This article originally appeared in The New Standard a Columbus, Ohio, paper. I feel it’s worth revisiting.
How many people can say they’ve been friends for sixty-five plus years. Five women in Columbus can say that because that’s how long they’ve been meeting at each others homes. They call themselves “the girls,” although some of them have adult grandchildren and are great-grandmothers.
The girls started in the early 40‘s but nobody is sure of the exact date. Back then, they were young women who had met at school, and Junior Hadassah. Hadassah is the organization that raises money for hospitals in Israel, and is an important part of the Jewish community today.
The original girls were: Florlyn Rinkov Freedman,Ida Wolpert Gordon, Ruth Mathless Stern, Ruth Berliner Stone, and Fanny Shenker Tobias. Original members who are not longer living are: Miriam Carlstein Goodman, Joan Mathless Hattenback , and Terry Feldman.
The group have been mainstays in one another’s lives, and is like a close family. It’s fun to watch them interact with each other. These women, ranging in age from late 70’s to late 80’s, light up when they come together. You can see he group dynamics at work, and can imagine them as young women in Hadassah going to different events together.
We met to discuss their lives together, the Jewish community they knew as young women, and what their friendship has meant to them.The women I spoke to were Florilyn, Ida, Ruth Berliner Stone, and Ruther Mathless Stern.
These women are not typical little old ladies.” They all have strong, engaging personalities. Florlyn is the most outspoken, Ida and Ruth Stone have definite opinions, and Ruth Stern is a good listener and only talks when she has something to say. Everyone was stylishly dressed, and still attractive.
It is remarkable that they’ve stayed in contact for so many decades. They’ve lived through many life cycles together —young adulthood, marriage, raising children and loss of loved ones. They have been a great support to each other.
The New Standard: How did you all get together?
Ida: We started meeting in about 1945. We were an offshoot of Hadassah. We started meeting in the evening, just to socialize. It was a way of getting out and about. None of us were card players, so we decided just to talk and have a snack together.
Ruth Stone: We really liked each other. We were all single and independent at the time. Everyone did eventually get married. Some of us moved away and came back. I lived in San Diego for two years, and meeting with the girls was something I really missed.
Florlyn I left Columbus in 1946 to go to the Pentagon to work for the Defense Department. I came home, and ended my 38 year career in Columbus, and helped raise a younger brother. I was a career gal, and didn’t get married until I was 40. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a rebel. I love meeting with the group.
Ida:I missed the group when my husband and I were living as snowbirds in Florida. We lived there for 18 years. I came back to Columbus for a short while, and now live in Cleveland. My husband and I owned Gordon Jewelers together when we lived in Columbus.
Ruth Stone: We talk to Ida on the phone when we meet. We’ve been meeting every other Monday or Tuesday for 65 years.
The New Standard: What was the Columbus Jewish Community like when you were growing up?
Florlyn: I imagine there were about 10,000 to 15,000 people. The Jewish population was all centered in the Southeast and most of us went to South and East High schools. We had a lot more butchers at the time. I remember when my mother bought live chickens. She had to take it to the kosher slaughterer.
All reminiscing: There was Martins, Mendleman, Briar Center, Bornsteins and Heps. A good deli was Krolls.
Ruth Stone: Our parents kept kosher, and we attended shul on Friday nights.
Florlyn: In my family, we rode on Shabbos. We weren’t allowed to go out with non-Jewish guys in those days. I remember when we went to my uncle’s on Passover, and didn’t come home until it was very late.
The New Standard: What are some of the best times you’ve had together?
Ruth Stone: We went to Hadassah conventions together. One time we went to Louisville for “Kentucky Derby Day.” We had a terrific time. There were soliders that came over from Fort Knox. We went to a dance with them that night.
Florlyn: It was 1949. I was the only one who had a car. We met other Hadassah people. I remember a regional we went to in Pittsburgh. It was so much fun.
The New Standard: How have you helped each other through losses?
Ruth Stone: We’re good friends. We maintained our friendship through all these decades. Knowing hou have friends that have been through a lot of the same things is comforting.
Florlyn: It’s kind of a support. We get together every couple of weeks. It’s good to get out and see people who have been through our history.
Ruth Stern: It’s a good habit.
The New Standard: Is Judaism still as important to you as it was when you were growing up?
Florlyn: It gives me an inner feeling.
Ruth Stone: It’s a comfortable way of life
Ruth Stern: I enjoy the Sabbath Service
All of them still light Sabbath candles.
The New Standard: All of you are very vibrant women, even today. What do you attribute that to?
Ruth Stone: I am definitely an optimistic person. I don’t want to dwell on bad things.
Ruth Stern: I bowl, keep busy, go to a book club, and don’t watch daytime TV.
Ida: Getting out and trying new things is important. I didn’t know I was good at art until I took an art class, and now some of my art is being displayed at an art show.
Florlyn: We are a good support system for each other. Good attitude is the most important thing. I exercised and I still want to do it. I know I can overcome obstacles one way or the other. Getting out and meeting people is important, even if it’s the same people! Each day that is behind you can’t be relived. The future has to be better.
*Ruth Stern passed away this year.
To read more of my articles, go to http:// http://www.thenewstandardonline.com. I’ve written in each edition. Just hit the archive button, and you will find them.