Norbert Buchholz celebrated his 100th birthday surrounded by family, friends and staff at Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) Congregate Dining Facility at the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center.
He goes there every weekday to participate in JCS’ Congregate Dining Program, which provides him with not only a nutritious kosher lunch but an afternoon of activities and socialization that enhance his quality of life.
As his daughter-in-law Audrey Buchholz puts it, “He went for the food and stayed for the congeniality.” Norbert’s son David is convinced that his father made it to his 100th birthday because of this JCS program. “The fact that he has a reason to get up in the morning and go to a place where there is entertainment and camaraderie has filled his life and made him very happy,” he explains.
Norbert has had a fascinating life. Born in a small Polish town which is now part of Ukraine, he had a long and successful career as a professional puppeteer. An interview four years ago related that forty puppets sit on shelves at Norbert’s apartment in Aventura, a veritable gallery of American pop culture and world history. There are Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Durante and Jerry Lewis puppets. For Norbert, life has blended into art — and vice versa. His career in puppetry began as a part-time hobby in Brooklyn and peaked with performances on television shows in the 1950s and ‘60s.
After retiring to Aventura 12 years ago, Norbert found himself with too much time on his hands, leaving him feeling lonely and isolated. As Ela Goldfarb, JCS Vice President of Senior Adult Services, notes, “Discovering the JCS Congregate Dining Program was a life saver for this remarkable and talented centenarian.”