Finding Emotional Connections With the Past

by Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Wilf Campus Chaplain

Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, is the day on the Jewish calendar that memorializes the tragedies of Jewish History. Jewish tradition explains that the Two Temples that stood in Jerusalem were destroyed on that day. Jews view the destruction of the Two Temples, the first in 586 BCE and the second in 70 CE, as watershed moments that encapsulate all subsequent tragedies of Jewish history. The customs of the day include the reading of the biblical book Lamentations, the words of the prophet Jeremiah upon seeing Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians, and poems of elegy which are read to provide reflective texts that express the pain of various tragedies in our collective past.

In reflecting on communal tragedy and suffering, each of us is challenged to emotionally connect to events that seem to be mere relics of history. While Tisha B’Av is a day of memory that encompasses all tragedies past and present, and for many, there is opportunity to search out and speak with those around us who have survived displacement, destruction, persecution and forced migration, it can still appear to be an impossible task to truly grasp the depths of pain felt.

To create this emotional connection allowing one to truly mourn one’s collective past, the compilers of these elegies read on Tisha B’Av included one whose focus moves away from the communal to share the story of one family’s tragedy. Two Roman slave owners meet and decide to marry off their two newly acquired young slaves in marriage. Seeing that the male slave was handsome and the female was beautiful, the owners presumed that the matrimony would lead to high quality children that will garner a high price on the slave market. The two slaves are put together in the same room to await the wedding the next day. Throughout the night leading to the forced marriage, both slaves cried out over their forced fate. When dawn arrived, and they could see each other for the first time, they discover that they are really brother and sister. The story ends with them dying in each other’s arms.

In reading this episode, one begins to grasp how a communal tragedy really is a series of individual tragedies rolled into one. When looking at events as having merely occurred in the past, we often lose sight of individual suffering, only seeing the big picture. The goal of Tisha B’Av for the Jewish community is to be a day when collective mourning transforms into an individualized sense of how tragedy effects each of us. May Tisha B’Av be a day of meaning and may we each see the fulfillment of the penultimate verse of the book of Lamentations, “Return us back to You, G-d, and we shall return, renew our days as of old.”

Employee Highlight: Brad Fassett, Director of Dining Services

Brad Fassett, our Director of Dining Services is well known and loved on campus by employees and residents alike. This month, we are highlighting Brad for his dedication and hard work here at The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living.

Having started cooking at age 17, Brad got his first job as a kitchen supervisor when he was only 18 years old. His boss at the time had noticed how great he was as a food expeditor and how well he knew the menu. Thus, he was given the opportunity to cook orders for a day and his culinary career took off from there. “I fell in love with cooking and there was no looking back,” Brad explains. “I learned everything I know about cooking while on the job. I owe everything to the people I’ve worked with along the way.”

After working at various restaurants and kitchens early on, Brad brought his talents to Stein Assisted Living where he started as a line cook. “It was a really great job for me. It gave me the time I needed to spend with my family,” Brad says. He then went on to become the Kitchen Production Manager and eventually obtained the certifications required to become Director of Dining Services for the Wilf Campus in the fall of 2014.

As Director of Dining Services, Brad does it all. From cooking, to washing dishes, to waiting tables — he is ready to take on any task. Brad is also very appreciative of his staff, who he says is willing to step in wherever help is needed.

Brad’s staff prepares three delicious meals per day to meet our residents’ needs, while at the same time accommodating special diets. Meals are served restaurant style in the Stein Assisted Living dining room. Special snacks and refreshments are also prepared for various programs such as a recent strawberry festival, happy hours, and other programs. Although most of Brad’s responsibilities center around Stein Assisted Living, the Assisted Living kitchen also prepares dinner for our residents at Wilentz Senior Residence and caters for educational and special events organized by the Wilf Campus.

“Wilf Campus is fortunate to have Brad Fassett as our Director of Dining Services,” says Anna Simmons, Executive Director of Stein Assisted Living. “Brad brings his culinary talents to Stein Assisted Living and works tirelessly to make sure that our residents have delicious, nutritious and kosher cuisine. He seeks out input from our residents via resident council meetings, through a resident food committee and by frequently walking through the dining room to get real-time input,” Anna adds.

“The residents are definitely my favorite part about working here,” Brad says, adding, “It’s a great environment full of happiness between our residents and staff. I enjoy talking to them and hearing their feedback about the food and how to make it better.”

“I have a six-month-old son at home and some of the residents have even knitted him blankets and scarves. We’re all close here,” Brad explains.

One of Brad’s favorite dishes to cook is Chicken Murphy, and he also enjoys running the made-to-order omelet station.

Brad has had a great impact on the lives of our residents at Stein Assisted Living and we are very fortunate that he is part of our team at the Wilf Campus.

Brad can be reached at

Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner Appointed President of the Rabbinic Association in the Heart of NJ

We are happy to announce that Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living Chaplain, Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, has been appointed President of the Rabbinic Association in the Heart of New Jersey (RAHNJ).

