“Don’t Knock Yourself Down”: Lions Gate Centenarians Share Secrets to Longevity
Minnie Kaufman just turned 103.
Born in Poland during the Spanish flu pandemic, Kaufman told The Voice that the key to a meaningful life is asking lots of questions. “I learned a long time ago that there are no stupid questions,” she laughs.
In honor of Kaufman’s remarkable life, Lions Gate in Voorhees inducted her and 11 other centenarian residents into the Lions Gate 100 club on April 12. Each received a bouquet of flowers and special proclamations created by New Jersey General Assembly members Pamela R. Lampitt and Louis D. Greenwald and State Senator James Beach. They were introduced by Mayor of Voorhees Michael Mignogna and Deputy Mayor Jason Ravitz.
“It’s a special day here at Voorhees,” said Mignogna. “A recent survey showed that there are approximately 1,700 New Jersey residents over the age of 100 and 1% of them live here in Lions Gate. I think it has to do with the treatment, care and love they receive here.
Growing up, Kaufman was no stranger to anti-Semitism. She remembers when a kind neighbor defiantly blamed her for Jesus’ death. She remembers, like it was yesterday, when five of her cousins who worked in her uncle’s mill were captured and killed by a then fledgling Nazi party. “Such cruelty,” she muttered. “Such cruelty.”
At age seven, Kaufman fled with her family to New York. She worked as a controller for a paint manufacturing company. For three years she lived in Lions Gate, where she writes poetry, makes quilts, bubble wrap art, and enjoys various art class offerings. “You have to look in the mirror and love that person you see. You have to be good to yourself. Don’t fall over.
Izydor Einziger also recently celebrated his 103rd birthday. The Holocaust survivor was born in 1919 in Mytarka, a shtetl in Poland, which was repeatedly beset by pogrom attacks. He said his parents were thus forced to leave, even when his mother was pregnant with him. “Maybe it conditioned me to run away many years later,” Einziger added with a smile.
For the next 30 years, Einziger was indeed on the run. From German-occupied Krakow to a safe house in Russian-occupied eastern Poland, he remembers the sounds of planes with swastikas flying overhead dropping bombs on the city. “I looked out the window and started screaming.”
After failing to escape several times, he was deported to a forced labor camp. “It was a miracle that we were saved,” he said. In 1948, after losing his parents, sister and niece, he finally arrived here in New Jersey, where he owned a children’s clothing store. Now he is surrounded by a loving family, including three great-grandchildren. He said having strong genes and making friends are the keys to longevity. “Don’t make enemies. It makes life much easier.
Claire Heller, 102, was born in Chicago. She thinks good nutrition and luck are important. “If only I knew. I don’t know. For a long time, my dad was into health concoctions. We never drank soda.
A professional singer, Heller sang at the opera and at several Windy City music clubs before arriving in New Jersey nine years ago. Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” remains her favorite opera and she loves listening to orchestral music on the radio. Four months ago she unfortunately caught Covid and was bedridden for about a week, although she never doubted she would pull through. “It took me a while to come back, but it wasn’t so bad. I am here.”