The Jewish Community Center is celebrating 125 years in the community this year, and on March 29, members and guests celebrated with a party and birthday cake.
The event also honored beloved retired staff member, Annette Sagerman, with a tribute to her legacy including the final performance of CenterStage’s Fiddler on the Roof. Sagerman worked at the JCC for 65 years.
Before the show, Sara Wagner, senior vice-president and COO, spoke to the audience about the history of the JCC and its importance to the community. A birthday cake was wheeled into the auditorium and participants sang “Happy Birthday.”
After the show, the real festivities began.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg of Congregation Adath Jeshurun said that Sagerman, who was known to many as “Aunt” or “Auntie,” is a treasure to the Louisville JCC and the community.
“You are amazing and one of the wisest people I’ve ever met,” Slosberg said to Sagerman. “You are full of wisdom and depth and we all pray for your continued health.”
Slosberg then led the audience in the prayer Shehecheyanu, (a prayer said at special occasions).
John Leffert, CenterStage director, said that Sagerman was a mentor to him from the time she was membership director at the JCC. “People like Annette make the world a better place,” he said.
The cast of Fiddler came to the stage and sang “Sentimental Journey” by Les Brown, Ben Homer and Bud Green.
Wagner took the stage and said that Sagerman is the matriarch of the JCC. “As a kid, you couldn’t pass by her office without getting a Tootsie Roll and a hug,” she said. “She’s a surrogate mother, aunt, sister and mentor to a lot of people. Hers are large footsteps to follow.”
Wagner presented Sagerman with a Mayor’s Proclamation declaring March 29, 2015, as Annette Sagerman Day in Louisville.
Phyllis Green and Marcy Rosengarten presented Sagerman with a memory book, to which members and friends had contributed, and read some of the highlights for the audience.
They said that Sagerman “lives, loves and breathes the JCC.” And that she’s famous for the “Annette Scoop.” She was the editor of the JCC’s Centerpiece and wrote most speeches given by the JCC directors at the time.
The ladies of the Fiddler cast sang “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” by the Andrews sisters.
Wagner and Leffert presented Sagerman with a giant key to the JCC as a token of appreciation.
Frankye Gordon, development director, also shared some of her memories of Sagerman.
“Yeah, she was all those things, but I shared an office with her for many years and it wasn’t all peaches and cream!” she said with a laugh. “Most people don’t know this, but she didn’t intend to work here that long. After high school, she took a temporary job at the YMHA, but nobody ever told her that her temporary job had ended, so she just stayed.”
Gordon also mentioned that Sagerman was a grammarian and loved to argue about grammar. One of her favorites was that there may be many “options” but only one “alternative.”
Sagerman’s niece Jaye Bittner joined the tribute. “The love of her life was David Sagerman,” Bittner said. “And she said she’d never leave the JCC until she was carried out of here – and that’s what happened!” Bittner said she got a call at work that an ambulance had come to pick up Sagerman at the JCC, and in the background, she could hear Sagerman yelling, “I told you not to call her!”
Sagerman said she was thrilled with the party and tribute, and she said it was an impossible act to follow, and it was “a magnificent event! Thank you, and Frankye, your grammar was perfect!” she added.
The men of the Fiddler cast, along with Leffert, sang, “I’ll be seeing you,” by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.
The party moved the Patio Gallery for cake and a reception. Old friends lined up to say hello and get their pictures taken with Sagerman.