Why Jewish Families Are Choosing English Rose

Joshua Wert was enjoying his career as a successful entrepreneur when, at the age of 40, he felt it was time for a change. He wanted to find a way to combine what he did for a living – leading organizations, with what he did in his free time – volunteering in the Jewish community. So over the following few years, he sold his businesses and, in 2012, became the CEO of the Sabes JCC in Minneapolis.

During his seven-year tenure at the J, Wert positioned the organization to merge with the St. Paul JCC, laying the foundation for what would eventually become the Minnesota JCC. Because the combined entity did not need two CEOs, Wert volunteered to step down, ceding the position to his St. Paul counterpart in 2020 to embark on another career transition.

In service to the community

During his final month at the J, a board member asked if he had figured out what he was going to do next. “I am not yet sure,” Wert said. “I know I love serving the community it’s my calling. So I’m interviewing at other local not-for-profits. I’m open to returning to the private sector, but only if it was for a mission-driven organization that served people in need.”

English Rose owner Joshua Wert and his mother, Lois, in the English Rose Suites home in Minnetonka that was Wert's childhood home. (courtesy)

English Rose owner Joshua Wert and his mother, Lois, in the English Rose Suites home in Minnetonka that was Wert’s childhood home. (courtesy)

“In that case,” said the inquiring board member, a partner at a local medium-sized accounting firm, “I have a client you may want meet.” That’s how, one week later, Wert found himself at a coffee shop sitting across the table from Jayne Clairmont, the owner of English Rose, a provider of highly personalized and professional care for seniors. After more than 40 years in the industry, she had her eye on retirement and was looking for the right person to take the reins at English Rose. A few months later, she handed them to Wert, selling him the business in 2020.

Founded in 1997, English Rose cares for clients in the comfort of their own homes, as well as in the elegant single-family homes owned and operated by English Rose in some of Edina and Minnetonka’s most picturesque neighborhoods. Since purchasing the company, Wert has been busy expanding the business, trying to keep up with the growing demand for in-home care, and adding more company-owned homes, referred to as “English Rose Suites”, including his beloved childhood home on Oak Ridge Trails in Minnetonka, a beautiful midcentury modern residence purchased from his mother, renovated, and licensed as an assisted living home in 2022.

An organization with a Jewish soul

In addition to growth, Wert wants to ensure that English Rose becomes the senior care provider of choice within the Jewish community. During his due diligence prior to purchasing the company, he interviewed a handful of Jewish families who, in recent years past, had considered English Rose as a care provider for their loved one, but ultimately chose a different provider because English Rose wasn’t, reportedly, “Jewish enough.” This puzzled Wert, “I didn’t know what that even meant,” he said. Until he toured the homes in person. “English Rose was never a faith-based organization, but it definitely had a certain vibe.”

The homes were decorated in old-world European décor, with ornate furnishings and pastoral oil paintings of animals hanging on the walls. The menu was very traditional midwestern full of meat stew, Shepherd’s pie and tons of ham. During the holiday season, the homes were filled Christmas decorations, hymns played in the background all day long, and the outside of the homes, according to Wert, looked very “Chevy Chase from ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.’”

Upon purchasing the business, Wert went to work updating the physical environment and modernizing the English Rose experience. “It’s not just hanging mezuzahs on door posts,” explains Wert. Old-world furniture and artwork have been replaced with modern classics. Pork-free meal options have been added, as well as Glatt kosher catering. Rabbi Lieberman from Jewish Family Services is a frequent guest during the holidays.

“I want everyone to feel comfortable and welcome at English Rose,” says Wert, “but reaching out to the Jewish community and celebrating Jewish culture is personal to me.” Wert and his wife often drop off challahs and matzah ball soup at the homes before Friday night dinner. They visit all the Jewish residents on the first and last day of Hannukah to light candles and say the prayers. During Pesach, they host abbreviated seders in the homes. “What came as a nice surprise to me is that all our residents, regardless of their religious background, enjoy participating in these Jewish traditions. They like learning about Jewish culture and celebrating with their Jewish housemates.”

Today, four years after Wert purchased English Rose, six of its 35 residents are Jewish and continue to live an engaged Jewish life. “Since 1997, English Rose has been the gold standard when it comes to senior care,” says Wert, “It broke my heart to learn that so few Jewish families were customers. That’s all changed now. Jewish families are now choosing English Rose because they want the best care for their loved ones from a company that respects, reflects, and celebrates their Jewish values and culture.”

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