By Michelle Cohen
The Lehigh Valley Jewish community will gather on Nov. 13 to celebrate the lives and accomplishments of 16 remarkable people over the age of 80 who have donated their time, talents and hearts to enriching our community.
An elegant champagne brunch in their honor will be hosted by Jewish Family Service at Temple Beth El. The proceeds from the brunch will benefit older adult services. “The whole community coming together is the idea of this event,” said Debbie Zoller, executive director of JFS. “It’s wonderful to honor older people who make a difference in people’s lives. Though there are so many who could be honored for giving of their time and talent, we start with these 16 who each have a great story to share.”
Each of the honorees was chosen by a synagogue or Jewish agency in the Lehigh Valley. “Who knows better than the organizations around the Valley where people serve who their extra special seniors are?” said Wendy Born, president of JFS, who came up with the idea for the event.
As part of the process, the organizations were instructed to choose individuals with “dedication of time, talent and mensch-like qualities” in the Lehigh Valley, and of course, at least 80 years old to qualify, Born said. “Our community has honored lots of people in the past, but not that specific age group. We feel that we have a dynamic group of people over 80 and we want to recognize them,” she added.
Although the event was originally to be called “8 Over 80,” it quickly became apparent that there were far more than eight people who deserved recognition. The 16 honorees, comprised of individuals, couples and teams, have volunteered extensively across the Lehigh Valley, each lending his or her “active, engaged and menschy” qualities to the community, said Carah Tenzer, co-chair of the event. “The idea to honor their achievements is a natural extension of admiring and thanking our community role models, while bringing together the Jewish organizations who are supported by the efforts of the 2016 honorees and their friends,” said Tenzer.
The event, which will feature a brief presentation from JFS as well as a video featuring the honorees in their own words, is intended not only to celebrate the efforts of these remarkable people, but also to inspire the whole community to improve the lives of seniors in the Lehigh Valley.
“The 8ish Over 80 idea addresses the potential for aging actively, safely and healthfully – with the reality that there are many unmet needs for far too many individuals over age 65 in our community,” Tenzer said. “The proceeds from the event will go directly toward supporting older adult services at JFS, and helping that program to grow its scope and client base.”
Born added, “We believe this will inspire people of all age groups to realize that you can utilize your energy in such a beneficial way to the community. You’re never too old to volunteer.” In addition to helping others, she noted, volunteering can keep a person “socially, emotionally and physically active” at any age.
Audrey Nolte, co-chair of the event, had the pleasure of calling several of the honorees to let them know they’d been selected. Describing the joy she felt in making these calls, she was particularly struck by one person’s remark: “I never did it for credit, I did it because I think it’s the right thing to do.”
“They’re our leaders and they’re such fine examples,” Nolte said.
“It’s a great way to say thank you for a lifetime of contributing to the Lehigh Valley Jewish community,” Zoller added.
To learn more about our honorees, attending the event and sponsorship opportunities, CLICK HERE.