He volunteered in the 1940s at the Jewish War Veterans’ Service club. He spent countless hours volunteering for the Jewish community throughout his adult life, most notably Temple Israel and the JCC in Norfolk. At 91 he is one of the most active members of the JCC Seniors club at the Simon Family JCC.
Meet Joe Harowitz, a salesman and a talker, befriending the old and the young all over the JCC three times weekly.
Without Joe, the JCC would lack a tremendous amount of volunteer hours. Without the JCC, Joe, a lifelong bachelor, wouldn’t have a means of socialization. “This is my real home, my headquarters,” he says about the JCC. “This is where I have met most of my friends. ”Indeed, Joe’s roots with the JCC extend back to Newport News, where his parents were members. “The JCC has always meant the world to me,” he says.
“Joe has been one of the longest users of the JCC dating back over 50 years to when it was on Spotswood Avenue,” says Sherry Lieberman, Senior Adult Program Coordinator at the Simon Family JCC. “Without the existence of the JCC, senior adults like Joe would have no common place to interact with other Jewish seniors during the day. The JCC plays a critical role in their lives.”
Joe has been a fixture at the JCC. “I come here to swim and he’s always here,” says Patricia Sheets. “He reminisces about his sales background and tells great stories. He’s always extremely upbeat and positive.”
“It’s got to be hard for a man who is wheelchair and walker-bound to get up and going each day,” says Bernie Erlich. “In comes Joe, without a complaint, helping fold napkins, collecting money. He doesn’t let age or health problems get in the way.”
Most of Joe’s meals are provided by Federated agencies. Joe’s lunch had been covered by Jewish Family Service and in the past two years the JCC has provided his lunch meal as a thank you for rolling the cutlery in napkins and taking people’s money for Seniors Club functions. Joe also receives Meals on Wheels from Jewish Family Service (which are prepared at Beth Sholom) for his dinners.
The Seniors Club (age 60+) meets three times a week and has lunch meeting once a month. The group goes on trips to area shows and museums, and those that can travel take day trips several times a year. “We are such a close knit group that non-Jewish members of the JCC often want to join up,” says Joe. “They see the unity we have, and how we are a community that works together that makes things happen.”
Joe is by no means a lonely man, because the JCC is his family. “My sisters and brothers are right here,” he says as he looks around. The JCC has enriched Joe’s life and the lives of Senior Adults because they share stories, experiences and quality time together. “If someone I know gets sick, we call them to see what’s going on,” Joe says. “It’s a family affair.”