History of the Home
During the first half of the 20th century the New Bedford and Fall River Jewish communities enjoyed a close inter-relationship in caring for community members. However, the announcement that the Fall River Jewish Home would no longer accept patients from New Bedford was a rallying cry for members of the local Jewish Welfare Federation and other Jewish organizations to strike out on their own. At a meeting on April 13, 1959, a dream to establish a place for individuals in the Jewish community of Greater New Bedford to go to when they needed long-term care was born. Dr. Harold Berger was appointed chairman of the committee.
Over the next few years, this group of local, visionary Jewish leaders which included Florence Dobson, Bess Cohen Sylvia Finger, and Estelle Shanbrun (who served as the Home’s first administrator) met frequently in a large old house on Hawthorn Street owned by David Lumiansky, who had hopes that one day his home could be converted into a home for the aged.
In 1961 the New Bedford Jewish Convalescent Home was incorporated – Dr. Harold Burger served as president; Louis Finger as treasurer; Ida Portnoy as membership chair; and Estelle Shanbrun as secretary. In April 1964 the newly installed president Dr. Abraham Portnoy announced that with a $210,000 grant through the Hill-Burton Act, which funded the construction of non-profit health facilities, NBJCH would be able to purchase the property and commence construction. On a cold November Sunday in 1964, the vision established in the late 1950’s moved forward with groundbreaking ceremonies attended by many city and state officials.
As construction on the 40-bed, one-story building, designed by Boston architect Leo Sheinfeld, progressed throughout 1965 and into early 1966, NBJCH members were busy planning for the time when the building would be filled with patients.
Sunday, January 16, 1966 – Dedication Day – brought the community out in force for the afternoon ceremony and the dedication dinner. Tickets to the dinner were in such demand, that a week before, the affair the site was changed from the New Bedford Hotel to Lincoln Park to accommodate the 420 people who came to celebrate this outstanding accomplishment.
On March 14, 1966 the dream became a reality with the admission of the first seven patients. By year’s end, the Home had a 90% occupancy.
With continued community support and a growing census, additions and improvements quickly followed. The large porch at the west end of the building was completed in the summer of 1967 and the nurses’ station was enlarged. In 1968, during the term of NBJCH’s third president Barney Smola, fundraising began again in ernest to build an addition that expanded the dining room, kitchen area and added a physical therapy room.
As the reputation for providing quality of care grew, the membership became acutely aware of a need to expand facilities. In November 1973, a Certificate of Need to build a second floor was approved. A new one million dollar fundraising project was launched and public funding grants were sought. On July 29, 1976, the ground-breaking shovels were brought out of storage, and with the opening of the second floor in July 1977, bed capacity increased to 80 allowing the first floor be used for skilled care and second floor for supportive care.
Over the years, facility updates have included new laundry equipment, computers, and a new nurse-call system. Many new programs and activities were tried and became part of NBJCH tradition including High Holiday services and the celebration of other Jewish festival days.
In 2006, a $100,000 gift by the Tatlebaum family in honor of husband and father Matty to expand the therapy capabilities of NBJCH was the impetus for the most recent expansion. In addition to the enlarged therapy area which enabled a broadening of the population mix to include shorter stay residents who return home following the skilled nursing and rehabilitative care they receive, the $4,000,000 state funded project included the addition of office space, new entry way and sunroom on the first floor and office space and new activity area on the second floor.
For half a century, first under the administrative leadership of Estelle Shanbrun and since 1990 Carol Trudeau, NBJCH has helped thousands of people. Today NBJCH is one of the most state-of-the-art skilled nursing facilities in Southeastern, MA.