Why Is This Seder Night Different From All Others at MPTF?

Changes to seder time, location spark outrage among longterm care families

A decision to do away with a Passover seder traditionally hosted at the long-term care facility in the Motion Picture & Television Fund's Woodland Hills Retirement Community has sparked another battle between family members of some residents and the MPTF.

Historically, the MPTF has hosted two separate celebrations — one in the activities room of the long-term care facility and one for other campus residents at a different location.

Citing decreasing attendance at seders hosted at the facility itself, MPTF CEO Bob Beitcher announced that this year the organization would host a single campus-wide event in the community room of the Saban Center, at the other end of the 40-acre campus.

Beitcher told TheWrap the change was made because it was no longer feasible to hold two separate seders, noting that there are roughly five to six Jewish residents in the longterm facility, and in the past, only two families on average stopped by for the Passover celebration.

Transportation will be provided across campus for longterm care residents, he said.

"It's all part of a plan to close the hospital and nursing home," Melody Sherwood, whose mother is a long-term care resident, told TheWrap.

Concerned that the failing health of many members of the long-term care community would prevent them from attending the religious observance across campus, family members and friends of residents offered to hold and host a seder on the second night of Passover, March 30.

They also arranged to pay for a professional chef to prepare a traditional seder meal, but that offer was turned down by Beitcher on Monday, who asserted that every effort would be made so that all who wanted to attend the ceremony could.

"If they're trying to save money, it's not going to cost them anything," Sherwood said. "They are turning down any donations that are earmarked to keeping the home open, but at the same time they're saying they can't afford to continue."

Further angering families of many of the long-term care residents was the move to host the seder at 11 a.m. Passover seders are supposed to be held in the evening, after sunset.

"It would be like celebrating Christmas on Dec. 27," Sherwood said.

The leadership of the MPTF hit back at the families’ claims that  long-term care residents were being given the short shrift. "There's nothing like taking like a holy Jewish holiday and turning into political football, and I congratulate [the families] on doing that," Beitcher told TheWrap.

As for the time change, he said that the decision was made by the rabbi who will be officiating.

"This is a time when many residents are the most mentally alert," Beitcher said. "Five at night is great if you're young, but for many of these residents, that's at the very end of their day."

The MPTF has previously moved to close the long-term care facility, which lost $10 million last year, although Beitcher has differed from his predecessor David Tillman about what to do with the residents who currently live at the facility.

"This is another example of the MPTF deliberately creating a hostile environment, because they want people out of there," Dean Butler, whose mother-in-law is a resident, told TheWrap. "It is getting increasingly difficult for these people to stay there and now by moving the seder they are denying people their religious freedoms."