BY JOHN McCURDY / MANAGING EDITOR //

Artist rendering of Berman Commons, new assisted living facility that will be part of the Breman Jewish Home.

Artist rendering of Berman Commons, new assisted living facility that will be part of the Breman Jewish Home.

The land that once hosted the fledging New Atlanta Jewish Community High School – which has become an institution in its own right, the Weber School – are soon to be another key site of the Atlanta Jewish community. Under the auspices of Jewish Home Life Communities (the re-branded organization of the William Breman Jewish Home and its affiliates), a new assisted living facility to be known as the Berman Commons will soon break ground.

“What has evolved over the past five, 10 years is the entirely new field of assisted living, which is a hybrid of a nursing home and independent living,” Breman Home CEO Harley Tabak said. “We recognized that there were many people who wanted to be in a facility like that which had our sponsorship – because of our Jewish culture and also our reputation for quality – so why not just provide the service ourselves, as we feel we bring something special to the market?”

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The AJT got a chance to sit down with Tabak to learn more about the Home’s key developments and much-anticipated project.

Atlanta Jewish Times: I know the idea for Berman Commons has been in the works, that the idea started up some time ago. Tell me about its origins, and what need wasn’t being met that did need to be met with Berman Commons.

Harley Tabak: Nursing homes used to be the place you went for medical care of any type for the long term. Now what’s needed is something that’s in the middle – it’s much more residential in character, and it’s what people who used to live in nursing homes now prefer. So we realized that that was an area we needed to serve rather than waiting for people to come to the nursing home after they’d lived a period of time in another assisted living facility.

The process [of creating Berman Commons] began four or five years ago, when we acquired the property on the MJCCA campus. That was also one of the driving factor, that having it on the Jewish campus would be another positive aspect to it for many people who would like the intergenerational interaction factor of the Center.

Of course, 2008 was the economic crisis and credit crunch, so being able to finance new construction has been impossible. But in the past year, we’ve recognized that this may be the time to look at it again, and now we’re very close to completing the financing and hope to break ground in September.

AJT: I’ve seen some of the renderings, but I’d like to hear a little more about the facility. Tell me about what was most important in your minds while designing the Berman Commons.

HT: Number one, we wanted it to be residential in character. Even though it is an institution – it’s licensed as assisted living in the state of Georgia, so there are lots of requirements in terms of fire code, etc., for safety reasons – the goal is to make it feel as home-like as possible. So the design of both the interior and the exterior, the gardens, [is focused on that]. And the design also has to be economical, as this is a big undertaking.

Memory care – for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s – being a growing area of need in elderly care, it’s a very important aspect of the design. We have almost an entire floor dedicated to that population, and that’s a significant part of the project. That population is in a unique area, and we’ll have programming designed specifically for that population.

Then, we’ll have two floors dedicated to general assisted living, which is a broad term but is typically for people who may have a physical limitation but mentally are sharp. Having rooms that are as spacious as possible, having the common areas feel as residential as possible – that’s something we pride ourselves on, that when you’re here, it doesn’t feel like you’re in a nursing home, even though it is.

AJT: What else should people know about Berman Commons?

HT: First, that we’ve had a unique team helping with it, some amazing volunteers including Joe Rubin, Bob London and David Weiss.

Also, that we’re honoring Steve M. Berman with naming. He’s been active on the board for more than 30 years, and of all the people who best represented us in terms of passion and commitment to serving this institution, he symbolizes that. I’ve not known anyone like him, and he’s one of the people who personally brought me here eight years ago.

And finally, every community like this is really so dependent on the atmosphere that’s created by the management. That’s my segue to Jenice, who will be our executive director.

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