By Jessica Endy
Walking around the KleinLife community center in Northeast Philadelphia with Jack Belitsky on a busy weekday morning is akin to walking around with a celebrity. Virtually everyone knows his name and greets him with a handshake or a hug.
This warmth is well-deserved. Jack, in turn, knows everyone’s name and something special about them. This isn’t surprising considering all the time he spends at KleinLife, a partner of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. He leads current events and book discussions there. He heads the Advisory Council. Jack is also a vital part of KleinLife’s RSVP program for volunteers 55 and older, as well as its weekly food packing and deliveries. “Jack is one of our super stars,” said Sue Aistrop, KleinLife’s director of community services. “He centralized the meal delivery program and helped grow it into what it is today. He’s an incredible, incredible person.”
At age 77, Jack does more than most people half his age in his quest to “give back.” In addition to his dedication to KleinLife, he is an invaluable volunteer for the Jewish Federation. He serves on the Board of Trustees, and is a fixture at Super Sunday and other important phone-a-thons. Jack also serves as the president of the Community Advisory Council of the Jewish Federation’s Northeast NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community), an innovative program that enables adults ages 60 and above to receive the support they need to live, and ideally thrive, in their Northeast Philadelphia homes while staying connected to the community.
Jack also serves on the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Advisory Council and was president of the Liberty Chapter of Magen David Adom. He’s also extremely involved in his Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood and his synagogue. All this after his 36 years of helping children as a teacher in the Neshaminy School District, as well as many years as a Hebrew school teacher.
“It’s my belief that we need to help others in whatever way we can,” said Jack. “I get such a great sense of satisfaction from helping others. I think it’s helping me more than the recipient.”
Jack’s dedication to creating a more caring community isn’t surprising. He grew up in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadelphia with a mother and grandmother who encouraged him and his siblings to help others. He still remembers walking around the neighborhood with his grandmother collecting money for Israel before it officially became a nation.
Despite Jack’s terrific energy and accomplishments, there are things that he can’t do. He doesn’t drive. He can no longer install and take out his air conditioners, winterize his home or flip his mattress — all things he needs help with to remain in his Northeast Philadelphia home where he has lived for the past 52 years. “These are all things I used to take for granted,” said Jack.
Thankfully, Jack can rely on the Jewish Federation’s Northeast NORC for help with all of this, and more. Jack benefits from transportation, spring cleaning, home maintenance and repairs and referrals to trusted contractors for larger projects. When Jack’s washing machine broke, the NORC helped get one for him. When Jack needed a cell phone, the NORC found him one.
“The NORC makes my life so much easier,” said Jack. “I know where I can turn for help. It’s such a relief.”
Thousands of older adults like Jack in Northeast Philadelphia want to remain living safely in their homes, but no longer have the ability or the resources — or both — to do so. The Northeast NORC is there for them, reducing their isolation through visits and calls, helping with chores like changing smoke detector batteries, providing transportation to food shopping and medical appointments, and making homes safer through upgrades like the installation of grab bars in the shower. Last year alone, the Northeast NORC provided 1,155 home modifications and repairs that enabled people to continue living safely and with dignity in their own homes.
In addition to the time Jack shares with the Northeast NORC and so many other community programs, he also generously supports the Jewish Federation, and has provided for the Jewish Federation in his will because, “The Jewish Federation provides for so many different agencies that help Jewish community members, including me. They do for me, and I do for them.”
This story continues the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s yearlong campaign highlighting how, together with caring partners, it leads the Jewish communities through giving, inclusion and tradition.
What does Giving mean at the Jewish Federation? It means serving vulnerable community members locally, in Israel and around the world. The Jewish Federation is committed to meeting the most basic needs of vulnerable community members of all ages. This includes delivering nutritional support, providing economic and emotional security, offering after-school programs for at-risk youth, enabling people living with disabilities to reach their full potential, and facilitating a wide array of services helping older adults to age safely and with dignity in their own homes.
Giving also means helping people to invest in the Jewish community in the way most meaningful to them. The Jewish Federation offers many vehicles for people to make a difference through their philanthropy, as well as through hands-on volunteering.
If you would like to partner with the Jewish Federation to address the communities’ most pressing needs, please go to jewishphilly.org/give.