At 98 years old, Myrtle Levy continues to possess zeal for life while staying active and independent at Stein Assisted Living in Somerset.
When Meriana “Myrtle” Levy reflects on her 98 years, there is an undeniable sense of nostalgia and appreciation for all that life has offered her, as well as a legacy of contributions in Israel and the United States.
Upon being asked about the secret to a long, happy life, Levy, a resident at the Stein Assisted Living in Somerset, responded, “Be true to yourself. You have to have high standards.”
Instilling those standards in her at an early age were Levy’s parents, Charles and Sadie Charnes, whom she described as “a loving couple.”
“My father was a very smart man, and a socialist,” she said. “Sadie was a beautiful lady who was from Pinsk, Russia.”
She lived in Philadelphia from the time she was born in November 1916 and moved to Bayonne when she was six months old. Levy was the oldest of her siblings, which also included brothers Alan, Irving and George.
“Although my father was not a religious man, he did belong to a carpenter’s synagogue and instead of sending me to Hebrew School, he sent me to a Workmen’s Circle School where I learned about the history of the Jewish people and how they were treated throughout the centuries,” recalled Levy.
“I took that to heart and told myself that I would do all that I could to make the world a better place, not just in Israel, but everywhere that I could,” she said.
Her father was an avid fan of classical music and always reported current events to neighbors who would gather in mini parks nearby. Levy would play his favorite song, “Edelweiss Glide” on a piano that she received from a kindergarten friend whose father owned a music store during the Depression. She also recalled that her family enjoyed playing records on their Victrola.
Levy was a dedicated student, who always strove for A-plus grades and found English to be her favorite subject. She was at the top of her class consistently.
“My English teacher always encouraged us to be good people and to be the best we can be,” she said, adding that she additionally enjoyed being a Girl Scout.
Seven years after completing school and at the age of 25, Levy married her husband, Lawrence, who was an accountant. They had two children, Cheryl and Alisa.
Alisa, who resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, helped Levy settle in at Stein Assisted Living when she became a resident in August. Cheryl, who she describes as her “right-hand man,” does all of her mother’s shopping, sorts laundry and visits her every Friday from her home in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
“I am very fortunate to have my daughters. They have hearts of gold,” said Levy.
Levy took to heart the plight of the Jewish people and became determined to make a difference. For this reason, she became a volunteer for several programs in the United States and Israel.
During the summers from 1992 to 2009 in Israel, she worked for Sar-El, a volunteers-for-Israel program. Through the Sar-El organization she was able to do work in the country’s air force and army, assisting with medical supplies, communications, readiness, and tanks. She also volunteered at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.
After working at the tank base for one year, she earned a certificate for high motivation and excellence. She did various work for all of these duties at several different locations, such as examining and testing medical equipment, packing medics’ bags, and organizing office files.
Levy recalled making screws, which were made from the metal of damaged tanks. She also enjoyed working in the bakery during her service with the air force. She remembered going to a shed where airplanes were being repaired and daring herself to climb 20 steps to a ladder and holding on tight so that she could experience what it was like to sit inside of the plane.
“When I would see the planes overhead going toward Lebanon on my way to breakfast, I would look up and say, “G-d be with you, G-d be with you,” she recalled.
Levy’s volunteer work in the United States was equally remarkable. She served as a trustee of Temple Emanu-El in Bayonne, New Jersey and was a lifetime honorary board member of the Bayonne Jewish Community Center, co-chairperson of the JCC Sustaining Dinner in 2007, and President of the Jewish Community Council, as well as President of Junior and Senior Hadassah.
She chaired many of the Hadassah Donor Dinners, as well as functions for the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). She was the General Campaign Chair of Bayonne UJA for six years, and held many positions in Hadassah. She taught pre- confirmation class at Temple Emanu-El and led the women’s division of UJA for three years along with being the chairperson for the entire campaign of men and women for six years at the Bayonne UJA.
As the recipient of the silver medallion from the American Conference on Diversity, Levy was a member of Young Judea and raised the most funds for this organization, earning her the title of “Queen Esther.”
When she ponders this new chapter of life at Stein Assisted Living, Levy considers herself fortunate to have found a place where she thrives from participating in a bevy of activities such as bingo, book club, and art classes. Her mind is kept sharp and she is always challenged. She very much enjoys all the intellectual and spiritual activities that include, learning from guest speakers, going to synagogue, and supporting many of the rabbi’s discussions there.
“Personally,” she added, “I tried to live every day the way G-d would want me to live. Follow the 10 Commandments as much as you can. I know life is not easy and that there are many complications. But, in all that you do, always give it your best,” she said.
The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living is comprised of Stein Assisted Living and the Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport, Wilf At Home, and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, contact us at (732) 568-1155, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.wilfcampus.org