As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who gave up everything and suffered so much, Marianne Klein, incoming CEO to Shalom Village, felt compelled from a very young age to ensure that her grandparents were well cared for, especially as they grew older.
“Seeing my grandparents age had a life-long impact on me and fundamentally guided me in my career,” she said, adding, “their experiences shaped and motivated me in caring for vulnerable people.” Unlike others who need to search for their existential purpose, Klein understood early on her mission and responsibility was to serve others and advocate for those less fortunate and in need.
That is why her fit with Shalom Village is authentic and compatible.
With almost 20 years of experience in health care, much of that with seniors, and her personal values to help, be kind and inclusive — “this is how we live our lives as Jews” — Klein feels the opportunity to serve Shalom Village and its community of residents, families, staff, volunteers and supporters as CEO is one of great honour; a mitzvah. “Shalom Village is a very special place and one that I truly just wanted to be a part of. The more I learned about it, the more alignment I began to see with who I am as a person,” she said.
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, spending time in Boston as a child, then emigrating to Toronto in the early 1990s; and benefiting from health care education in Canada and certification in public health, virtually, from a UK university, Klein has been exposed to diverse cultures and inspired by new ideas and best practices from a variety of sources.
Influenced by Ashkenazi grandparents who came from Poland and Hungary, she speaks fluent Portuguese, understands and speaks a little Spanish and Ladino, and can pick up some Yiddish. With the support of her Sephardic husband, whose parents came from Yemen and Iraq, Klein is working to improve her basic Hebrew. Wanting to be part of the day-to-day life of the residents at Shalom Village, her language assets will no doubt open many doors.
Engaging, participating, listening and welcoming input are elements of Klein’s strategy to introduce herself to residents and their families. “I will be out there in the hallways, at activities, in the dining room, celebrating milestones; giving residents opportunities to have their voices heard and their autonomy respected to make choices over their own daily lives,” she said.
When asked to describe her style, Klein said, “I lead in a very flexible, easy-going way ... my door is open.” Embodying advice she has received from parents, teachers, leaders and mentors, to never stop learning and growing personally and professionally, she is developing herself into a “graceful leader,” one who understands when to take action and when to step back and let others lead. Just as she intends to invest in the lives and well-being of Shalom Village residents and families, she will be there for her staff. Reflecting on how she wanted people to feel after interacting with her, she repeated with conviction: “I want them to feel heard.”
Although it makes her family laugh, Klein shared that she had her own care plan “ready to go.” Imagining herself as a resident in long-term care, she says being physically active, participating in Shabbat services, helping with the Tea or serving on the residents’ council would all be important to maintain her independence. She’d be on the MilliMobile for field trips, and was quick to disclose she “would not say no to a trip to the mall.” When the subject of food came up, she said she would want food on the menu that was healthy and nutritious, but admitted she would never refuse babka or rugelach; foods that triggered memories of what her grandmother made for her at home.
Leading with kindness, grace and compassion; and making a positive impact on the Shalom Village community; this was clear and present in the words and tone of new CEO Marianne Klein.