On a sunny summer day, I got a glimpse into Cathy Zheutlin’s life as we sat outside on my deck (six feet apart) and talked for about an hour. The beeping of Cathy’s alarm paused the conversation and she was off to save the day for Cedar Sinai Park (CSP) residents! She quickly changed a television program that residents at Cedar Sinai Park would not have had access to.

I immediately witnessed Cathy’s devotion to serving the residents at CSP. It brings me joy to share her passion with you.

I’m delighted to introduce you to Cathy Zheutlin: a dedicated filmmaker, massage therapist, wife, mother, and activist, who takes it all on with a deep commitment. She has been the Spiritual Life Coordinator at Cedar Sinai Park for a year now.

Like all her endeavors, Cathy took on the job with passion and creativity, making sure all the residents have a chance to live their best life.

In this two-part interview, we’ll begin by hearing about Cathy’s amazing work at Cedar Sinai Park. Then, we’ll take a look back at Cathy’s life and some of her proudest moments.

It’s with deep respect I’m pleased to share our conversation with you! Enjoy!

Cathy Zheutlin

‘Making sure all residents live their best life.’
-Cathy Zheutlin

Cathy, it’s such a pleasure to chat with you! I’d love to hear a little more about your role as the Spiritual Life Coordinator at Cedar Sinai Park.

Well, so much has changed since I first started at CSP. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we would gather together every week for Shabbat: the residents and guests of Rose Schnitzer Manor in Zidell Hall, and the residents of the CSP households and acute care in Cogan Chapel. I would visit the households every Shabbat at dinner to share blessings and prayers with residents who gathered at a “family” dinner table.

I remember the day the pandemic actually started affecting us on a day-to-day basis. It was a Sunday in early March, and I learned we were no longer allowing visitors into CSP. It was all very sudden and unexpected.

At the time, we were moving forward with Passover plans, writing invitations to family members, educating the staff, coordinating banquet meals, services and the Passover kitchen and housecleaning.

Suddenly we hit the brakes. We had to assess our new situation. No guests, no gatherings.

We had no idea how long the restrictions would last. So, we quickly began to adapt our Passover plans…

I was blessed to find a national group of chaplains who were discussing how to handle Passover during COVID-19. We brainstormed, collaborated and supported one another.

Thankfully, I also had the help of some amazing volunteers like Amy Shapiro, who has been leading Passover Seders and High Holiday services for 20 years. Amy along with her husband, Jeff Olenick, Barbara Slater and Eddy Shuldman (just to name a few!), really stepped up during this time of need. They all understood that we needed to quickly transition our in-person events to online. I was truly lucky to have the support of this wonderful group of people.

I was also grateful to Open Signals (the public access part of Comcast) who agreed to broadcast our Passover Seder program. That began a wonderful relationship and opportunity to continue to provide programming for the households that has extended throughout this whole quarantine.

And, together, we made it happen! We ordered decorated plastic Seder plates with haroset, egg, parsley, and saltwater, and arranged for a Haggadah and a vase with a flower for every room. All were delivered to our residents in time for the pre-recorded televised services led by familiar faces.

Wow! It truly takes a village! It sounds like you have really had to adapt and make programs “virtual” for residents. Can you tell me more about the variety of programming you provide?

Yes! We have continued to provide wonderful programming for our residents in Rose Schnitzer Manor and the Robison Center for Health and Healing, mainly through our internal TV channels. For example, our generous volunteers provide recordings of themselves leading Shabbat services. These are aired every Friday.

I was able to show Rabbi Joshua Stampfer’s videotaped classes. And we have rabbinic teachings on Saturday along with prayer services on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. Eddy Shuldman, Lani Raider and I also made a televised healing service.

It’s also fun to show interesting programs throughout the week! The CSP Life Enrichment staff puts together exercise programs, opera, educational and fun series. We even do a Jewish themed movie night on Tuesdays! We continue to try to think outside the box and incorporate new ideas to keep our residents engaged and entertained.

For example, I’m beginning to film interviews with as many residents as I can, telling stories about their lives. They will be edited by community volunteers. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished products and sharing these stories with the CSP community. I know that nothing can take the place of what we miss: personal contact. But, for our residents, seeing these familiar faces can provide comfort and joy.

We’ve also adapted other events that would normally be held in person, into online events. Such as our Celebration of Life, which we transformed into a virtual event by recording memories and integrating music and photos.

What are you planning for the High Holidays?

Well, throughout the month of Elul, we have distributed meditations and journaling prompts to our residents. We’ve also had community volunteers blow the shofar from different locations outside on campus. They went around all the buildings, so that the residents could hear the shofar from their windows.

To celebrate the Sweet New Year, we will be serving a special dinner with apples, local honey, and homemade honey cake. Also, the Spiritual Life Committee of CSP has been amazing, generous and helpful. Many of its members will be leading services that will be aired for the residents. *

On the first day of Rosh Hashanah, there will be opportunities for residents, one by one or two by two, to come to the Torah in Zidell Hall for some prayer and blessings. I really love doing blessings (I learned from Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield). It’s one of the treasures I love to do.

For Tashlich, it will again be one by one or two by two. There will be an opportunity to cast stones in our little stream between buildings A and B.

During Sukkot, our residents, either one by one or two by two, can visit the sukkah, help decorate it and shake the lulav and etrog and stay a bit. We hope to have a tea service and sit at a distance.

We will also bring music and celebration through the halls for Simchat Torah.

You are trying to cover all the possibilities to make the best of a difficult time. Is there anything else you’re working on that you’re excited about?

Actually, yes! I’m reconnecting with Rabbi Motti Wilhelm and Maimonides Jewish Day School to set up some Zoom connections between our residents and the kids. We are really working to reimagine ways to keep the B’Yachad program alive with the seventh and eighth grades from the Portland Jewish Academy.

In ordinary times B’Yachad matches elders with youth. They would meet monthly to study Torah and build relationships. We are trying to figure out how to adapt to pandemic conditions.

Through it all, the most important thing I continue to focus on is maintaining relationships with residents. I try my best to be available for both Jews and non-Jews as we navigate the weirdness and isolation of the pandemic, the ups and downs of life. It is hope to be a supportive presence.

My work is driven by love. Even on my day off, I check email because I care about the people and the community and I want to stay connected.

*A list of service leaders that Cathy is blessed to have for the 5781 High Holy Days:

Erev Rosh Hashanah – Amy Shapiro and Jeff Olenick
Rosh Hashanah Day 1 – Elayne and Len Shapiro
Rosh Hashanah Day 2 – Rabbi Barry Cohen
Yom Kippur am – Avrel Nudelman
Yom Kippur pm – Amy Shapiro and Jeff Olenick
Erev Sukkot – Eddy Shuldman
Sukkot morning – Cantor Linda Shivers
Shemini Atzeret – Eddy Shuldman
Erev Simchat Torah – Eddy Shuldman
Simchat Torah – Avrel Nudlelman

Gloria Hammer, is an Oregonian and the mother of Jordana and Margot. Their Grandmother, Sadie Feves was dedicated to the Robison Home and Rose Schnitzer. Gloria’s grandchildren, Sadie and Henry, are the light of her life. As an educator, Gloria especially enjoys writing and teaching pilates. She loves spending winters in Palm Springs attending the film festival with her husband Jeff. Producing the film, The Three Rabbis was one of her biggest projects.

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