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Staying Connected

Eisenberg Assisted Living receives gift of iPads

By Stacey Dresner

WORCESTER — The Jewish Healthcare Center (JHC) and its Eisenberg Assisted Living Center have been finding ways for its residents to stay connected to their families since the Covid-19 crisis started.

“We used Zoom and FaceTime meetings as one of several elements in our strategy to keep people connected,” said David Price, director of Eisenberg Assisted Living. “Very early on, at the end of March we had started what we call ‘microphone meetings’ where the resident is on one side of the window and their family members are on the other side with microphones.”

But the Tapper Charitable Foundation, led by Worcester natives Al Tapper and his daughter Eve, wanted to give Eisenberg residents another option for communication. So in April, they donated 20 iPads to the assisted living center.

“We started talking at the beginning of all of this as to what we could do,” said Eve Tapper, who now lives in Newton. “We are very fortunate that we have a foundation and we are able to donate to charitable organizations. I grew up in Worcester and my parents grew up in Worcester. My grandfather on my mother’s side was at the Jewish Home when it was an orphanage. So we have a very tight connection to Worcester, although none of us live there anymore.”

After brainstorming as to what organizations like Eisenberg might need during the Covid-19 crisis, they decided iPads were the perfect gift.

“We thought, people wouldn’t be able to have visitors and they were getting sick,” Eve said. “My mother had an incident where she was sick and had to go to the doctor and I wasn’t allowed to go, and so we said, ‘How do we get online communication for people who have Covid, but also for people who may not have Covid but can’t leave or can’t have anyone come in and might lose connection with their families?’”

After family members discussed it and concluded that iPads were a good option, Eve Tapper called Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass.

“She said, ‘We need your help making it happen,’” Schimmel said. 

“So they put in the order and had it shipped over. We coordinated with the Jewish Healthcare Center and they put us in touch with Eisenberg, and in just a few short days, the residents had 20 iPads to be used to keep in touch with their loved ones.”

Tapper made sure Eisenberg would want the iPads, and asked how many they thought they could use before sending them over.

“We wanted to be careful and work with them, not just dump a box of iPads off,” she said. “We called everybody and said, ‘This is what we would like to do? Can you use them?’”

David Price said that the iPads have been a welcome gift to Eisenberg residents.

“The tablets have been great because they require minimal set up and can be used more flexibly in terms of time of day,” Price said.

Patti Furmanick, director of enhancement and activities at Eisenberg said when a resident wants to use one of the iPads, she or another staffer help to set them up for the seniors, either in an activity area or in their own apartments where they can have private conversations.

“Thank goodness for technology during this time because it made a world of difference,” Furmanick has said. “And even though the residents didn’t know what we were talking about at first, once we set the tablets up for them they were thrilled.

The Tapper Charitable Foundation also donated iPads to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Boston Medical Center and New York-Presbyrterian Cornell Medical Center. In all they donated 440 iPads to the organizations. The iPads for the Boston Medical Center went to the maternity ward for mother’s who have to give birth without their partners; NY-Presbyterian medical professionals will use the tablets to double the amount of tele-health visits they are able to facilitate. Each recipient organization will be able to use the tablets even after the coronavirus period, something that was important to the Tappers.

Despite not having lived in Worcester for many years, Al Tapper — who resides in New York and Florida –has remained a generous donor to the annual campaign of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass., and has close ties to the area. 

“My mother and father are both from Worcester; they met in high school. And my sister and I grew up in Worcester. My mother still has family there,” Eve said. “We were very thrilled to be able to give back to that community. Worcester is in our blood.”

“Al has been a philanthropic leader for a lot of different projects over the years,” Schimmel added. “I think he is both creative and generous.”

Creative indeed. 

Not only a businessman who specialized in leveraged buyouts, Tapper is also a Broadway composer, lyricist, playwright, and humorist. In 2014, he won a prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting for his 2013 documentary “Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy.” 

Schimmel credited the Tappers’ ingenuity for the speed and efficiency in which the donation was made.

“We are accustomed to things taking a long time with planning meetings and difficulties that come up. But here we were, in the middle of one of the most complicated situations that any of us have ever been in in our lifetimes, trying to get the details worked out, and this was such a smooth operation. It all happened in the course of a week.

“It was really nice,” Schimmel said. “It’s beautiful when one of those things happens. It’s like beshert.”

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