As of last month, AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher in Silver Spring is now certified kosher under the supervision of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington. AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher is one of eight assisted living homes in Montgomery County, operated by Veena J. Alfred, Ph.D., CEO and administrator. The AlfredHouse homes are found in neighborhoods in Rockville, Silver Spring and Derwood, and have been caring for the elderly since 1992. Dr. Alfred says his mission is to provide a safe, caring home for elders who require assistance with their daily activities or with medication administration and care coordination.
For elders who need to make the transition to assisted living, the AlfredHouse “offers a warm home environment, where each resident is cared for with personal attention.” Various organizations estimate the national average for assisted living staffing to be one caregiver for each 14 residents. AlfredHouse provides one caregiver for every four residents, allowing for the growth and strong bonds and customized care.
Joan Hyman, director of marketing and community relations, gave me a tour of the Shalom-Kosher home, located in the heart of Kemp Mill’s Jewish community at 711 Lamberton Drive in Silver Spring. Originally named AlfredHouse Shalom, it has now been officially named AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher, not to be confused with Shalom Kosher market. The five-level home, with immaculately clean and attractive living areas, including a living room, dining room, an elevator, very spacious private bedrooms and one large semi-private room shared by two women. The home is occupied by eight female residents.
Joan Hyman shared her vision of AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher as a place where elders could live in the community, within walking distance of their families. She was sensitive that Kemp Mill is an Orthodox Jewish community, where keeping strictly kosher is a way of life for many people. Hyman explained that the AlfredHouse in Kemp Mill was meant to be a kosher home from its inception. Previously, the staff was trained by JSSA (Jewish Social Services Agency) to operate a kosher kitchen.
“It was always our goal to raise the kosher certification at the Shalom House to meet the standards of the surrounding Orthodox Jewish community,” said Alfred. “We are delighted that with the help of the Vaad, we can be an elder-care resource for our neighbors.”
In July, AlfredHouse began exploring how to make this goal into a reality. After researching the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Washington, Hyman contacted Rabbi Dovid Rosenbaum for assistance. Without his help, she informed me, this important development would not have been possible. Expressing her deep appreciation, she explained, “Rabbi Rosenbaum of Young Israel Shomrai Emunah provided expert guidance and support that was pivotal in bringing this goal to fruition. From the first moment when we reached out to the Vaad, Rabbi Rosenbaum shared our vision and helped us achieve it.”
In addition to his rabbinic leadership at YISE, Rabbi Rosenbaum is president of the Vaad Harabanim of Washington. In response to Joan contacting the Vaad, to inquire about coming under their certification, Rabbi Rosenbaum expressed enthusiasm, stating, “We were very excited to pursue this, as it would provide an assisted living option within the Kemp Mill neighborhood for those who would only be comfortable with our strict standards of kashrut. From our first meeting, Ms. Hyman and Dr. Alfred were a pleasure to work with, and we hope to maintain a strong working relationship for many years to come.”
The process of making AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher ready for certification, in addition to the assignment of regular mashgichim (kashrut supervisors) was overseen by Rabbi Binyamin Sanders, director of field operations at the Vaad Harabanim. Rabbi Sanders’ role at the Vaad involves the practical side of kashrut for the community, such as hiring mashgichim and making sure they are trained properly for the job. In the greater Washington, D.C., Jewish area, there are currently 25 full-time mashgichim, as well as part-time staff, including assistant and on-site staff.
Sanders said the kashering process was not difficult and his main role was instructing the mashgiach. AlfredHouse Shalom-Kosher has two mashgichim on staff. Rabbi Yehoshua Singer from White Oak completed most of the kashering process, with caregiver and cook, Andrea Wells-Wright, who both work during the day. Rick Greenberg, mashgiach for Ben Yehuda Cafe and Pizzeria in Kemp Mill, is responsible for the evening and Shabbos meals.
In making the transition, Singer kashered a few pots, but for the most part, AlfredHouse bought new pots, utensils, and dishes. With all these new items, I asked the rabbi if he had to toivel them. (Toiveling is a ritual in which kitchen items made of glass, metal and other materials are immersed in a mikvah, and a blessing is recited prior to use.) He explained that because the owner of AlfredHouse is not Jewish, he was not required to immerse anything. “Joan was disappointed because we didn’t make a blessing when we kashered the kitchen, but that is not part of the process.”
Sanders was very pleased by the ease of the transition, stating that, “the people at the Alfred House were all very congenial,” and it was a very smooth process. The three days it took to kasher the house was more about logistics than the kashering itself. The reason it took time is because when transitioning to a strictly kosher status, it is necessary to wait 24 hours before changing everything over. It was simply a matter of changing previous items, and trading over the kitchen.
Sanders described the operation as very simple, and he came by a couple of times, advising Singer during the process. Kashering the home was very similar to what people do for Passover, where everyone knows how to transition over. More importantly, Sanders expressed how “kind they [the AlfredHouse] are, for providing a community resource so people who live nearby can be in a safe and caring environment. The main idea of this operation was that the staff was very cooperative, and the dedication to seeing it through was very nice, a good experience, and we are very grateful to have such a great facility.