Jewish Federation COVID-19 Relief Stories: Rieta Hirschman

senior person on iPad

When you ask Jo Sawyer to describe the care that the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA) is providing to her mother during the pandemic, Jo says,

“They really treat her as if she’s their mother. It’s genuine.”

Jo’s mother, Rieta Hirschman, moved to Pittsburgh from Washington state to be closer to her son. She lived three years in Jewish Association on Aging’s Weinberg Terrace, in an independent-living apartment she loved. After her first stroke, she transitioned to Weinberg Village. As her vascular dementia progressed, she moved to AHAVA Memory Care Center of Excellence at JAA.

Rieta’s video chat with her daughter often included Jo’s cats.

In February, when the COVID-19 pandemic seemed likely to affect visitors’ access to facilities like AHAVA Memory Care, Jo flew from Washington to visit Rieta, before restrictions were needed. She wanted to take advantage of the narrowing window of opportunity to visit her mother. “I was amazed at how careful JAA was with staff, residents and visitors,” Jo says. “They [went] above and beyond to keep the virus at bay.” Leaving was emotionally taxing. With Rieta in her 90’s and with advancing dementia, Jo wondered if she would ever see her mother again.

When the pandemic hit, JAA implemented rigorous screening, safety and distancing policies that would not have been possible without support from Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. The Federation paid for personal protective equipment (PPE) for JAA staff, extra people to conduct health screenings, air filtration systems and more.

Thanks to the money for extra staffing, JAA had the capacity to set up twice-a-week video chats between Jo and Rieta. In these video chats, Jo noticed that Rieta zeroed in on her and her brother, talked to them and seemed so happy to see them. Knowing the importance of these moments of joy amidst the confusion of dementia, Jo is grateful for all the effort JAA put into making the calls happen.

“It’s such a horrible situation, agonizing for everybody. We had stress on every angle,” says Jo.

“JAA made every effort to make it easier for us and to make me feel good about the safe care my mother was being given. I trust them completely.”

Jo Sawyer appreciates that donors to the Jewish Federation are providing care across the community. Jo explains, “It’s like a 360-degree situation. JAA is not only taking great care of their residents and their staff, but they are also looking at the continuity of services around the community.” The Jewish Federation leads the effort to coordinate services across Jewish agencies and to ensure that families have the support they need at the critical time they need it.

Rieta enjoys a safe visit with her children at AHAVA Memory Care.

Ultimately, Jo says, “It’s not just about a nursing home. It’s about understanding our family’s needs.”

When we, as members of the community, give together, we help more people. We help our neighbors, our friends, our own loved ones. Thanks to donor support through the Jewish Federation, our community can meet the needs of Rieta’s family, thousands of Jewish families around Pittsburgh and millions of people in Jewish communities around the world.

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Life at JAA With Restricted Visitation

Elderly People Laughing

JAA has restricted access to its AHAVA Memory Care Center of Excellence, Residence at Weinberg Village and Bartlett Street’s Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Terrace. If you do not work in a JAA building, you will not have access to it. 

Anyone with questions about JAA’s response to the virus are encouraged to:

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AgeWell Pittsburgh is Grand Prize Winner of Collaboration Prize

Collaboration among three Pittsburgh-based community organizations wins $150,000 grand prize

PHOENIX — AgeWell Pittsburgh is the winner of the Collaboration Prize — a national award designed to spotlight exceptional models of permanent collaboration among nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit partnership that supports older adults and their caregivers in leading healthy and independent lives will receive the grand prize of $150,000.

“Winning the Collaboration Prize not only provides these great agencies with national validation but also shows the role permanent collaboration can play to help nonprofits improve outcomes for the communities we serve,” said Jeff Finkelstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

AgeWell Pittsburgh is the central outreach and coordinating umbrella for activities and programs for seniors provided by three Pittsburgh-based community benefit organizations: the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA), Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS) and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC). The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh also facilitates the collaboration, and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania and Jewish Federation help to fund the effort.

Formed 14 years ago, AgeWell serves 8,000 seniors and thousands of family members. The nonprofit collaboration offers more than 20 different services, such as home-delivered meals, transportation assistance and social opportunities across the three collaborating agencies.

“The AgeWell Pittsburgh collaboration has strengthened each of our agencies by helping us to focus on what we do best, and in turn our clients have clearly reaped the benefits through improved outcomes. As we collectively continue to refine our business strategy, we see similar collaborations starting across the country modeled on our Pittsburgh experience – what a great way to share our successes,” said Deborah Winn-Horvitz, president and CEO of the JAA.

Currently, 96 percent of the 7,000 seniors enrolled in AgeWell Pittsburgh services are able to live independently because of the assistance they receive.

“As a result of our collaboration, we were able to reduce duplication of services and capitalize on efficiencies in service delivery. We’ve also been able to improve our senior care and identify programmatic changes to better serve members of our community,” said Sue Berman Kress, volunteer chairman of the AgeWell Pittsburgh Advisory Committee.

AgeWell Pittsburgh was recognized for how the innovative collaboration enhances individual services – and stretches community investment further – by ensuring that the collective network of services for seniors are aligned to meet the needs of the community.

“Through this collaboration, AgeWell Pittsburgh has been able to turn Pittsburgh’s aging population into a vital asset by keeping our seniors healthy, independent and fully engaged in this great city,” said Jordan Golin, president and CEO of JF&CS.

For interviews with spokespersons from AgeWell Pittsburgh or from the Collaboration Prize, please contact Sangeetha Sarma at 301-395-5227 or For more information about the Collaboration Prize and all eight finalists, please visit For information about AgeWell Pittsburgh, please visit

About the Collaboration Prize
The Collaboration Prize helps raise awareness of collaboration as a powerful and strategic way for nonprofits to increase their impact.

A selection panel comprising major funders of nonprofit collaboration reviewed more than 350 applications from qualified nonprofits for the Prize. After identifying eight finalists that will each receive $10,000, the judges ultimately selected AgeWell Pittsburgh to take home the grand prize.

To be considered for the Prize, collaborations needed to be between two or more nonprofits, have a formal written agreement and be in operation for at least 18 months. For a full list of requirements and to learn more about the Prize, please visit

The legacy of the Prize is the Nonprofit Collaboration Database, a resource of effective collaboration models among nonprofits. The database currently contains information on about 650 collaborations, not including the new models from the Prize process. Nonprofits and other interested organizations can access the easily searchable database

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Our Impact: Yuriy Bobnov – Feeding the Community

Intergenerational Family

Jewish Association on AgingThis week we have another Jewish Association on Aging’s Mollie’s Meals volunteer: Yuriy Bobnov.

He’s a senior who immigrated to the US in the 1990’s and delivers about a dozen meals weekly to our “former Russian” population. Bobnov enjoys the small talk and smiling faces when he makes his deliveries.

“He is one of our volunteers who delivers Mollie’s Meals to homebound seniors. To do this, volunteers have to drive to our loading dock to retrieve the route, separate the bags so they go to the right recipients and then drive to the appropriate locations. His service is invaluable because he can communicate with the people in their native language, Russian. If there are problems, he can report back,” explains Coordinator of Mollie’s Meals Fraida Estrin.

Yuriy, was an engineer before coming to America. He has one daughter and one granddaughter, and both are doctors. Like most grandparents, he is especially proud of his granddaughter who is an ophthalmologist, specializing in retinal surgery. He’ll be taking a small break from his deliveries in a couple of months when his granddaughter gets married to “a great guy.”

We wish him continued nachas!!

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