Taking the Lead at Lieberman

In its 35th anniversary year, Lieberman Center in Skokie is delighted to welcome new Executive Director Dr. Michael Gottesman. Taking the helm after only three previous administrators, this is quite a pivotal moment in time for CJE’s flagship skilled nursing and shortterm rehabilitation community.

Michael Gottesman feels like he has come full circle. He’s a “local boy” who grew up in West Rogers Park. When he and his wife married, they moved to Skokie and raised three sons. As a grandfather of five, he’s overwhelmed by the great joy and fulfillment he feels in his new position, particularly because CJE is a Jewish organization with a mission informed by core Jewish values. A long-time educator and administrator, he says, “I haven’t felt this way since I worked as an education director at a synagogue. That was a position that was, of course, immersed in reinforcing the importance of Jewish values and “middot,” and developing curriculum that encouraged students to reflect on these values and concentrate on aligning their activities with them. This is like coming home.”

He’s worked with many organizations, and has served Jewish people in many other facilities, but “to be able to explicitly express and be mindful of those Jewish values that CJE embraces is a wonderful, blessed opportunity. It’s just incredible to be of service in this way.”



Ph.D. Health Administration,
Kennedy-Western University, Cheyenne, Wyoming
M.A. School Administration/Curriculum Development, Spertus College and University of Illinois at Chicago
Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, State of Illinois
Member, Illinois Nursing Home Administrators Association

He compares his experience at Lieberman to ones at other skilled nursing facilities and says, “This is the place where you can really be a true administrator: you’re not pulled in every different direction and you’re not given 17 different things to do. Here you not only have the support, but the mission is also incredibly important. As a non-profit, we aren’t afraid to put that first, while being fiscally responsible in this challenging healthcare environment.”

Regarding his first three months at Lieberman, “People have been magnificent—so warm and friendly and accepting. Everybody is so caring. It’s so nice to see the staff get recognition, which is often lacking elsewhere.” He thinks that people don’t realize how hard the Resident Care Assistants work, noting that it’s incredibly intense, taking care of very fragile people.

He continues, “I’ve been privileged to present GEM Awards to employees for their exceptional customer service, and a President Award for innovative program development—and the look on employees’ faces is priceless. Recognition means a lot to them. You can tell they love CJE.”

Gottesman was very impressed by how long many of the employees have worked at Lieberman. “That says a lot about an organization right there.” Gottesman says it’s important to enjoy coming to work and when you do that, it makes a big difference. Sometimes he’ll come in to work and the next thing he’ll know it’s the end of the day and he’ll wonder “Where did the day go?” He thinks it’s all because of the job, the people he works with, the residents, and the family members he’s been fortunate to meet.

Gottesman’s vision for Lieberman is clear. He is intent upon increasing the quality of the entire operation of Lieberman. Specifically, he hopes to always bring that extra bit of business sense into the equation. “I want to make sure that the resources we have are being used in the right place because there are so many important programs that deserve our funds. There are areas that need improvement and we’re concentrating on those. I’m working very hard with our Chief Financial Officer Tom Lockwood to get a fix on those so we can give more to our residents.”

There have already been quite a few changes since his arrival. Lieberman just received accreditation for a Cancer Rehabilitation Specialty Program. This is still in its development stages, but is quite a coup for Lieberman. According to Gottesman, “With this program, we will have the chance to touch a lot of people that nobody has had an opportunity to reach out to before, since we are the only one in the nation with such a rehab protocol.” We will offer pre- and post-surgery care for pain, fatigue, and loss of stamina and other cancer-related trauma and side effects. Gottesman also expressed a desire to a put lot of effort into the Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit. He hopes to build on the abilities of the residents and create a good environment for them by introducing more programs.

What could be called an “added value” in Michael Gottesman’s background is that he is also a rabbi, leading a small congregation in Skokie. This takes up his weekends and leaves no room for hobbies, but for him it is incredibly rewarding because he is touching lives in a spiritual way. When he is in his rabbi role, he says, “This is when I provide some guidance, some help, and a sympathetic ear” to those who seek him out.

Gottesman finds that his rabbi role carries over to his work at Lieberman. “You can’t separate the two,” he emphasizes. “As a rabbi, I’ve learned so much about working with people. I am able to be more cognizant of my employees, to pay attention to people’s feelings, to understand the pain they may be going through, to be compassionate. Being a rabbi helped me to learn how to listen to people. You can’t sit in an office and dictate policies that are going to affect the working lives of a lot of individuals, and just ignore their feedback or concerns.”

He also has a deep compassion for the residents of Lieberman. He speaks of the adjustments that people have to make, especially if it’s their first time in a nursing facility. “They’re in a different, unfamiliar world which can be tiring and difficult. There is an adjustment period for long-term residents as well as short-term rehabilitation patients. Our staff has to be gentle and compassionate,” he explains.

Michael Gottesman puts his philosophy about Lieberman Center into simple terms: “If you don’t understand you’re in the service business here, then you’ve missed the boat.” For more information about Dr. Gottesman, see LiebermanCenter.net.

Lieberman Center features all-private rooms plus many amenities to enhance your stay. Call 847.929.3320 for a tour or more information.