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The strength of our Jewish community is our membership. We are blessed by so many warm and caring individuals and families that make our community a great place to live and work. Our member Q & A section seeks to tap into that community spirit and find the mitzvot motivation of our members.

Bernice and Howard Levinson were an integral part of our Jewish, secular and business community for many years. While they are no longer living here, their spirit and warmth are still present. They are very gracious "out of town" members to share their thoughts with us.

           
 
 
 
     
   
 

How is your family and what are you up to?

Tell us a little bit about how you came to live in Altoona and your best memories on your time in our community?  What do you miss most about the Altoona area?

In retrospect, what are the advantages and disadvantages for Jews living in this area?

You are a big fan of the Federation website.  What areas of the site do enjoy and visit the most?

What is your wish for the future of our Greater Altoona Jewish Community?

Where does the time go?!

For instance, we can hardly believe that it’s been 5½ years since we moved to Philadelphia from Altoona, which had been our home for 48 years, where our children were all born and reared, where we had many wonderful friends and experiences. But it was time to move on, and coming back to my hometown was a long-held desire.

I’m happy to report that Howard and I are well and happy, love living in center city, and are enjoying many of the conveniences and cultural advantages it offers. We’re just around the corner from the Curtis Institute of Music, where you can find Howard for every one of their orchestra rehearsals, master classes, and student recitals. By the way, Howard will be celebrating his 80th birthday this month. He is still working, sees a few customers a month, and seems invigorated by the challenges each new order presents. He plays bridge once a week with three other guys, reads two to three books a week, and does a two-hour workout in the pool each morning, luxuries he never had time for in the past.

I’ve been volunteering on an as-needed basis at our synagogue, mostly helping out with Beth Zion-Beth Israel’s numerous, voluminous mailings. I serve on the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival Committee, bringing with me skills honed on Altoona’s Jewish Film Festival Committee. I’ve also gotten involved with some of the committees in our condominium, belong to two book discussion groups, resumed knitting (a hobby I never seemed to have time for during my working years), and spend a great deal of my time staying in touch with our kids (three married sons) and six grandchildren, two of whom had their Bar Mitzvahs this past year.

Howard and I marked our 55th wedding anniversary this past September with a quiet dinner for just the two of us at our favorite neighborhood restaurant. As we reminisced that evening, we couldn’t help but remember our move to Altoona in 1956, where Howard had taken a job as Puritan Sportswear’s Director of Research and Development. We had been married less than two years, and I thought he said we were moving to Allentown, which is close to Philly. We rented a little farmhouse in rural Hollidaysburg, and I was so homesick. But little by little, we became acquainted with the area and eventually became involved in the community. People welcomed us into their homes and their lives, and we made many enduring treasured friendships.

We loved the beautiful countryside that surrounds Altoona, the absence of traffic jams, and seeing familiar faces wherever we went. We loved knowing every member of our Jewish community and feeling connected to them by some dynamic invisible thread. That was truly a blessing, and I hope that, though fewer in numbers than it was in 1956, the Altoona-area Jewish community will always be able to impart that sense of solidarity and oneness. I truly believe that uniting both congregations will ensure that possibility.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to reflect on the past and to share some of what’s happening now. I think the Federation’s website is remarkable and I often send a link to people who never heard of Altoona and tend to mock even the name. I want them to see what a great Jewish community resides in Altoona, what beautiful people they are, and how full and exciting their lives are.

Best wishes,

Bernice

           
  Past Member Q&A's