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Gala, with humor, to honor Menorah Park chief Steve Raichilson

Posted June 08, 2016 in Articles

Author: Ed Wittenberg, Cleveland Jewish News

Steve Raichilson, executive director and CEO of Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood, said he’s not the type of guy who craves the limelight.

Nonetheless, he’s flattered that he will be honored for his 29 years of service to Menorah Park at a gala dinner June 26 at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven in Mayfield Heights. It begins with cocktails at 5:30 p.m.

The event, “Bravissimo: Job Well Done,” will also celebrate Menorah Park’s 110th anniversary.

“This is a job that I have completely enjoyed and loved,” Raichilson said. “I don’t think there’s been a day that I haven’t loved the profession I’ve gotten into and choosing to come to Cleveland to do it.

“So to me, it’s just very rewarding that I’ve touched so many people who want to show their gratitude, and it’s very touching that so many people have worked so hard to make this possible.”

Actor, comedian and television personality Howie Mandel will headline the event. All proceeds will go toward creating an endowment fund to ensure daily entertainment in the Sallie and Robert D. Deitz Piazza at Menorah Park.

More than 600 are expected to attend, said Jane Furth, director of annual campaign and outreach for the Menorah Park Foundation.

“We know it’s going to be the event of the season,” said Adrienne Goldberg, a member of the Menorah Park board of directors and an event co-chair.

Retirement plans on hold

Raichilson, 65, announced last summer that he would retire this year as CEO of the senior living/residential and outpatient community services institution with an $80 million annual budget. His resignation was to be effective March 31, but Menorah Park is still searching for his successor, and Raichilson has agreed to stay on until a suitable replacement is found.

“We thought we’d have someone by March, but (the search committee is) still interviewing people and just hasn’t found the right candidate,” he said. “It’s an open-ended retirement. I had no reason to retire except that I want to start a consulting business and spend more time with my kids, eventually, but there’s no rush at all. I can basically stay here unlimited while the search process is going on.”

After he retires, Raichilson said he plans to provide consulting in executive coaching, board development and service enhancement of health care and senior living programs.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Raichilson came to Menorah Park in 1987 after 11 years as executive director of Greenwood House, a Jewish nursing home in Trenton, N.J.

“I don’t think I was their first choice,” he said with a smile. “I was a little bit young for the job, and I think they had their eyes on someone somewhat older from St. Louis.

“But they put all the candidates through a battery of psychological testing, and midway through his day of testing, I heard he was sick of ink blot tests, so he walked out at noon and said, ‘I’m never coming back to Cleveland!’”

Unsure of what to do, Menorah Park officials turned unexpectedly to “the guy from Trenton,” Raichilson said.

“They took a chance on me, and things worked out and it’s been a wonderful stay,” he said. “We love the community, we love Solon, and it never even occurred to me to look elsewhere. It’s been a great, great career.”

Raichilson and his wife, Lori, live in Solon and have three sons: Ryan and Scott, both of New York, and Adam of Los Angeles. They also have a granddaughter.

‘Impressive tenure and impact’

Judy Kaufman, a member of the Menorah Park board of directors and the other co-chair of the June 26 event, said Raichilson has had “quite an impressive tenure and an impressive impact on this community.”

“I think when you work for a community for 29 years and accomplish what he has accomplished, we should celebrate that,” she said. “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate him and the institution and how far it has come in his tenure.”

Goldberg said the event will feature a video tribute to Raichilson.

“Steve has been unbelievable,” she said. “His entrepreneurial spirit and his ideas have just made the Menorah Park campus just amazing and wonderful for the community.”

Goldberg said the event committee was able to land Mandel as the headliner through Joe Mineo Creative, an event design company based in Canfield.

“They had a list of speakers and entertainers, Howie was available, and we thought he would be great for the community,” she said. “He’s funny, and we wanted it to be a fun, sophisticated celebration.”

Andy Baskin, sports director at WEWS-TV (Channel 5), will interview Mandel and then take some questions from the audience, Kaufman said.

“I’m a Howie Mandel fan, actually,” Raichilson said. “He’s still really funny, he’s at the top of his career and he’ll add a lot of fun.”

Mandel, a native of Toronto, is best known as host of the TV game show, “Deal or No Deal,” and as creator of the children’s cartoon series, “Bobby’s World.” He got his big break as an actor in the early 1980s when he portrayed Dr. Wayne Fiscus on the NBC medical drama, “St. Elsewhere.”

‘Something a little different’

The No. 1 goal of the event, Goldberg said, is to raise money for an endowment fund to ensure daily entertainment at the Italian piazza that opened last July at Menorah Park. The renovated space – which was Raichilson’s idea – features a wine bar, gelato, coffee-shop-style entertainment and movies.

“Steve has always had a residents-first kind of philosophy, and he wanted to establish a place that was not only beautiful, but something a little different and unusual with live entertainment, food and drinks,” Kaufman said. “In order to guarantee you have entertainment on a daily basis, we needed some kind of endowment to sustain it. So by raising this money, we make sure this piazza has top entertainment every day.”

Raichilson said the piazza was one of his favorite projects because “it helps our most impaired people in the nursing home.” It originally offered entertainment six days a week, but that will change to seven days on July 1, he said.

“It’s somewhat expensive and we’ve allocated the funds (for daily entertainment),” he said, “but it’s great that now we’re going to endow that effort so we can actually spend those funds on more traditional avenues, such as nurses and doctors, because we’ll have funds to provide entertainment from the gala proceeds.

“It’s great that I can help bring that here for the residents who really can’t go out anymore. It’s an upscale space, and I’m really proud that it’s in a nursing home setting.”

Raichilson, a member of B’nai Jeshurun Congregation in Pepper Pike, said it’s no accident that Menorah Park has been around for 110 years.

“Many companies and businesses have disappeared over time, but at Menorah Park we’re stronger than ever,” he said. “I’m really proud of the fact that when I came, Menorah Park was strong, and as I’m leaving, it’s even stronger so it can survive the next 100 years of operation.”

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