WELCOME TO THE second part of our two-part series that takes a special look at “Women Over Eighty,” a project spearheaded by Janice Pais of Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center (PJTC) that focuses on the unique qualities of the members of our Jewish community. Specifically, the lovely ladies that were recently celebrated at the Annual Torah Fund luncheon for PJTC to recognize “Women Over Eighty.” The Sisterhood of PJTC worked with the youth of its Louis B. Silver Religious School on a special program designed to bring generations together. The students met with the women that were celebrated and interviewed them about their lives. We encourage you to learn more about these wonderful members through the words of their interviewers. Enjoy.
Interviewed by Alexa Johnson
ALICE, NOW 90, was born on March 30, 1927. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts and her parents immigrated from Russia. She had two brothers, one younger and one older. Arthur was her older brother and Arnold was her younger. When she was younger, her best friends were family and she would play marbles, pick up sticks, hide and seek and Monopoly with them.
When she was in eighth grade she had the lead in her French play, but she didn’t get to do it because she came down with appendicitis, and someone had to take her place. When she was 11, she started working at her parents’ grocery store. She waited on customers and she enjoyed it because she was able to help her mom a lot. Sometimes in the winter she would wear her pajamas under her clothes because it was so cold in Boston. Sadly, her dad died when she was 11.
She went to Hebrew school but did not have a bat mitzvah. She celebrated Shabbat traditionally and lit candles and usually has some chicken for dinner. She was not an Orthodox Jew, so she did drive and do housework on Shabbat. She had no conflicts being Jewish because she lived in a 90% Jewish community.
She met her husband Tom when his sister introduced them. His sister wanted to set them up on a date. At age 20 she married him. They had four children Marilyn, Jeff, Phyllis and Randy. She came to California in 1953 because her husband wanted to go somewhere warmer.
Alice was a very big fan of Frank Sinatra and skipped school with her cousin in the eighth grade to hear him sing. She says everyone was screaming when he sang. Thirty-five years later her son bought her two tickets to see him. She wrote a review of the concert. Her son mailed it to Sinatra. In return, she received a personalized autographed photo. These are worth about $2000 nowadays. It was a very special present.
Alice learned many lessons throughout her life. She has a few rules she thinks everyone should follow. She says to be positive and to look for the good side. She says to be kind and treat people how you want to be treated. She says to be compassionate and care about other people’s feelings. Lastly, she says to be curious and let your mind wander.
Interviewed by Zachary Segal
FAYE LANGHOLZ HAS been a member of the PJTC community for many years. She first grew up in New York. She then moved to California where she lived in City Terrace, Alhambra and other parts of the San Gabriel Valley. She grew up as a member of Temple Beth David, the reform synagogue in Temple City. She and her husband Ike raised their four children in the Pasadena area.
As a child, Faye went to Sunday school. She learned Hebrew, Spanish and a Yiddish. The Jewish holidays were very important to her and her family and still are today. She enjoys celebrating Shabbat each week with her family over a nice meal. Hanukkah is a special time as well as other Jewish holidays. Judaism has always been important in Faye’s life with her family. She enjoys making homemade chicken soup and other traditional meals.
As a child, Faye remembers her mother’s organic garden, many animals and enjoying the outdoors. She has memories of playing hide and seek with friends in the tall grass near her home. Another childhood memory that is not as good is one of a friend who made an anti-Semitic comment that upset her greatly. Faye went to Mark Keppel high school where she had many friends.
Faye met her husband Ike at a young adult event at Alhambra Temple. They were married six months later. They have four children, six grandchildren and a great grandchild. Faye’s husband Ike is a Holocaust survivor, as is his brother Sam and his wife Mala, who are also longtime members of the PJTC community. While Faye does not have specific memories of the Holocaust, she has heard many stories from Mike, Sam and Mala.
Faye and Ike are very good, wholesome people. They are very fair people and are good to everyone. They believe in their community and its strength. For many years they had a neighborhood business that really valued their customers.
Faye attended a Yiddish “Shula” School and still has a Yiddish children’s book that is very precious to her. She loves working with children. Faye worked with academically challenged students at PCC for many years. She currently volunteers at Longfellow Elementary School and Willard Elementary helping students learn to read and helping teachers in classrooms with whatever they need.
Just like her mother, Faye has a garden that she spends lots of time in. She loves animals. She loves the outdoors. She and Ike enjoy hiking and often hike miles and miles at a time. She also likes to bike. Faye also enjoys books, music and doing needlepoint and she is working with other women at PJTC on a Chuppah project for the synagogue.
Faye told me that if there was something she would have done differently in her life it would have been to finish college. She also said that one of the most important things in life is to be flexible.
Dr. Norma Pratt
Interviewed by Grace Leonard
- NORMA PRATT grew up in the Bronx in New York City. She lived in a two-bedroom apartment with her parents, grandparents, and older sister. When she was younger she did normal childhood things like ride bikes and play games with her friends. She grew up when World War II was happening and would play wargames with her friends. One of her best friends was Audrie Rose, Audrie Rose had one of the first TVs so she would go to her apartment and they ate halvah which was a candy and watched TV. Sadly, Audrie got pregnant very young and her mother got very angry and drove her away and Norma never saw her again. One of Norma’s favorite things to do was to read and she liked to be alone. She also liked having conversations and just talking in general.