Rabbi Kinzbrunner has been the Wilf Campus Chaplain since 2010, providing education and spiritual support to our residents, patients and their families — with an emphasis on Jewish end-of-life care issues. Rabbi Kinzbrunner works with all Campus entities, including Stein Hospice, Stein Assisted Living and Wilentz Senior Residence.

According to Rabbi Kinzbrunner, he became involved with RAHNJ about two years after joining the Wilf Campus when he met another rabbi in the area and was invited to learn more about the organization. He then took on leadership roles beginning in the summer of 2016, when he became the organization’s communications officer, and later vice president and now president.

When asked how his roles at the Wilf Campus and RAHNJ connect, Rabbi Kinzbrunner said: “Sitting at the table with other rabbis gives me a chance to bring my own experience to the table.” He adds, “I’m able to share my expertise in elder care in the Jewish community and connect them to the resources that we have here at The Wilf Campus.”

As President of the Rabbinic Association in the Heart of New Jersey, Rabbi Kinzbrunner aims to continue the missions of peer support and engagement in the Jewish community. With about 30-40 members who “span the spectrum” of what it means to be Jewish, he hopes that the organization will move to the forefront of Jewish leadership in both Middlesex and Monmouth counties.

Rabbi Kinzbrunner would like to thank his RAHNJ executive team: Rabbi Esther Reed, Vice President (Senior Associate Director at Rutgers Hillel); Rabbi Phil Bazeley, Communications Officer (Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple); and Rabbi Marc Kline, Federation Liaison (Monmouth Reform Temple).

Rabbi Kinzbrunner can be reached at or 732-568-1155.


Members of the Rabbinic Association in the Heart of NJ during a June retreat at the Wilf Campus.

Board Member Spotlight – John Wolf

We are excited to begin a new Blog series highlighting our Board of Trustees members. This month we introduce you to our Wilf Campus for Senior Living Board Chair, John B. Wolf. John joined The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living’s Board of Trustees in 2015, becoming Board Chair in January 2019.

John served for 30 years in the Office of General Counsel of Rutgers University, serving as its chief labor counsel and as the University’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel when New Jersey passed the Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act in 2012. In that role he led the legal team that counseled Rutgers on all financial, governance, legal and policy issues involving the integration of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers.

John also served as a law school site evaluation team member for American Bar Association accreditation reviews. He teaches classes in the Master of Science in Higher Education Administration Program at Baruch College of the City University of NY and also serves on several labor arbitration and mediation panels.

John is a graduate of Vassar College and has served on its Board of Trustees. He holds a J.D. from Emory University.

John has previously served on other boards as well, in the education field and on the board of the non-profit Amy Foundation, which promotes the early detection of breast cancer for uninsured or underinsured women. “It wasn’t a big leap for me to agree to serve on the Wilf Board,” John explains, adding that he was interested in expanding his knowledge in the area of services to the elderly population. “On an emotional level, I wanted to confront my mortality, both to prepare to assist my elderly relatives as they age and to prepare for my later years,” John explains.

“The U.S. population is aging rather dramatically. Thus, the need to provide a full array of services to the elderly will continue to grow,” John says, “The Wilf Campus is well positioned, by virtue of its experience and expertise, to play a major role in expanding, developing and delivering these services to seniors in New Jersey.”

Regarding his work so far on the Wilf Campus Board, John says, “I have been enormously impressed by the commitment of my fellow board members to the Wilf Campus.” He adds, “I am grateful also for the many dedicated and skilled staff who work at Wilf.”

Feel free to reach out to John at

Holocaust Survivor Scholarships Available at Stein Assisted Living

More than one third of Holocaust survivors living in the United States today live below the poverty line. Many live alone and cannot rely on family as caregivers. With a commitment to meet the needs of indigent Holocaust survivors, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living has announced the creation of a Holocaust Survivor Scholarship program at Stein Assisted Living on the Wilf Campus.

For almost 50 years, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living has sought to meet the needs of seniors in our community, and to provide a home, in a Jewish environment, where they can live active, independent lives with the support of our compassionate and professional caregivers. This program reaffirms the Wilf Campus’ mission by providing financial assistance to indigent Holocaust survivors who may benefit from living at Stein Assisted Living.

Stein Assisted Living is a warm and inviting community, where residents have access to assistance with activities of daily living, licensed professional nursing on site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, a wide spectrum of programming, as well as services for Shabbat and Jewish holidays. At Stein Assisted Living, our residents enjoy the perfect combination of support and independence. Memory care is also available in our Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood.

To qualify for a scholarship, an applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a Holocaust survivor
  • Have demonstrated financial need
  • Meet assisted living level of care requirements and will benefit from living at Stein Assisted Living.

For more information or an application, please call 732-568-1155 or email

If you wish to make a donation in support of the Holocaust Survivor Scholarship Program at Stein Assisted Living, click here or contact Gayle Braunstein at 732-568-1155 or

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is a non-profit organization, comprised of Stein Assisted Living, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, or visit us at