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Menorah Park executive director recalled as pioneer, visionary in senior care

Posted March 16, 2016 in Articles

Author: Kristen Mott, Cleveland Jewish News

Howard B. Bram was a visionary in the field of Jewish senior care, having spent 38 years at Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, where he retired as executive director/CEO in 1987.

“Howard was extremely devoted to Menorah Park and making Menorah Park one of the finest and most modern facilities in the nation,” said Steven R. Raichilson, executive director/CEO of Menorah Park, a senior/residential and outpatient community services institution.

Bram, formerly of Shaker Heights, died March 11 at 90 years old.

Bram’s career centered around geriatrics and gerontology. Besides his involvement with Menorah Park, Bram was president of the Association of Ohio Philanthropic Homes for the Aging, board member and president of the American Association of Jewish Homes and Housing for the Aging and an officer of the American Association of Homes for the Aged.

One of Bram’s most significant contributions to the community was helping to design the current Menorah Park facility in Beachwood.

“When he was first brought on as CEO, we were located in Glenville. When that home was built in the 1930s it was state of the art, but by the 1960s it was not and the Jewish community had moved out east,” Raichilson said.

“You get those once-in-a-lifetime chances to redo a facility and you hope to get it right. Howard not only got it right, but to this day people come to our nursing home and marvel at how modern and well designed it is.”

Ruth Plautz was initially hired as an occupational therapist at Menorah Park by Howard and Adelle Hart, the former assistant director of Menorah Park.

“Howard was always looking for new and innovative things. He was always a good listener and he listened to his staff for input,” Plautz said. “He looked at what clients needed and wanted and he accommodated what they wanted. He gave you the liberty as an employee to also grow because he supported our ideas and new concepts.”

It was through his career that Bram met his second wife, Lynn Berg. Berg applied for a job at Menorah Park in the late 1970s. Bram interviewed her for the position.

“It was the longest interview I’ve ever had. I was there for hours,” Berg recalled.

Berg landed the job and worked as Bram’s secretary. The two married in 1984.

“His caring and commitment to people in general was really what drew me to him,” Berg said. “He wasn’t afraid to get involved with people and their needs and that was also reflected in his professional career. He brought out the best in people.”

Bram was dedicated to the national field of Jewish senior care as well, according to Raichilson, and traveled around the country lobbying and advocating for the best type of reimbursement for senior services.

“He really took that old adage ‘honor thy father and thy mother’ to heart by working tirelessly for everyone’s Jewish father and mother. He really unselfishly gave up his time on a national stage. This is a huge operation to run locally, so it’s remarkable he did both in such a splendid manner,” Raichilson said.

When he wasn’t working, Bram enjoyed traveling and spending time with his family. After he retired, he became interested in art and oil painting, and even took an art class at Cuyahoga Community College. Physical fitness also played a major role in Bram’s life.

“Until his health became a problem we took bicycle rides every weekend,” Berg said. “We would travel 20 or 30 miles early in the morning and then have breakfast afterward. Even when he moved to Stone Gardens and had breathing problems and used a walker, he still managed to get to some of the exercise classes.”

Plautz believes Bram will be remembered as a dynamic man who was a pioneer of long-term care.

“He created this beautiful campus, which was very different from any nursing home at the time,” she said. “He broke the old-fashioned model and really looked at what the needs were and was part of the planning process.”

For Berg, she hopes Bram will be remembered for his legacy at Menorah Park.

“Toward the end we would walk down the halls of Stone Gardens – him in a wheelchair and me pushing him – and I would tell him he had a legacy that not many people can claim,” Berg said. “He saw what Menorah Park could do and what the needs in the future were going to be. He was a visionary.”

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