I drove down Clarksville Road yesterday on my way to a baseball game at West Windsor-Plainsboro South and can report that construction on the new JCC is advancing at an impressive clip. The first phase of the Jewish Community Campus is set to open by the end of this year. Check out the article in the New Jersey Jewish News about the "Topping Off" celebration at the end of March.
One of the contributing factors to the existence of this blog is that in 1999, I scanned all of the pictures that were yellowing and tattered and on display on the walls at the old JCC . It led to me doing some research about some of the faces that I had seen in the old photos. It’s exciting that in just a few months there will be a new Jewish Community Center serving this area. One thing that the group that is working to open the Center realize is that the old YMHA in Trenton and the old Trenton Jewish Community are direct forebears of what they are doing now.
In that light, I invite all of you with memories of the old YMHA on Stockton Street to send me your memories of the Y and what it meant to you as you were growing up. If you have pictures, scan them and send them to me (no originals, please). If you have a video camera, camera on your phone or iPad, record your memories and contact me about uploading them to our blog. From what I’ve learned, it was a special place and a hub of activity.
Passover has come and gone and once again we hosted Sylvia Schultz for the second Seder. Four years ago, Sylvia was a guest and during the meal talk turned to my signature brisket and it brought back memories for Sylvia of the smells, sights and sounds of Old Time Trenton. The excitement with which she spoke of her hometown was really the inspiration for everything that you read on these pages. Sylvia invited me to the library and showed me the treasure trove of pictures and documents that exist in Trentonia now.
This year, Sylvia talked to me at length about her friend, Zalman King Lefkowitz, who passed away in February. Sylvia was best friends with King’s sister and called King her adopted brother. In this video, she talks about the “House of Tomorrow” that King’s family lived in on Bellevue Avenue, across from Cadwalader Park and how King left for Florida, to work on an excursion boat. That led to acting jobs in commercial, then he landed a role in The Young Lawyers, Gunsmoke, and even The Munsters, before going on to direct a number of films, including 9 1/2 Weeks and Wild Orchid and the Red Shoe Diaries, among others.
The last time Sylvia saw King was at his mother’s funeral and when Schultz asked him whether he could be in one of his films, his response was, “Sure, if you take your clothes off.” Sylvia’s comeback line was, that “if she took her clothes off, nobody would come to see the movie”, so the deal was off.
More than once in the interview, Sylvia recalled that despite his fame, King was so humble and such a gentleman and that when he started directing the racier movies, no one cold believe it, because that wasn’t him. Sylvia mentions Charlie Sheen’s message on his Facebook page the day that King passed.
Here is an obit from a site called the avclub, which includes some clips from King’s acting and directing career.
Arnold Ropeik passed away in April at the age of 90. Although he did not grow up in Trenton, Arnie did marry a Trenton girl, Bertha Levine, and spent almost 70 years in and around Trenton. Unfortunately, I never met Arnold Ropeik when he was alive. I saw him a few times at Adath Israel, but never got a chance to speak with him. Thanks to Sherry Spiezle, I did get a chance to interview Bertha and she told me many stories about him. By the time we did the interview, Arnie was at Greenwood House and he would have good days and bad days. Bertha told me that he was better in the late afternoons, but I was never able to sync schedules. Here are a couple of stories that Bertha told about Arnie . The first is about Arnie’s first job in Trenton, after graduating from Rider in 1947. His first job was with The Trentonian, which had started after a strike at the Trenton Times in 1946.
Here, Bertha talks about how Arnie first met Bertha.
You’ve heard about newspaper wars? Well, in 1946 Trenton there was literally a newspaper war between the Times and the upstart Trentonian. Bertha Ropeik remembers that the old YMHA on Stockton Street was sometimes in the demilitarized zone between the two papers.
For more background information on the beginnings of the Trentonian, here’s an online article.
And finally, Bertha explains how she came to be known as Beloved Spouse in Arnie’s columns. But there were to be no abbreviations.
I also include a great story that Herb Speigel told that Arnie used to tell about Bertha’s father, Albert Levine.
And finally, a shameless plug for a college buddy of mine. Dan Cohen was a year ahead of me at Ithaca College. He worked for years in local news in Orlando and Washington, D.C.. He developed a love for the space program and has produced a documentary that has been shown at film festivals across the country and around the world. The film is called "An Article of Hope" and follows the story of a tiny Holocaust Torah that Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon took with him on the the ill-fated Columbia Space Shuttle which disintegrated on re-entry in 2003. Dan is in the final days of trying to raise $50,000 to have the film broadcast on PBS and has a website on a service called Kickstarter, which helps get word out about worthy projects.
As I write this, there are 7 days left on Dan’s drive and $46,000 has been pledged so far. Please take a look at the trailer and if you see fit, give as little as $1. If he doesn’t reach his goal, your credit card will not be charged. See website for more details.
I know I’ve put a lot of material in here, so thanks for reading and please send me your remembrances of the YMHA.