It all started in May of 1954. The Center was brand new, and one Saturday night we attended a performance of some kind there, with our cousins Jack and Sonia Ashberg of blessed memory. We parked in Westside’s fenced parking lot. The show ended rather early, so the four of us went out for refreshments, in the Ashbergs’ car. Coming back afterwards, we found the parking lot locked, and no way to retrieve our vehicle.
That May was Claire’s 9th month of pregnancy, in fact she was a week overdue. We lived near the Santa Monica airport. Our cousins did the best they could; they took us to their house near North Fairfax, where Jack kept his furniture truck. They loaned us the truck, and we drove it home, bouncing and coughing all the way. Next day, I took the truck back so Jack would have it for Monday morning business, and retrieved our car. That Sunday night was a rough one for Claire, but next morning bright and early her father showed up to help her while I drove to work in Hollywood turning out TV films like “Cisco Kid” and “My Favorite Story.” Around midday, Claire phoned me, frantic: “My water broke!” She was busy writing notes to relatives, packing her little suitcase, and insisting her father wash the dishes before she could leave the house. Meanwhile I was breaking a few speed limits driving home to pick her up. Not nervous, of course, but I did drive up on the sidewalk to mail Claire’s notes. Somehow we made it to Kaiser Hospital on Sunset. That night our daughter Rachel was born. So Claire can thank Westside JCC for helping deliver her first child!
In the years that followed, cousin Jack appeared in some stage plays at Westside, under Bill Miller’s direction. Bill became Claire’s boss when she taught a group called Dramateens, taught them for 12 years, and we all remained friends. She also was director and counselor at Camp Runaround, and sometimes still meets people who were her campers. I too became a part time staff member at Westside, sharing an office with the beloved “Mr. T” – Rabbi Moshe Tolchinsky a”h. Claire and I co-created some musicals for Westside’s stage. And I taught some adult classes there. Our children attended the Bureau Hebrew School at Westside, under Dr. Jacob Somerman and Hadassah Kashdan. And they learned to swim in the Center pool. In fact, Sid Shapiro overcame our son Sam’s reluctance about water in the classic way – he threw him in. Sam became a good swimmer. Eli Sherman and Charley Mesnick and Sol Marshall were our co-workers and friends. Sometimes they would call on me for ceremonies in their families. Recently I had the honor of helping dedicate Sol’s gravestone with his son Steve, whose Bar Mitzvah I remember conducting in Westside’s auditorium.
All these people made Westside JCC important in our lives. Thanks to Brian Greene, it is still important.