By Deb Silverthorn
The Legacy Senior Communities’ mission is to provide a continuum of care to seniors with compassion and dignity, while embracing Jewish values and upholding the highest standards of excellence. The caring touch is evident in The Legacy employees including recently hired employees, Rabbi Holly Levin Cohn and Faith Retsky.
Levin joined the team earlier this month as The Legacy at Home Hospice Chaplain. Retsky took on the role of the The Legacy at Home Business Relations and Jewish Community Liaison last summer.
Compassion and concern:
Holly Levin Cohn
“Rabbi Cohn is incredible and she has the compassion and deep sense of concern and care that is necessary all along the way with our clients,” said Jessica Haecker, The Legacy at Home Executive Director. “After the passing of Rabbi (Jeffrey) Leynor, of blessed memory, we had to pause in filling this position — his loss devastated our team and his mark on our program was indelible. Because we waited, we found the right person.”
Cohn, the mother of Jacob Cohn, was born in Huntsville, Alabama. She is the daughter of Marilyn and Leon Levin of Dallas and sister of Tracy Mintz. She graduated from Centennial High School in Champaign, Illinois, and University of Texas at Austin with a degree in advertising and organizational communication. She also has a master’s degree in Jewish Communal Service and Nonprofit Management from Gratz College.
Cohn spent a summer before college on the National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY) Israel trip, returning with the proclamation to her family that she wanted to become a rabbi. Her first jobs out of school were in the advertising arena, but her time teaching at Hebrew school and advising the youth group at Dallas’ Temple Shalom set her future.
While serving Temple Shalom, Cohn belonged to Congregation Beth Shalom in Arlington and it was Rabbi Keith Stern who was a big influence as she considered a career in the rabbinate. She attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Israel for a year, then studied at the Los Angeles campus before becoming ordained at HUC-JIR’s Cincinnati campus.
For 18 years, Cohn served small congregations, in primarily small towns, with an interest in pastoral care always in her back pocket. In 2019, she entered the Clinical Pastoral Education Residency program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, then participated in a fellowship program at Methodist Richardson Medical Center where she occasionally continues to serve.
“It’s an absolute honor to be a part of this community I’ve known about for so long,” she said. “I began this work in the hospital and I didn’t often get to take the complete journey with those on hospice. Now with The Legacy at Home Hospice, I will get to spend quality time with hospice patients and their families.”
Cohn notes that a patient may go through many experiences during hospice. “I help our patients come to peace with whatever their individual situations might be by empathic listening and compassionate conversations with our patients and their families,” she said.
Cohn’s connection follows The Legacy’s heart to show dignity to all patients, regardless of religion, observance level, or affiliation.
“We are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God,” said Cohn, who is an adjunct rabbi at Congregation Beth El Binah; she is also a member, along with her parents, of Temple Emanu-El.
Included in Cohn’s responsibilities is that of bereavement coordinator, supporting the families of patients for up to 13 months after their loved one’s passing. She works with The Legacy at Home Hospice team, consisting of nurses, certified nursing assistants, social worker, medical directors and volunteers for holistic care.
“I’m so impressed by the compassion in every team member of The Legacy,” said Cohn. “The dignity and the respect that surrounds every single client goes above and beyond, and I feel honored, and blessed, to be a part of it all.”
A heart for kavod:
There are few corners of Dallas’ Jewish community that Faith Retsky, Legacy at Home’s Business Relations and Jewish Community Liaison, hasn’t experienced. The game of Jewish geography is one she’ll win every time.
“I’m now serving the parents, and grandparents, of some of my preschoolers from years ago and it’s wonderful to have these connections,” said Retsky whose role includes working with clients regarding the agency’s home health, hospice and personal assistance services. “It doesn’t matter what age, or what stage, you are working with people, having kavod, respect, is something that guides me in every way.”
Retsky began her career in L.A., working in the preschools and religious schools of congregations Adat Shalom, Beth Am and Sinai Temple. Having made Dallas home since 1988, Retsky taught in the preschools of congregations Beth Torah and Temple Shalom and she was the preschool director at Congregation Anshai Torah. She taught religious school at congregations Beth Torah, Shearith Israel and Temple Shalom, the latter for which she also served as youth group advisor.
Retsky has also taught at Adat Chaverim, where her family are among the earliest members, and for whom she has served as b’nai mitzvah tutor, board vice-president, chair of religious practices and membership and also as president of Women of Adat Chaverim.
At The Legacy, Retsky’s mindset — and heartset — is to connect to the Jewish community and to share the resources that Legacy At Home can provide.
Even during the pandemic, she worked hard to connect. At Hanukkah, she directed the sharing of more than 300 gift bags of dreidels and gelt to seniors in private homes, hospitals and assisted living centers around the community. At Purim, she helped arrange, with Jewish Family Service, the delivery of shaloch manot baskets to the community’s Holocaust survivors.
“Faith has a servant’s heart that really can’t be compared, and she is always there with more energy than anyone,” said Legacy executive director Haecker. “She is always professional and supportive and really, to know Faith is to love her, to adore her and to trust her.”
Retsky was born in Germany at Hahn Air Base, but raised in San Antonio, beginning at age 3. She is the daughter of Geraldine and Robert Peretz of blessed memory, and the sister of Cheryl, Debra, Hope, Marvin, Richard and Wayne.
Her deep connection to her Jewish identity began at Congregation Agudas Achim in San Antonio. During her years at Churchill High School, Retsky served as regional Southwest United Synagogue Youth (SWUSY). It was during that time she first connected to her future husband, Jerry, then a member of USY through Richardson’s Congregation Beth Torah. They began dating at 16 and this year celebrated their 33rd anniversary, the two married by Rabbi Kenneth Roseman, of blessed memory, then of Temple Shalom.
The parents of Robyn, of blessed memory, and David (Emilee) and grandparents of Alexander and Allison, the Retskys are proud of their “Grammi” and “Grumpi” roles.
“Kavod, respect, is of the holiest of words. You can’t have Torah without kavod, there are no personal or professional relationships that last without it,” said Retsky, who worked in pediatric home health before focusing on the adult population. “I’m honored to bring my community, and The Legacy’s continuum of care and its really incredible staff, together, to provide kavod in every manner of care.”