Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar leads a district that includes nearby areas including Forest Park, Glendale, Liberty Park, and Woodhaven. Her eagerness to bring more services to her constituents led the Assembly Member to take a detailed tour of the Margaret Tietz Nursing and Rehabilitation facility last Tuesday, where she was deeply impressed with the level of care given to residents.
After the tour, the Assembly Member spoke with the Queens Jewish Link about her ideas for outreach to the elderly of District 38.
“Margaret Tietz is deeply interested in quality of life for the elders in their care,” said Rajkumar. “I was most impressed with family feel and positive feelings amongst the staff.”
The Assembly Member was quick to highlight the beautiful spacious garden, exquisite paintings - especially those depicting scenes in Israel - religious worship space, and the rehabilitation zone as areas that brought out the best and most unique aspects of the facility. “It is all really designed to keep residents happy,” Rajkumar commented. “I witnessed as the staff led with compassion. It is clear to me that they do not treat their tasks as a job, rather a calling.” Rajkumar was most taken by Jewish influences found at Margaret Tietz, and moreover by the story of its founding - how Holocaust survivors originally established the rehab for other survivors. It has since evolved to take in those of all backgrounds. “I have Jewish constituents and I am hopeful to make the connection to Margaret Tietz for my older residents,” noted Rajkumar.
As a member on the Committee on Aging, one of eight committees Rajkumar serves on, she feels deeply for the cause and intends to use her strong voice for issues affecting elders. Rajkumar pledged to bring forward ideas from the nursing facility directly to the chambers of our State Capitol. “I voted against elder abuse, for example when an elder is exploited financially or otherwise,” said Rajkumar. “I will work with nursing homes like Margaret Tietz to help protect elders and bring in new legislation with good laws and policies. Most important for me is to make sure that our leaders understand the day-to-day struggles of a nursing home. I hope to bring government leaders to such facilities to see it firsthand as we work to build a better environment for nursing homes.”
During the tour, the Assembly Member gained a better understanding for the short- and long-term care available, as well as the hospice services at the center. Rajkumar was further impressed by the well-designed physical therapy space in the rehab area. There she met with on-staff physical therapists and saw how residents interacted during their therapy. “I could tell they were getting excellent care and attention,” noted Rajkumar. “Margaret Tietz truly serves a role model for other such institutions. The dedication of their staff is so heartening.”
During her visit, Rajkumar conversed with Kwang Lee, Administrator at Margaret Tietz; Dr. Janas, the onsite Medical Director; Mazal Fuzailov, Rehab Director; Meryl Jenica Ormita, the onsite Nursing Director; and Linda Spiegel, Director of Public Affairs for the Center. Together they enjoyed Margaret Tietz’ signature kosher cookies, a delicacy baked in their onsite kitchen.
Coming from a family of doctors and a childhood surrounded by people in the medical field, Rajkumar built her own path as the first South Asian American woman ever to be elected to a state office in the State of New York. Although she became a lawyer, she never allowed healthcare to be lost on her. “As an elected official, you are a doctor for the people and the entire state,” Rajkumar noted. “I look forward to directing my constituents to a place they can call home when they need these types of services.” The plight of elders is dear to Rajkumar, as her own mother is a geriatric doctor.
The conversation of Jewish causes has always played a role in Rajkumar’s life, as she’s spent a considerable amount of time with the Jewish community. “I’m a HinJew,” joked Rajkumar, adding, “I have followed how the Jewish community in a significant manner is always involved in major civil rights issues. As a civil rights attorney, I have a special appreciation for how the Jewish community always takes a front role in our nation’s civil right struggles. I have a strong belief in social justice and believe strongly in the theme of tikun olam, repair world. A nursing home is there to take care of everyone.”
Rajkumar turned these ideologies into action by ensuring that several Jewish staff members joined her office personnel, including Elliot Heisler as Policy Director, and Jacob Gross in the role of Senior Advisor. Nonetheless, visits such as this could not be brought to fruition without the forethought and wisdom of Rabbi Daniel Pollack, Jewish liaison to Congress Member Grace Meng’s office. Rabbi Pollack is often tasked with linking elected officials with worthy neighborhood institutions that might be of value to their constituents. Without his consideration, the match between Rajkumar and Maragret Tietz would never have transpired.