The old Jewish saying goes, “May you live to be 120 years old.” The Levindale Auxiliary has done just that and will celebrate the special milestone on Sunday, Oct. 27, with a birthday gala.

The celebration will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, which is supported by the auxiliary. Levindale is located at 2434 W. Belvedere Ave. in Northwest Baltimore.

Hebrew Friendly Inn
The old Hebrew Friendly Inn and Aged Home on Aisquith Street in East Baltimore (File photo)

Levindale’s roots go back to 1890 when a group of Jewish immigrants opened the Hebrew Friendly Inn in East Baltimore to provide temporary lodging for newcomers to America. When that need tapered off, the inn became a facility for the elderly and chronically ill known as the Hebrew Home for Incurables.

In 1927, the Associated Jewish Charities decided to turn its recently built orphanage at Belvedere and Greenspring avenues into a home for the elderly. Originally called the Hebrew Home for the Aged and Infirmary, it eventually became known as Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital.

For 120 years, the auxiliary – a nonprofit which has operated under other names since its inception –has been an integral part of Levindale and its precursors. Original auxiliary members were dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for immigrants, and subsequently of the elderly and disabled.

Besides helping with providing premier medical, psychological, emotional and spiritual care for residents, patients and their families, the auxiliary members produced funding to promote companionship, cultural stimulation and ways to enable the elderly to maintain their dignity and quality of life.

In 1899, the Ladies Auxiliary Society of the Hebrew Friendly Inn was founded to provide support to the inn. The women initially contributed clothing, linens and kitchen supplies. But their activities soon expanded to hosting fundraisers and working directly with residents. Over the years, members have also organized birthday parties, festivals, special dinners and have raised funds to support residents in myriad ways.

In 1931, the organization’s name changed to Levindale Ladies Auxiliary, and some four decades later the name was yet again changed to the Levindale Auxiliary. (Photo provided)

When Levindale opened at its current site, the auxiliary was known as the Ladies Auxiliary of the Hebrew Home for the Aged and Infirmary at Levindale. In 1931, the organization’s name changed to Levindale Ladies Auxiliary, and some four decades later the name was yet again changed to the Levindale Auxiliary. Membership was expanded to include men.

Over the years, the auxiliary’s contributions and accomplishments have included:

  • Developing a long-running occupational therapy program in the 1930s operated by volunteers who received training at Sinai Hospital;
  • Becoming volunteer nurses’ aides during World War II and helping Levindale residents harvest a Victory Garden;
  • Funding a library cart and opening a beauty parlor in the 1950s;
  • Raising funds for other buildings on the Levindale campus, as well purchasing hospital beds, redecorating rooms and buying window air-conditioner units;
  • Creating committees for such endeavors as helping residents who are unable to feed themselves;
  • Funding four specially equipped buses to enable residents to go on outings, many of which are hosted by the auxiliary

At the beginning of the millennium, the auxiliary introduced “Companion Radio” to Levindale residents. These special radios allow them to enjoy the music and comedy shows of their youth. Auxiliary members also started a Passover tradition where children conduct seders for residents and auxiliary families.

Over the years, the auxiliary has funded requests for support that include:

  • Helping to support the Eden Alternative, a philosophy that stops loneliness, helplessness and boredom;
  • A $250,000 gift for the Levindale Auxiliary Sensory Garden, designed and created to stimulate all five senses of the residents and their families who spend time in the garden;
  • Pianos, movies and live programs;
  • Entertainment and bartending at Happy Hours;
  • Providing Chanukah presents;
  • Mezuzot on every doorway at Levindale;
  • Celebrating Jewish traditions throughout the year;
  • Trips to theaters, restaurants, sporting events, concerts and museums.

So far this year, auxiliary members have hosted three Shabbat dinners for residents and their families. Besides traditions and prayers, the dinners include matzoh ball soup, chicken, kugel and dessert.

The auxiliary’s 120th gala will feature a variety of hors d’oeuvres, gourmet food stations, a silent auction and music from the Freddie Stevens Trio. Dietary laws will be observed, and complimentary valet parking will be provided. Funds raised from the evening will benefit the auxiliary’s programming.

For information, call Faye Brand at 410-601-2378 or email levindaleauxiliary@lifebridgehealth.org.