney, thinks nothing but pure altruism motivates the operators. “They’re a population that has, first, traditionally been in health care and social services, and, second, are very community-minded, charitable-minded,” he tells the voice. “One of the mis-impressions you get is that this is just a group of evil, greedy, money-mongering people. It’s just not the case. There’s not big money to be made in adult homes.”

The Voice also cites a NY State Department of Health inspection report that provides a picture of what the newspaper deemed “institution-wide disorganization and decay.” But residents claim their worst problem is “an epidemic of constipation.”

“It’s one of the main topics of conversation, talking to residents,” Bloomfield tells the Voice. “They blame the matzoh, so much matzoh every day. Residents are being forced to observe these dietary laws, and the majority aren’t even religious…. The whole thing is weird.”


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