“After 55 years, I figured it was time to relocate,” explains Mrs. Joan Heber, who moved to Baltimore from St. Louis to be closer to her children, Rabbi Dovid and Rebbetzin Baila Heber. “The whole process was really basherte,” adds Mrs. Heber. “My kids said that I was welcome to move whenever I was ready but they never prodded or insisted. I never talked about moving, but about three years ago, I looked at various places in Baltimore. I knew that if I was going to relocate, it would be to Baltimore, for the simple reason that it is closer than Detroit (where my other son lives) to New York, where I have quite a bit of family. Also, I was told that senior housing is excellent here. When I made up my mind, over a year-and-a-half ago, it was kind of a snap decision. Certain things came together.”
It was a big move for Mrs. Heber, who has been widowed for 19 years. She has always been independent, which allowed her to manage for many years by herself. But once she decided, she came to look at the Windsor House again. “I told my son I was on the waiting list. Nobody thought I would make the move; I also figured it would take a year until something opened up. But I received a call from the rental office just a few weeks later, telling me there was an opening on the lobby level. I took it, and moved as soon as possible.”
In St. Louis, Mrs. Heber did all her own packing. “It was my way of kissing everything goodbye,” she says. “I don’t think I could do it now, so I am glad I did it before. I owned my own home had many friends and superb medical doctors in St. Louis. But you know what? I found all that here as well!
“It was the right thing to do: no question about it. I am enjoying my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren. I missed out on a lot when I lived in St. Louis, but it is what it is – I don’t look back. It was time to move on to a new chapter in my life. I hope it is a long chapter.
“Baltimore is a very nice community,” continues Mrs. Heber, who keeps quite busy and is never bored. She has numerous close and caring relatives in Baltimore, as well as her daughter-in-law’s attentive parents and friends from St. Louis who settled in Baltimore years ago. She has made additional friends in the Windsor House, where she lives. And, comparing her food shopping experience in St. Louis to Baltimore, she refers to Seven Mile Market as “paradise.”
“There is a feeling of togetherness and unity that is very refreshing,” she concludes. “You can do your thing, and everyone is welcomed. The rabbis all get along. Everybody works together for the good of the community. That’s my take on it. It’s just beautiful.”
* * *
Steven and Myrna Hoenlein also moved from Philadelphia to be near their four daughters: Tikva and Aaron Rothenberg, Zipora and Sender Baruch, Judy and Aryeh Stein, and Leah and Yisroel Saunders, as well as their son, Chanoch Hoenlein and his wife, Miriam Devorah.
Myrna taught kindergarten for 35 years in Philly and retired in June. She wanted to make the move while she could still be of help to her children, rather than at a time when she would have to be dependent on them. Almost every day she drives carpools or drives them to work and appointments; she babysits and gives them a hand when she can. Every Shabbos, family members stop by their house in the afternoon, since her husband prefers to sit at his own tish. On occasion, they join their children’s Shabbos tables, and they eat Yom Tov meals together.
“My children had been nudging us to move,” explained Myrna. “My 35 years of kindergarten was enough, and my husband retired a couple of years ago. I figured now is the time to do it. I miss Philadelphia. We were both active in the community. My husband was active in the shul, mikvah, day school, and chevra kadisha, but it was time to be with the kids and just enjoy this next part of our lives.
“At this point, b”H, we are independent and don’t really need our children to assist us in any way,” continues Myrna. “It is nice to be able to go to siddur parties, to help them out if they need another car or if someone needs a ride, or if they can’t be in two places at one time. It really worked out just as we anticipated. We moved in September, and within a couple of months we had a family bar mitzva, bas mitzva, and wedding. All our children live in Baltimore, so it was a no-brainer. We live within three blocks of four of them: two minutes by car or five minutes by foot. Tikva told me about the house, and we came to see it. It was going to go on the market on July 4, and we put in a bid on July 2. It is located right across the street from Shomrei, so it is convenient for my husband’s davening and is centrally located among all the children.”
In addition to helping her family, Myrna enjoys her JCC membership. Steven enjoys going to shiurim and learning with his chavrusa, who also hails from Philadelphia. In fact, one of their house-searching criteria was to find a house big enough to hold his 30-bookcase sefarim collection.
“B”H, the move worked out very well,” concludes Myrna. “After all the years of working, I enjoy being flexible and being able to arrange things according to what I need.”
* * *
Miriam Goldberg Jacobson was looking to get out of Long Island and contemplated a move to Florida, where her son lives, or to Baltimore, where her daughter, Paula Katz, lives with her husband, Chaim. Unlike some parents, who had to start from scratch in a new community; Mrs. Jacobson had lived in Randallstown and still has many friends in the Baltimore area. She made her downsize move to the Towers Condominiums in Baltimore, in July, 2014. She points out an unrecognized advantage of Baltimore: “If a community only has one-family homes, when people lose a husband or a wife, and don’t want to remain in their home, they often have to move out of the neighborhood to find appropriate housing. Baltimore has a tremendous advantage in that you can downsize and still stay with your original shul, your original friends, all the connections to your former life – and that is a tremendous plus. The availability of condos or apartment living translates into a viable, senior population,” notes Mrs. Jacobson.