In winter, Norma loved to make snowmen and build cool stuff out of snow. She also loved having snowball fights. In the summer she loved to go to the Catskills in the country where she would pick berries with her mom and then make pies with them. She lived in the time of World War II and she said she remembers having to go to bed early and then hearing the adults talking about how worried they were about the family members that lived where the Nazis invaded. She was sent to a secular Yiddish school from age eight to twelve and a half. She was bilingual and spoke Yiddish and English fluently. She kept kosher and celebrated Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover. Her grandmother observed all of those holidays but she also prayed three times a day and was very Orthodox. As a child she experienced some anti-Semitism like kids on the playground saying mean things about Jews.
She went to a high school in New York to study acting, then went to college and majored in history. Then in her senior year of college she stopped and later had two boys. Her husband was a musician and they had to move to L.A. Norma said if she could do something different in life she would not marry so young, and some important things she learned in life were to be kind and to always learn and to respect others. The feminist movement and Israel were important to her and she didn’t go to Israel because she was concerned about the politics. Meeting Norma was a really great experience. I got to take a look into someone else’s life and a different period of time. She is really amazing and an intelligent person. And, she has a nice and kind soul. Thank you, Norma for letting me have this opportunity.
Interviewed by Rebecca DeBoskey
I RECENTLY HAD the special opportunity to interview an amazing woman over 80 with a remarkable past named Giovanna. I’m am thrilled to share her story with you.
Giovanna was born in Greece on the island of Rhodes. Her family was Italian and they were Sephardic Jews. Sadly, in 1940, they had to leave their home in Greece due to the German invasion during World War II. They barely escaped as they were on the last boat out of Greece after the Germans invaded.
When Giovanna was five years old, her family moved to America and settled in Los Angeles because they had relatives in the area. She began attending an American school and had to teach herself English in school. Her first languages were Spanish and Ladino, so her family attended a Ladino synagogue. There, it was much easier to make friends because everyone at the synagogue spoke Ladino too. It was at her synagogue that she learned about her Sephardic culture and attended Sephardic Sunday school. She said that once she moved to America, she no longer experienced anti-Semitism.
Growing up, Giovanna’s mom was named Leah and was a stay-at-home mom. Her dad‘s name was Maurice and he sold shoe supplies. She had two brothers, Bernie and Mark, and one of them is still alive. She has fond memories of her childhood, which include playing her favorite car games with her Nonna (grandma).
As an adult, she worked as an accountant. She married her husband, Michael Fradkin, but unfortunately he passed away. They had two children, Linda and Mark. A special memory was given when Giovanna became a bat mitzvah as an adult just one month after her own daughter Linda became a Bat Mitzvah.
Giovanna says she is so proud to be Jewish. She considers herself a very traditional Sephardic Jew. In fact, she never heard of a lakte until she was married to her husband, an Ashkenazi Jew. In honor of her heritage she never worked on Shabbat or even drove. And she always enjoyed making a good Shabbat meal for her family. These days, Giovanna often travels to Catalina Island because it reminds her of her hometown.
Giovanna is a wonderful woman who just like me is very proud to be Jewish. I am so happy I got to meet her and hear her beautiful life story.
Interviewed by Kate Karish
JOAN HALPERT IS one of our sisterhood members who is 80 (or older). She was born on her sister’s birthday. She grew up in New Jersey and is 100% Ashkenazi. Her mom was born in New York and her dad was born in Europe. Both were hard-working. Mrs. Halpert’s mom made good chicken soup and beef stew. Her dad was a tailor and read all the Passover seder Haggadah in Hebrew. She always got new clothes for Passover. She lived in a mixed community.
When Mrs. Halpert was born, Israel was not independent. At Hebrew School, boys and girls were separated and boys and men sat in the bottom part of the sanctuary and girls and women sat upstairs. Mrs. Halpert went to services on holidays. She was president of a Jewish teenage organization.
When Mrs. Halpert was a girl, she wanted to be a teacher. She was a good student and liked English and History best. For fun she played and went to school. She liked going to the beach during the summer. Clothes were hung on the line to dry in the winter, clothes froze. As a teenager she wanted to become a nurse, but she was too young. So, she went to the hospital to work in the gift shop. When she finished high school, she started her nurse training.
Mrs. Halpert met Mr. Halpert when she was 21. They have been married 61 years. They have a son Mitchell, who is 59, and a daughter, Cynthia who is 58. The Halperts moved to Northern Virginia around 1960. They moved to California because Mr. Halpert started work for JPL. They have four grandchildren. Other interesting things about Mrs. Halpert: she likes rice pudding, she went to the White House and shook hands with President Johnson, she knows Yiddish as well as English, had a dog named Yafa, she is a people person, she used to bowl, and she enjoys synagogue, music and her grandchildren.
Interviewed by Noah Kronsburg
RUTH KAYE HAS been a member of PJTC since 1959. She grew up in Forest Gate, England, which is a suburb of East London, with her two sisters. When World War II began, Ruth and her two sisters were sent to Black Pool which is in North England.
In 1953, Ruth married her husband Steve. Steve worked on the first computer in England which was dubbed Leo. In 1959, Ruth, Steve and their two daughters moved to the United States when Steve was offered a job. In the same year they joined PJTC because of it’s egalitarian atmosphere. Ruth was raised Orthodox and was pleased to see no mechitzah.
One of Ruth’s fondest memories at PJTC was on every Fourth of July, members of PJTC threw her husband into the pool that used to be outside of Wohlmann Hall. On April 28, 1990, Ruth and Steve were the Congregants of the Year. At the age of 70, Ruth took part in an Adult B’nai Mitzvah class PJTC. Ruth also volunteers on Thursdays at PJTC, and in February 2017, Ruth became a great grandmother. Ruth’s message to the youth of PJTC is be involved in the community.