During the 1930s and early part of the 1940s, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Council on Care of the Aged examined the development of programs for the elderly. This planning group was concerned with keeping older people in the community which led to the development of Senior Centers.
In 1966, the Board of Directors of Jewish Federation met to look at broad trends in the aged population as well as detailed data on the characteristics of the Federation-supported nursing homes: Park View Home, Jewish Home for the Aged—BMZ and Drexel Home for the Aged.
From this research, they found that Park View Home’s existing facility was not adequate to deal with the increasing demand for residential care. BMZ reported that many Jews were leaving the Lawndale area which meant that consideration needed to be given to developing a new facility in another part of the city, closer to the Jewish community. The Drexel Home for the Aged on Chicago’s south side was experiencing the same situation as BMZ.
The needs of older adults in the community were definitely increasing. In 1967, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JFMC), engaged Dr. Robert Morris and Dr. Sidney Lee to conduct a thorough study that included a feasibility study of other Federation agencies that already had programs serving the elderly.
By September 1967, the two doctors offered several recommendations with the primary recommendation that Jewish Federation establish a community gerontology council that included the three nursing homes, three hospitals, related social welfare agencies and the Federation itself. This community gerontology council was to facilitate the development of cooperative arrangements among the various agencies serving the aged (specifically, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Family and Community Service, Jewish Vocational Service, Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital, Michael Reese Hospital, Park View Home, Drexel Home, Jewish Home for the Aged-BMZ, and the Aid Association of the Oak Forest Hospital.)
In spring 1968, The Gerontological Council was established by JFMC. Joseph L. Gidwitz, former president of Jewish Federation, was chosen as its first chairman. In October 1968, Ronald Weismehl was appointed executive secretary of the Gerontological Council.
On January 20, 1969, representatives from the Homes met and passed two resolutions:
- The Homes will plan together for a coordinated program of service and care for the Jewish elderly.
- A joint planning committee should be established, composed of representatives of the Homes and other Federation social service agencies.
A final report, entitled: “A Jewish Community Plan for the Elderly,” was published in the spring of 1970 and was endorsed by the Boards of Directors of all the participating Federation agencies and by the Federation itself. In 1971, Council for Jewish Elderly was incorporated and officially joined the JFMC as an affiliated agency.
In 1972, CJE began to recruit staff and an outreach program was initiated in East Rogers Park. In its first year, CJE also opened an Evaluation Service Center on Western Avenue to provide services like counseling, nursing, housekeeping, home delivered meals and transportation. This same year, CJE merged with Jewish Home for the Aged-BMZ.
Every year since, CJE has brought more innovative community-based services into the Chicago area than other providers of eldercare services. Today, CJE provides a continuum of care to over 23,000 older adults and their families each year.