Profile: Jay Zimmer
Ask The Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living CEO Jay Zimmer about his hobbies, and he'll mention he's been a long-time runner who also enjoys hiking and cycling.
Later, he'll admit he has completed eight marathons.
“I've learned life really is a marathon and not a sprint,” he says.
A native of Newark, NJ, Zimmer is the oldest of four boys. He played varsity basketball and baseball, the latter of which was set to take him to college on a scholarship. A severe shoulder injury tempered those dreams, and his junior year of college he began working as an orderly at a hospital. He eventually became a respiratory therapist, and then a hospital administrator.
As he gained more experience and completed two master's degrees, Zimmer developed a reputation as the person providers called when they needed help. After selling his company, HR Solutions, a former client and veterinary specialty group called in 2004 to ask him to assist in rebuilding the practice. That took Zimmer and his wife, Rochelle, to Arizona.
Zimmer said he was impressed with veterinarians' sincerity and empathy.
But when the president of Springpoint Senior Living in New Jersey asked for help repositioning a community, Zimmer said the time was right to return East.
His children — Rebecca, Ben and Alison — plus grandchildren, and parents, who reside in Fort Myers, FL, were far away at the time.
For those reasons and more, when Zimmer received a call in 2012 to work in Northern California, he turned it down.
“The thought of moving 3,000 miles again was not in the plan,” he says. But he eventually was hooked. San Francisco is “a great part of the country to be in, very very exciting, with lots of good energy,” he says.
Two years later, there was another call: A Jewish community that had gone for 18 months without top leadership was in the middle of a massive renovation with problems cropping up.
“I had no intention of leaving NCPHS,” he says. But in the back of his mind was that he hadn't been able to work with a Jewish organization, even though he had been president of his synagogue in New Jersey. He wondered if the job was “some sort of calling.”
“I thought I was the right person,” Zimmer says. “You know when someone is in trouble and you have a sense of whether you can make a contribution? I thought, ‘I can get in here and build a team.'”
Reutlinger board chairman Rich Goldstein said Zimmer's leadership was apparent right away in tough circumstances.
“It was a more difficult situation than we knew it was,” Goldstein recalls. “He didn't complain, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He put together a really good, cohesive team.”
Zimmer and his wife eventually bought a house in Danville, CA, a mile away from the community. In addition to running, he describes himself as a golf addict, even though, “I'm not really that good at it.” He's also an avid reader, and a fan, with his wife, of the show “The Voice.” The couple are both vegans, as is their 10-year-old King Charles Spaniel, Samantha.
At age 64, Zimmer says there's a lot of work to do at The Reutlinger, but he is confident he'll leave the community in good hands.
Goldstein agrees, saying Zimmer is “on the quiet side but very strong.”
“He takes his depth of knowledge and experience in the field and applies that confident style.”