NOVEMBER 30, 2017 – Adam Berman currently oversees one of Greater Boston’s leading healthcare organizations. As President of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (CJL), Adam is responsible for the expansion, growth and day-to-day operations of the non-profit, including the 2014 acquisition of Aviv Centers for Living and the dramatic renovation of the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. He resides in Lynnfield with his wife Sondria and daughters Sasha and Kira. Adam serves on the board of Mass Senior Care and Leading Age of Massachusetts; he is also an MBA candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
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Tell me about your upbringing: where did you grow up, a little about your family, college, and your influences.
I grew up in West Peabody and Boxford with my parents, Cindy and Barry, and younger sister, Ashley. I attended Hebrew school and had my bar mitzvah at Temple Beth Shalom [now Tiferet Shalom]. I went to Masconomet High, class of 2002, and then attended Roger Williams University, graduating in 2006 with a bachelor of arts in sociology/anthropology. I contemplated law school, but in the end, I was reluctant because I realized I lacked the passion needed to become a lawyer. At my father’s recommendation, I decided to join him at Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home following my graduation. The plan was for me to stay a year and get actual work experience; I would then reevaluate my career options. After working at CJNH for three weeks, I knew I had found my home – and my passion.
Your father helped build the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home. Could you describe how he influenced you, and what you learned from him about business?
In addition to management and business skills, he influenced how I think about the world and how the work we do can have such a positive impact. When you look at the world it’s easy to want to “boil the ocean,” but my father helped me keep things in perspective and focus on having the largest impact in our area of that ocean.
Why did you want to follow in your father’s footsteps and join Chelsea Jewish Lifecare?
Frankly, I didn’t. I didn’t have a clear picture of what I wanted to do, and at various points considered careers in law, economics, and secondary education. In a sense, I joined CJL to ‘buy time’ and figure out what I really wanted to do. My dad always wanted me to join him, but he never pushed me. And honestly, if he did, I probably wouldn’t have considered working in the organization.
You’re president of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. Tell us about CJL and what it does.
We provide a continuum of post-acute and long-term care options for seniors and the severely disabled. CJL owns and operates three nursing homes, two assisted living residences, an independent living, an adult day health, a home health agency, and a hospice agency. We’re very focused on making our communities feel like home; all three of our skilled nursing facilities are active in the Green House movement. What this means is that we provide our residents with the best quality of life possible in an environment that looks and feels like a real home.
Most notably, we are big believers in decentralized dining. We are exceptionally unique in that there’s no central kitchen in any of our three homes. All our skilled nursing homes – the Leonard Florence Center for Living, the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living, and the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home – have multiple kitchens in which we cook for between 10-20 people, depending on the home. The wonderful aromas of home cooking on every floor is a far cry from a traditional nursing home. CJL has been – and always will be – kosher. I feel very strongly we maintain our Jewish heritage and traditions that are such an integral part of the organization.
We are particularly proud of the Leonard Florence Center for Living, the first urban state-of-the-art Green House in the country. The center now cares for more individuals living with ALS than any place else in the world. The center allows people diagnosed with ALS and MS to live life as independently as possible through revolutionary technology and a caring and compassionate support staff.
I also want to point out that our entire board of directors, led by chairman of the board Gilda Richman, have been extremely supportive of me. They truly understand the Chelsea Jewish Lifecare mission statement and do everything they can to make sure we meet our objectives.
What’s your favorite part of your job at CJL, and what’s the most challenging?
General management means being a jack of all trades, and I enjoy the variety of challenges. I also really, really enjoy the people element, interacting with staff and residents alike. Most challenging is the current financial and regulatory environments for our nursing facilities and assisted livings.
Outside of CJL, what kind of charity work are you involved in, and why do you volunteer?
I serve as vice chair and director of the Massachusetts Senior Care Association and am on the board of trustees of LeadingAge Massachusetts. Truthfully, my time these days is mostly spent between family, work, and school. It takes an exorbitant amount of time to run CJL, but I love it, so it doesn’t really seem like work.
You’re also in the MBA program at MIT. Why did you want to return to college?
At CJL, we aspire to help the world be a better place, therefore we need to do as much we as can to achieve this goal. I need to be as prepared as possible to run a larger organization, which includes fine-tuning my management skills. Our vision is to grow and serve as a role model to other mission-driven organizations.
What’s the future of CJL, and what would you like the organization to look like in 20 years?
Our vision is a world where high quality, service-enriched residential and post-acute care is available in every community – and to every person. At CJL, we expect to realize that vision not only by having homes in every community, but rather by serving as an example and role model for organizations striving to do the right thing. To do this, we need to grow as well as demonstrate how high quality, person-centered care can be provided at a larger scale. At the same time, we want to be in a position to share our learnings with others.
In your opinion, what’s the key to providing good care for seniors at your facilities?
In addition to treating people well, the key is to remove the organizational barriers that prevent good people from providing excellent care.