Although Mrs. Jacobson does not eat with the Katzes every Shabbos, she certainly speaks to her daughter and sees her at least once a week. “I’m very close to my mother, and it’s great having her here,” says Mrs. Katz. “It’s hard to get together because I’m so busy, but we do get together.”
Mrs. Jacobson is happy in Baltimore and seems to be just as busy as her daughter, taking full advantage of several local activities and getting together with longtime and well as new friends. “I belong to two book clubs and joined the JCC so I could take advantage of the activities there, like exercise.” said Mrs. Jacobson. “I started volunteering for Hadassah’s Scene II Resale Shop, in Pikesville. I also enjoy the Saturday night series of history lectures given by Rabbi Dovid Katz. There is a broad spectrum of cultural activities available in Baltimore; I hadn’t even realized how good it is. There are all kinds of things to explore. You just need the time, the opportunity, and the desire to follow up on them.”
Mrs. Jacobson worked as an office manager in a shul, an assistant principal, and a substitute teacher in New York, before retiring. “It was my idea to move here,” she says. “I asked questions and I investigated. Everyone told me that if you move at an older age, you move near your children, and if you have a daughter, you move near a daughter. It really did come together, since my daughter lives in Baltimore, where I had lived before and which isn’t far from New York if I want to visit. I made up my mind to keep in touch with my old friends in Long Island, and I’ve done that, thank G-d.
“When you have a daughter like my daughter, it is a no-brainer to want to move near her,” Mrs. Jacobson concludes. “My son-in-law has also been extremely warm and welcoming. And an unexpected bonus is that my married granddaughter, Talia Turk, to whom I feel very close, lives nearby.”
* * *
Chazan Sherwood Goffin and his wife Batya have lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for 50 years, close to Lincoln Square Synagogue, where Chazan Goffin is the cantor. “For 48 years, I davened every single tefila, every Shabbos,” says Chazan Goffin. “It’s a full-time job – one of the few full-time jobs in the field. Rabbi Riskin and I were there at the very beginning, when Lincoln Square was a new, very small shul. I’ve watched it grow into the huge shul it is today, with 700 families and continuous simchos being celebrated.
“About three years ago, I said to the shul, ‘I’m here almost 50 years, and I’d like to be here 50 years, but I’d like to spend more time with all my children. I don’t want to daven every Shabbos any more.’” The shul agreed to three Shabbosim a month, which eventually went down to once a month. They hired a young chazan who fills in regularly, so the Goffins could get away at least once a month to Maryland. With two married sons and their families living in Baltimore (Elly and Chavi Goffin and Uri and Yael Goffin) and a married daughter and her family (Tsipi, married to Baltimore native Jerry Hawk) living in Silver Spring, the Goffins decided it was time to move down South.
“I am now officially the senior chazan,” says Chazan Goffin. “Last Rosh Hashanah was my 50th and last Rosh Hashana davening in Lincoln Square.” Chazan Goffin will retire fully from Lincoln Square Synagogue in December, but the shul wants him to keep his Manhattan apartment and office and come back every Yom Kippur. Although he has been a chazan since he was 19, starting out in his home town of New Haven, Connecticut, being a cantor is not Chazan Goffin’s only profession. For the last 25 years, he has also been teaching at Yeshiva University’s Belz School of Jewish Music.
“When we used to come to visit our children, we stayed in the playroom with a private bathroom,” continues Chazan Goffin. “But it’s not fair. If we came for more than a day or two, we were taking away the children’s play space.” They decided to buy a condo in the Towers, within close walking distance to their sons, enabling more extended visits. “When we come in to Baltimore, now, we invite one son and family at a time for Shabbos lunch. One son davens at Rabbi Berger’s shul, the other at Suburban Orthodox. I daven wherever the son who is coming for lunch davens. That’s how we split it up. Our daughter lives in Silver Spring, so we have to visit her separately.”
“It was our kids’ idea, in a way, that we move here – in that they all managed to move to Maryland for some reason,” chuckles Chazan Goffin. “Where the grandchildren are, the grandparents will follow. We are getting to the point where we want to get to know our grandchildren before they grow up and fly away.”
Both the Goffins like Baltimore very much. “I would like to stay here permanently,” says Mrs. Goffin, who grew up in Boro Park by way of Knoxville, Tennessee, and Birmingham, Alabama. “I find it very warm and friendly. New York is hustle-bustle; here, it is calm. Everyone, whether they know you or not, says hello. And you really feel Shabbos on the streets of the neighborhood. I like the shopping here, too.”
Chazan Goffin says, “I like how Baltimore is family-oriented, and it’s nice to see all the black hats, but I am torn between here and New York. New York is where I have been since the age of 12, when I left New Haven to attend Yeshiva Torah Vodaath. I have very strong professional roots there as well. In Baltimore, I acquired a new profession: carpooler! I never carpooled my whole life! I try to help out our children whenever necessary.”
Speaking of family, I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting Chazan Goffin when he recently “happened” to drop by the Star-K office, where I work. Knowing that he was from my hometown, I thought it would make him feel at home to introduce myself as a fellow New Havener. I think I finally understood what my mother, a”h, meant when she taught me, years ago, “You have to be nice to everyone; you never know whom you are related to.’ By the end of our conversation, I found out that he is my paternal cousin!
ã Margie Pensak-2015