Before the pandemic, L’Chaim Chaverut Clubhouse Northshore’s turnout was 50-70 people, and now as many as 200 folks can be seen at bimonthly events. Chairwoman Judy Winnik attributes Clubhouse’s growth to their good food, $5 admission fees, and a well-organized board, among other factors.
Clubhouse started in 2018 because many of the 8,000 elderly Jews in the Milwaukee area were eager to get out of their homes and connect, Winnik said.
Winnik considers social isolation a health crisis, and one that has infected the senior population. “Social engagement is as important as medication,” Winnik said.
Board members and volunteers Judy Winnik, Deedee Gelin, Deb Slater, Judy Halzman, Jordy Atinsky, Elayne Katz and Lori Kornblum are responsible for where Clubhouse is today, according to Winnik. Events typically take place at Congregation Shalom in Fox Point, though the Clubhouse is not a project of the synagogue.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the Clubhouse temporarily shut down from March 2020 to September 2021. Resuming L’Chaim Chaverut, a community of considerably Covid-vulnerable populations, Winnik and her fellow board members, she said, had to work meticulously to keep their community members safe. By requiring vaccination cards and masks when members weren’t eating, and minimizing how many people ate together, Clubhouse lowered the risk of COVID-19 spread.
Winnik took Covid guidelines very seriously, she emphasized. Four days before an event, Winnik found out that the guest band was not fully vaccinated. She canceled their performance.
These sorts of choices became a natural part of running the organization. At any given time, Winnik was weighing one health crisis over another: should she protect members from COVID-19 or protect them from another pandemic entirely— loneliness?
During a kickoff event on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, Winnik remembers seeing folks dragging six or seven chairs to tables that were supposed to be limited to four, for COVID-19 safety. Despite a slight increase in risk, Winnik found it heartwarming. “And I can’t express to you enough, what it felt like when these seniors came back in September of 2021… People were so happy to be in a room with other human beings.”
You can next join the Clubhouse on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at noon at Congregation Shalom in Fox Point. Simple Eats Milwaukee will cater and singer Jack V. Miuccio will perform. Registration is required seven days in advance.
If you can’t make it on July 12, register for Wednesday, July 27, at noon, where Tall Guy and a Grill will cater, and Dangerous Folk will play live music.
“I love doing every minute of it,” Winnik said, looking back on Clubhouse’s growing impact.
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L’Chaim Chaverut – “to life and friendship” – is a local social and events organization, a “Clubhouse” for seniors. More information: LchaimChaverut.org or call Judy Winnik at 414-882-1393.
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The Clubhouse’s “senior celebrity” speaker in 2021 was Jill Wine-Banks. The next senior celebrity speaker will be former U.S. Senator Al Franken, on Sept. 21, 2022. More details on a private Zoom event with him at Congregation Shalom are to follow.