After a high-rolling romp at French Lick Casino with the JCC Senior Adult Program on Thursday, November 12, Rosita Kaplin felt tired and triumphant.
“It was great,” she said. “We gambled and I won 10 dollars and 60 cents on the slot machines, so that wasn’t bad.”
The visit to French Lick is one of several exhilarating journeys Kaplin, a longtime JCC member and volunteer, has taken with the senior program. She has also journeyed to Atlanta, Nashville, Frankfort, Cincinnati and Washington D.C.
But on an average day, Kaplin, 86, isn’t jet setting around the country. She’s volunteering, learning and working out at the JCC to keep herself social, fit and sharp.
“The JCC is like my second home,” Kaplin said. “I enjoy being there and I have made a lot of good friends.”
The community formally recognized Kaplin’s dedication to the JCC last June when she received the Elsie P. Judah Award
Four days a week, Kaplin arrives at the JCC a little before 9 a.m. and begins her routine. She starts by setting tables for senior lunch, and then participates in senior fitness classes including light weights and chair exercise. After her workout, she sits down to a tasty kosher lunch with friends.
“Garry’s a good cook,” she said of the JCC’s chef.
On some days, Kaplin tends to her creative side at a stimulating senior program class.
“On Tuesdays we have a beading class where we make jewelry,” Kaplin said. “I have made necklaces, earrings and bracelets.”
The staff members Kaplin interacts with enhance the time she spends at the JCC.
Kaplin is a big admirer of JCC Senior Adult Director Diane Sadle and Senior Adult Programming and Cultural Activities Director Slava Nelson.
The feeling is mutual.
“Rosita is a very dedicated and dependable volunteer, always willing to lend her support,” Sadle said.
Jewish Community Centers have been a source of support and strength for Kaplin since she relocated to the US from Havana, Cuba in 1944.
The daughter of Russian Jews who immigrated to Cuba, Kaplin moved to the United States with her mother shortly after the death of her father.
Kaplin was 15 at the time.
“I couldn’t speak English,” Kaplin recalled. “I spoke Yiddish and Spanish.”
When Kaplin and her mother disembarked from the plane that brought them from Havana to Key West, FL, and set foot on American soil for the first time, they discovered they already had friends in their new home country. “There was somebody there from the JCC there to take care of us and arrange a train trip from Key West to Louisville,” Kaplin remembered.
Kaplin’s aunt and uncle already lived in Louisville and sponsored her and her mother’s relocation. Kaplin has shared her family’s fascinating globe-spanning story with Jefferson County Public School’s Teenage Parent Program’s Women’s Oral History Quilt and Theatre Project.
“Once I was in Louisville, I wanted to be with Jewish people,” Kaplin said. She started going to the JCC, which was then located on Second Street and called the YMHA.
Kaplin met her husband Phil “Pinky” Kaplin at the YMHA. Pinky was his nickname because his given first name is Pinchas.
Phil worked in wholesale jewelry for a while and also had a collection agency. Rosita tutored Eliahu Academy students and also worked with four-year-olds at the Keneseth Israel Preschool.
The couple had two children: Jackie and Cary.
Phil passed away three years ago, but Kaplin is still surrounded by family. Cary, Jackie and Kaplin’s four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren all reside in Louisville.
Kaplin’s extended JCC family is also precious to her, and she wants it to keep growing. “I wish more Jewish people my age and younger would come and support us,” she said.
To help the JCC Senior program support Rosita and others like her, make a tax-deductible donation today by calling Lenae Price at 502-238-2768. For more information about the JCC’s senior programs, visit https://jewishlouisville.org/seniors or call 502- 238-2749.