Aside from dedication to senior care in Riverside County, California (Coachella, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage), I have made a point of visiting small and large older adult residences in places I travel to. During the last 25 years I have gratefully been received at innumerable homes in California, Chile, Ecuador, Italy, and Mexico.
I must say, after spending time in Mexican government (DIF homes – department of social services), non-profits (mostly run by nuns), and for-profit homes in 16 states of Mexico, Eishel Nuestro Hogar (Eishel Our Home) in Cuernavaca, is a standout.
Possible reasons why…
This residence functions well because those in charge are serving older adults as their mission. And with compassion. In this way, residents and personnel feel at home despite any minor shortcomings.
At Eishel the director, the physician in charge, and the Board of Directors are transparent. They welcome all who wish to learn about their residence. You may eat a meal, spend the night, or stay longer if you wish to acquaint yourself with the environment. This is unusual.
Few homes in Mexico choose to be as open. Few homes have web pages with authentic photos. For financial and social reasons, many Mexican homes, if they have an Internet presence, choose Facebook.
Culturally, Jewish people are super organized. They care and support each other well. Yes, this is a biased statement, yet it is based on years of observation. (I was NOT brought up in the Jewish faith).
Let’s do a walk through of Eishel Nuestro Hogar/Eishel Our Home :
First, I was expected. Nice !!
For obvious reasons, there is serious security. The modern compound is walled. Within double-locked doors the guards reviewed my ID, then called the administrator.
I was shown to the courtyard where I waited on a comfortable bench with a view through glass front doors to the synagogue. The air was crisp, dry, and warm. (Cuernavaca is known for its spring climate throughout the year).
Synagogue at Eishel Nuestro Hogar, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Within minutes the administrator (who came on her day off) greeted me with the physician in charge. They generously gave their time for a detailed and meaningful tour of the entire compound.
From an American point of view Eishel is a CCRC – a Continuing Care Retirement Community with independent living, assisted living, rehabilitation, nursing care, and end-of-life accomodation. The difference from most CCRC’s in the U.S. is that you offer a monthly donation, and do not own.
Eishel is an A.C., Asociación Civil, a non-profit that has existed in various forms since 1947, 75 years ago. (The first recognized assisted living with 24/7 care in the U.S. opened in Portland, Oregon in 1981).
The Eishel campus has lovely manicured grounds, two modern two-story residences, an outdoor theater, a sculpture garden, an herb garden, two gazebos, and a wall of plaques recognizing the donors.
A gazebo at Eishel Nuestro Hogar facing the independent living indoor/outdoor dining room
Eishel Nuestro Hogar Donor Garden
The fresh herb garden is maintained by residents, the chef, and kitchen staff. In addition to herbs there are tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and more. Pineapples, blackberries and strawberries also grow on the grounds.
We visited residents in their comfortable airy rooms, the nursing floor, and stopped by the currently empty end-of-life suite with one large light-filled room for the resident patient and another room for his or her family.
Note : Even though some senior living administrators in Mexico have thought to create hospice within senior living, Eishel is the only residence I have visited that has sustained such a space. HOLA (Hospice of the Angels) tried this concept in their Morelia assisted living residence for two years during the pandemic. Unfortunately HOLA closed for a variety of reasons.
The nursing floor …
Eishel Nuestro Hogar Infirmary
Dr. Golub attending to patients in nursing floor day room at Eishel
Nursing floor dining room with views to nature and tables to accommodate reclining wheelchairs. Visitors from other countries have come to see the unusual curved tables so they might replicate similar practical tables in their nursing areas.
There are two sparkling, immaculate kitchens honoring kosher tradition.
Eishel’s current population of 72, with room for 140, is mostly Mexican. There are residents from Europe and the U.S. The languages most heard are Spanish, Yiddish, and English, in that order. Entrance is for anyone of Jewish faith either Ashkenazi or Sephardic. One must be 65 years of age, wish to live there, and agree to the rules. Persons with aggressive behavior or on dialysis are not admitted. Please see the web site which outlines requirements. Your monthly payment is a donation to the non-profit.
Photo of rehabilitation patio with Dr. Golub greeting residents, and Director Gonzalez in black and beige blouse dancing in front of a resident
Activities include movies (there is a theater), tai chi, trips, art classes, occupational therapy, and more. There is a library. A 70-year-old retired coffee table book author from Mexico City shared with me that he teaches writing. He lives at Eishel for « the fabulous year-round weather, intellectual conversation, the food, and the sense of community. »
According to the director, there is little staff turnover. Some employees stay 25 years.
Every two months Eishel publishes a full-color mini-magazine, a gazeta. There are articles by board members, residents, and staff on a variety of subjects.
Meaning of the name Eishel :
The Hebrew letters Eishel or Aishel (aleph, shin, lamed) are an acronym for Achila (feeding), Shtiya (drinking), and Linah (lodging). Since ancient times, Eishel denoted an inn.
In case you are wondering about population of Jews in Mexico and the rest of the world :
According to the Pew Research Center there are about 14 million Jews around the world representing 0.2% of the global population:
“While Jews historically have been found all around the globe, Judaism is highly geographically concentrated today. More than four-fifths of all Jews live in just two countries, the United States (41%) and Israel (41%).”
According to American Jewish Aging Services there are over 95 Jewish organizations or homes serving older adults in the U.S.
According to Wikipedia approximately 70,000 Jews (both Ashkenazi and Sephardic) live in Mexico (primarily Cuernavaca, Lake Chapala, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta, and San Miguel de Allende). Another 230,000 live in Argentina.
The first Jews, known as Crypto or Converso Jews because they converted to Catholicism during the Inquisition in Portugal and Spain, came to the Americas with Christopher Columbus on his first expedition (according to Wikipedia and information from the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries). They were called cryptos because they secretly practiced their faith but were publicly Catholics.
My visit was satisfying. Eishel is an unusual Mexican senior home. Its administrators show they are vested in well-being. At this time the residents are mostly Jewish Mexicans and the help is mostly Mexican. The atmosphere is comfortable and convivial, likely the result of residents having much in common. The true reveal would be living there or visiting Eishel over a period of time.
Wendy Jane Carrel, MA, is a Spanish-speaking senior care specialist and consultant from California. She has travelled Mexico for several years researching health systems, senior care, and end-of-life care to connect Americans, Canadians, and Europeans with options for loved ones. She has assessed hundreds of senior housing choices in 16 Mexican states. Her web site is https://www.WellnessShepherd.com
https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jud%C3%ADos_en_Am%C3%A9rica_Latina_y_el_Caribe Most Latin American Jews live in Argentina – 230,000; 70,000 live in MX. In Argentina there are all-Jewish senior care homes, I easily located three on the Internet. https://beitsion.org.ar/ , https://hogarledorvador.org/quienes-somos/ (modern), https://auno.org.ar/el-hogar-israelita-refugio-para-los-abuelos 4
https://ajas.org/senior-living-resources/find-a-jewish-senior-community/map-of-all-jewish-senior-communities/ map of Jewish senior living communities in the U.S., about 70 total, most in New York, New Jersey, and Florida.