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On Older Woman's Take on the Aging Process

November 17, 2005 By:
Jared Shelly, JE Feature
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Norma U. Levitt
Throughout her long life, Norma U. Levitt always adhered to the principles of fostering Jewish life and fighting for women's equality. As she's grown older, however, she's learned that it's necessary to refine life's philosophies.

"I always had the same concerns, but I learned more about them," said Levitt, who's in her 80s. "As you go along, you get more knowledgeable about issues."

Levitt spoke to a group of about 35 students and faculty at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College during a Nov. 7 interview-style session with Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, director of Hiddur, the Center for Aging and Judaism at RRC.

Levitt told the group that her mind is still active and she maintains an activist spirit, but she must now deal with certain physical limitations.

"That's the most difficult part - physical difficulties," said Levitt, who's now forced to use a walker due to a recent injury.

Friedman said that Hiddur brought Levitt to the rabbinical college so students could learn what it's like to live for more than 80 years.

"Part of Hiddur's effort is to give voice to the wisdom of elders," explained Friedman.

Levitt specifically spoke about being a representative of the United Nations Non-Government Organization Committee on Aging, her service as president of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods and her work representing Jews during interfaith programs.

"I became so at ease with an inter-religious atmosphere," said Levitt, that "I became more aware and conscious of my Judaism."

Levitt also discussed how her views on God have changed over the years: "[God is] a companion. God is always there. I was much more doubtful early [in life], but that's natural and normal."

Levitt still holds the title of honorary president of Women of Reform Judaism, and she remains active in Judaism at her retirement community in Monroe Township, N.J., where she helped start Shabbat and Jewish-holiday services for residents.

Said the octogenarian: "I try to be part of - and strengthen -Jewish life, wherever I am."

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