For Rosita Kaplin, the Jewish Community Center is a special place. It is the place where she met her husband, when it was called the YMHA and located on Second Street. “We used to play ping pong,” she said.
Today, Kaplin is an active senior who not only enjoys many of the programs the JCC offers, but she volunteers to help ensure others have great experiences in the Senior Adult Program. In fact, she is such a great volunteer that she has been chosen as the 2015 Elsie P. Judah Award winner.
While she has been coming to the JCC throughout her adult life, about five years ago, while her husband, Phil “Pinky” Kaplin, z”l, was on dialysis, she explained, the couple began coming to the Senior Adult Program for lunch three days a week. “Since then,” Kaplin said, “I’ve been coming regularly.”
Kaplin’s parents were from Russia, but she was born in Cuba. “My mother and her younger sister were standing in line to get passports to the United States,” she said. “The line was very long, so they decided to go shopping. By they time they got back, the quota had been met and their only choices were Cuba or Mexico. They decided Cuba was closer to the United States.”
Her father died in Cuba when Kaplin was just 13. Since the rest of the family was now in the U.S., the part of the family that was in Cuba kept trying to come to this country. Finally, in 1944, they arrived in Louisville. “I couldn’t speak English,” she said. In Cuba she had attended a Jewish school where she spoke Spanish, Yiddish and Hebrew.
A teenager when she arrived, she was enrolled in Louisville Girls High. “I didn’t want to be different,” she continued, “so I listened to TV” to help develop her language skills.
The family joined Anshei Sfard and became very active members. When it was time to get married, Rabbi Solomon Roodman conducted the ceremony; and their children attended Sunday School there.
The Kaplin family was active at the JCC, too. Their daughter, Jackie (now Posnansky), was a member of the teen club Modern Fems, and their son, Cary, was in Mu Sigma.
Kaplin said, “I used to do aerobics here, but I was getting older and they were getting younger,” and she could no longer keep up. So she started coming to the seniors exercise classes and enjoyed the slower pace. Today she continues to exercise here and even teaches the chair exercise class.
She also enjoys needlework. “I used to do sewing and embroidery,” she noted. “Now, I’m taking a beading class here with the seniors.”
Participating in the Senior Adult program also gives Kaplin the opportunity to travel. In Washington, D.C., she and her friends had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Capitol building, the Smithsonian Museum and the Vietnam Museum.
The group also visited the JCC in Cincinnati and made trips to Frankfort, Nashville and Atlanta. “I also saw the Israeli Symphony Orchestra,” she added. “I would not have gone on all these trips it if wasn’t for Diane [Sadle], Slava [Nelson] and Natalie [Kusyo]. They go out of their way to do things with us and they are wonderful.”
In addition to leading the chair exercise, Kaplin is a member of the Senior Adult Committee and she helps set the table for the daily senior adult congregate lunch.
Volunteering has been an important part of her life. Kaplin tutored Eliahu Academy students in reading and arithmetic when the school was located on Bardstown Road. She also worked with four-year-olds at the Keneseth Israel Preschool.
In the general community, she volunteered with Jefferson County Public School’s Teenage Parent Program (TAPP). “It was very interesting,” she said. The girls go to school and earn their high school diplomas while their babies are cared for nearby. When they graduate, some of them go on to college.
Today, Kaplin’s family includes her children and their spouses, Jackie and Mark Posnansky and Cary and Laurie Kaplin; six grandchildren, Nikki and Ted King, Dr. Brian and Becca Posnansky, Ben Kaplin and Nathan Kaplin; and two great-grandchildren, Lilly King and Seth Posnansky.
The Judah Award will be presented at the Jewish Community of Louisville Annual Meeting, Sunday, June 14, at 9:30 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center. The community is invited.