“I Found My Voice Here”

“I was married for 67 years when my husband passed away, it was very hard.”, says Serene Hackel. “When my husband was alive, we would come to the JCC for fitness and were avid fans of the Jewish Film Festival. When I became a widow, I went to the JCC for my social life and found out that it really helped my intellectual life. I would plan my week around what I did at the JCC; I had to keep busy.”

The young-at-heart 94-year old eventually waded into the Current Events group led by Sharon Holzberg, Director of Senior Adults programming at the Mandell JCC. At the time, she was worried she would be too timid to speak in the group setting. But Serene muses, “I found my voice here. And now, even in larger meetings, I have no problem speaking up. I really have to thank the JCC for making me feel whole.”

When the pandemic struck, Serene did not miss a beat. She bought a new Apple Air computer which she shares “isn’t always successful, but I eventually get on.” During this time, she says that Sharon called to check on her regularly, and ”it made me feel good. She is so kind. Because of that, I feel very warmly towards this place.”

But she misses her visits to the JCC where “everybody is very friendly, and they always say hello to me at the desk.”

“If you want variety in your life, if you want to be entertained in your life, if you want to make social connections in your life, and you want to feel welcomed- it is certainly the place to go. I have plenty of things to feel sorry about, but I don’t. You have to find something you are interested in. You have to have the courage to change the things that you can.”

“Even though it was hard for me to speak in public, it was good for me that I was able to do it and feel so accepted. I am thankful. I feel as if I’m not just sitting in a rocking chair. Even though I am older, I’m still growing and being able to come to the JCC is important. I really get validation, and when I contribute, I walk out on air.”


“Even though I am older, I’m still growing.” -Serene Hackel, 94-years old

A Senior Shares How the JCC Made Her Feel Whole