New management partner Eskaton promises to continue Reutlinger's commitment to Jewish culture, such as kosher meals in the facility's dining room. (Photo/Courtesy Reutlinger Community)
New management partner Eskaton promises to continue Reutlinger's commitment to Jewish culture, such as kosher meals in the facility's dining room. (Photo/Courtesy Reutlinger Community)

Reutlinger to affiliate with nondenominational management group

The Reutlinger Community soon will be under new management.

Long the primary Jewish assisted living/skilled nursing home in the East Bay, Reutlinger has signed a letter of intent with Eskaton, a large, nondenominational nonprofit that manages more than 30 senior care facilities throughout Northern California.

Though Eskaton will take over management once the transition is complete, leaders of both bodies promise that Reutlinger’s Jewish values and traditions will continue. The Danville facility, which accommodates up to 180 seniors, will still be called the Reutlinger Community, with minimal day-to-day changes anticipated for residents.

Under terms of the letter of intent, the Reutlinger will dissolve its board and amend its by-laws, making Eskaton the sole corporate member responsible for all management and operations, keeping of health records, IT maintenance and accounting. Reutlinger will appoint to the Eskaton board a new member, who will have substantial oversight in order to protect the interests of Reutlinger and its Jewish character going forward. No personnel changes are expected, according to Jay Zimmer, president and CEO. Debora Kohn will remain as full-time staff rabbi, Shabbat and Jewish holidays will be observed, and kosher food will be available to residents who request it. The Jewish Heritage Museum at Reutlinger will also remain open.

Zimmer said the decision to affiliate is the result of a years-long search for a partner to help expand services, such as offering home care, and to stabilize Reutlinger in the coming years.

“We set out with some key objectives in terms of any potential partner,” Zimmer said. “They would have to commit to our Jewish values. They would have to have a track record of quality of care. And they would have to have access to capital.”

Sacramento-based Eskaton, he said, easily met those criteria. Eskaton president and CEO Todd Murch agreed the affiliation was a good fit for both.

“We’re nondenominational, so we identify ourselves as a community-based nonprofit that exists to provide services,” Murch said. “At one early meeting I thought it would be good to get out on the table what was most important to [Reutlinger], and they said without hesitation what was most important was maintaining its Jewish heritage and values. We have no reservations committing to that because our commitment is to enhancing the lives of seniors. We’re very open to meeting the needs of the communities we’re in.”

Reutlinger Community CEO Jay Zimmer (left) and Eskaton president Todd Burch (Photo/Dan Pine)
Reutlinger Community CEO Jay Zimmer (left) and Eskaton president Todd Murch (Photo/Dan Pine)

He added that Reutlinger will be Eskaton’s anchor as the nonprofit seeks to further expand its services in the East Bay.

Zimmer said Reutlinger’s current finances are sound, with more than $14 million in cash reserves which includes $5 million endowment, including $1 million for financial assistance to indigent residents and Holocaust survivors. Rather, he said, the impetus for the change was the reality that single-site facilities such as Reutlinger are facing challenges in the market and need fortification to ensure their longevity.

As an example of the kind of challenges that have affected Reutlinger, Zimmer cited two flu outbreaks in the community. State law requires senior care facilities to enforce a quarantine and bar any new resident admissions during outbreaks, which meant Reutlinger had to freeze admissions for a total of three months. That had a deleterious impact on the budget. Affiliating with Eskaton, which would shoulder those types of financial responsibilities, will remove such headaches for Reutlinger.

Additionally, single-site facilities such as Reutlinger are too small to partner with large hospitals and HMOs. “Single sites in particular are feeling more vulnerable in recent years because of the demand of regulatory health care changes,” Murch said. “Hospitals want certain things from their partners. They went fewer, better partners rather than a bunch of little partners. [They prefer] organizations with electronic health records and a more significant IT backbone than most single sites can do. This is our core.”

The Reutlinger Community traces its roots back more than 60 years, when it was known as the Home for Jewish Parents in Oakland. In 1999 it opened its Danville facility and was renamed for a major donor, the late Jacques Reutlinger.

Eskaton was founded in 1968 as a nonprofit in the hospital industry. In time it revised it mission to provide a range of senior services, including home care, independent and assisted living, palliative care, rehab, memory care and skilled nursing. It currently manages what it calls villages, lodges and manors in Burlingame, El Cerrito, Sacramento, Pleasanton, Placerville and several other Northern California communities. This is its first Jewish facility.

According to its 2017-2018 annual report, Eskaton earned more than $200 million in revenue through continuing care and multilevel retirement communities, rehabilitation, skilled nursing, home support services and other income streams. It employs more than 2,000 people and serves more than 15,000 people annually.

With the letter of intent signed, the draft agreement has been going back and forth and is almost in final form. A completed application is expected to be sent to the California attorney general’s office for review and final approval, with the transition projected for completion in late summer.

Both Zimmer and Murch expect residents, families and staff will be on board with the changes. “I can’t imagine there will be much that anyone notices,” Murch said. “It’s already run very well.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.