JAA Staffer Receives Special Honor

May 27, 2021

JAA's Director of Dietary Services, Micheal Kohanbash, Recognized for His Service to the Community.

Recognized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and presented   by President & CEO Jeff Finkelstein,  the Ira and Nanette Gordon Community Professional Achievement Award  is given to a young professional who demonstrates outstanding service to the community through leadership, initiative, creativity, and productivity. Everyone acquainted with Michael Kohanbash, both within and outside JAA,  knows all those things certainly apply to him.

Michael (aka Mickey) was to chosen to receive the award in 2019 with a ceremony planned in 2020.  Unfortunately the pandemic curtailed those plans.  We waited until 2021 and still were forced to present it virtually. JAA President & CEO Deborah Winn-Horvitz was happy to share the award with Mickey both via streaming video and in person with his staff present.

Congratulations for this well-deserved honor to our dear friend and colleague.

The following in the 2018 nomination that called attention to Mickey's talent and dedication.

GORDON AWARD - FEDERATION YOUNG JEWISH COMMUNAL PROFESSIONAL JEWISH ASSOCIATION ON AGING 2018 NOMINEE:

Michael Kohanbash

Michael (Mickey) Kohanbash started as a Mashgiach at the JAA at the tender age of 18 on October 22, 2004. Since that time, Mickey has grown as an individual contributing member to the Pittsburgh Jewish Community, as well as been promoted into several management positions in the JAA’s dietary operations, where he currently serves as Director of JAA Dietary Services, a key member of JAA’s management team.

In his tenure with the JAA, Mickey has made incredible strides in improving resident satisfaction, food quality, and in motivation of staff. Though only 33 years old, Mickey is wise far beyond his years; his love and respect for his elders is infectious and he demonstrates it each day in his career. He is most loyal to Pittsburgh where his parents and many of his siblings live, and, along with his wife and four young children, he practices a life of Torah, good deeds, and Chesed. He constantly demonstrates new ideas for menus and makes residents his FIRST concern. He visits them, he listens to them, and he strives to please them. They, in turn, adore his youth and his maturity. They see him often as their grandson… and they are proud of his accomplishments. His love and respect for his elders is inbred and he demonstrates it constantly.

Mickey is not only a leader in thoughts and words, but also in actions. Mickey understands that food is often at the heart of a “Jewish soul,” and strives to meet the preferences of hundreds of residents, all while adhering to the strictest regulatory standards. On many days, Mickey can be seen arriving very early in the morning to open the kitchen, and staying very late at night to ensure things are being done correctly.

Under Mickey’s watchful eye, and with his input and creativity, Charles Morris transitioned to be the first nursing home in the state of Pennsylvania to do real-time, made-to-order cooking. He was instrumental in our new Resident Centered Dining program, studying and analyzing blue prints,  offering insights that are critical.

Over this past year, Mickey was able to take a failing catering meal program at Riverview Towers and create a new dining experience for the tenants at Riverview by incorporating many of the concepts he has put into place at the JAA. He has revived a food committee that of residents who are now engaged and working on creative menu options rather than complaining about the meals being served. The meal program at Riverview has transitioned to a restaurant-quality, voluntary meal program under Mickey’s leadership. Today tenants at RVT comment regularly on how this new program has brought them back to life. One tenant stated,  “My taste buds are tingling, which I did not ever think would happen again."  Several tenants have commented that they have gained weight with the new program because the food is so satisfying they are not leaving anything on their plate.  Mickey has done this in the “Mickey way  by just listening  to what they want and treating  them the way they deserve to be treated.” In addition, to serving the six nights per week on the RVT campus, a grab-and-go option has been made available to provide tenants with a seven-day meal option. While doing this transition at RVT,   Mickey still managed to increase the overall resident satisfaction scores related to food services across the JAA continuum by 13 % over the prior year.

In 2014, Mickey was the recipient of the JAA’s prestigious Pakler Exemplary Employee Recognition (PEER) Award of the Year.  On Rosh Hashanah of that year, Mickey, despite his personal observance of the holiday, had walked to Charles Morris to ensure everything was operating smoothly for the holiday and that all of our resident needs were being met. While at Charles Morris, Mickey was notified that Allegheny County Health Department had arrived unannounced at Weinberg Terrace  in Downtown Squirrel Hill  to perform an unplanned inspection. Mickey knew that someone from  the  dietary department  needed to be there to address any questions from the inspectors. He therefore took it upon himself to walk from Charles Morris to Weinberg Terrace on Rosh Hashanah in the pouring rain, to assure that the survey went smoothly. Thanks to his efforts, the Inspectors found NO deficiencies.

In addition to all of this, Mickey creatively instituted changes in our food service that has saved the agency thousands of dollars. Mickey is also an accomplished entrepreneur, having owned and operated several thriving businesses in the community, and is viewed as a leader both within JAA as well as within the Jewish community.

Mickey Kohanbash truly embodies the spirit of the Gordon Award by supporting his community, employing the Torah as his guiding principles, and displaying tremendous leadership for the benefit of seniors in our community. Yet, he remains humble and a “mensch.”

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