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You don't think "old" when you meet Molly and Lenny, who arrived with Nefesh B'Nefesh on September 6. She is vivacious and bursting with energy; he has a twinkle in his eye and tells a great story. Not many people would be willing to make aliya at their age but, according to them, they are "having a ball" and only wish they had come sooner.
Molly was born in Lithuania, and came to the US in 1933, at 14, with five siblings, all of whom are still alive. She was ashamed when she started school, because as she didn't know English, they put her in a second-grade classroom with seven-year-olds. She was the butt of all the kids' jokes. Fortunately the teacher reprimanded them and said that Molly would excel much faster than any of them. She was proved right when the next semester she was in junior high, where she rightfully belonged. Her father was a rabbi and shohet. He went to America two years before his family and found work at an abattoir.
Lenny's family came from Poland and Lithuania, settling in Minneapolis in 1908. His parents married in America and his father worked as a silk spotter in a dry-cleaning establishment.
Molly and Lenny met as teenagers. He was in the infantry in World War II, and fought in France, Luxembourg and Germany. He was wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
He reminisces with amusement about the time he was camped outside the town of Noyon in France, memorable because the spelling is the same in both directions. With a pass, he decided to ask around in his best French if by chance any Jews lived there. He was told: "Oui, Sam le tailleur." He went over to meet them - they lived behind the tailor shop - and they invited him to Sunday dinner. He was so happy at the prospect of a kosher meal.
Explaining to the officer of the day, he was granted another pass. Dinner was served, and at his first bite, wanting to be complimentary, he said: "Le poulet est tres bon." He was horrified to be told it was not chicken but rabbit, and his appetite came to a complete stop. He was glad to return to camp and was able to appreciate even the cold rations supplied by the army.
He was away for three years during the war, leaving Molly with a baby.
His difficulty in walking today is a legacy of his years in the service, and he travels around Jerusalem in a motorized scooter.
Sport was always important to both Molly and Lenny. He remembers in 1952, they bought a new home in Chicago on a street where all the neighbors became close friends and the children grew up together. One Sunday morning, all the boys who were athletic teenagers challenged their fathers to a baseball game. The kids were totally embarrassed when they old guys won by a score they would like to forget.
Lenny retired 27 years ago from his position of general manager of a costume jewelry house in Chicago, where Molly worked with him for 17 years. It was a successful business, and as a result they are financially comfortable. They have two children, Judy and Gerald. Their daughter has plans for aliyaâ€š although so far their son has not expressed interest. However, they are not short of family here, with four grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren, all of whom delight in spending time with them. Molly's brother is also here with a large family.
They made eight visits before their aliya, so there were no real surprises. On their first trip, in 1970, they visited the Knesset with the hope of seeing prime minister Golda Meir. However, she was too busy and apologized. While they were waiting, they were served Coca Cola, and the waitress accidentally spilled it all over Lenny's jacket. Abba Eban was sitting close by. They offered to have it cleaned of course, but Lenny declined the offer.
"It was the most exciting day of our lives," Lenny said. "It couldn't have been better if I were the president of the United States. Because of my difficulty in walking due to the war injury, Rabbi Josh Fass personally helped me with the stairs, and then - what a sight! They blew the shofar, sang 'Hatikva,' held balloons and signs and waved flags. All our grandchildren and great-grandchildren were there. We will never forget it."
Molly agreed. "It was just breathtaking. Probably the highlight of our lives."
Their days are very busy. Molly walks every morning and says the exercise keeps her young. Laughing, she said that through her bedroom window, she watches a man outside do his exercises every day. She has no idea who he is, just as he is completely unaware of her existence, but she says whatever he does, she copies, maybe not quite so energetically.
Living opposite the Haas Promenade, there is always something happening and lots of tour buses arriving. Molly enjoys shopping in Arnona, and lunches out with one of the family every day, trying out Jerusalem's multiplicity of restaurants.
Lenny loves his computer, and writes family chronicles regularly, which the whole family enjoys and which have brought him into contact with relatives he didn't know existed. He found a niece he hadn't seen for 40 years. He's also written a novelette about a Jewish boy who joins the circus. He reads it to his great-grandchildren, who love it. He would love to get it published, but it's only about 16 pages.
They never have time to be lonely. They are with family all the time, and enjoy it immensely.
Describing themselves as modern Orthodox, they attend synagogue in an assisted living building close to their Jerusalem apartment.
They are picking up a few words of Hebrew, but have no trouble reading the siddur. Molly says as a very young child she spoke Hebrew before she spoke Yiddish, but she's forgotten most of it.
They have none, apart from wishing they had come sooner. Molly misses her golf very much. She is wonderfully fit for her age and could easily pass for 20 years younger. Back home, she used to play golf three times a week, so it is quite a loss.
"Just to be together with our wonderful family. Oh, and we still have to visit Eilat. We'd like also to find some partners to play canasta."
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