The JCC’s upcoming July 4 Reunion Weekend will evoke memories of the JCC’s early days by bringing friends together, strengthening existing bonds, and helping to create new ones as part of its 100-year anniversary celebration. Looking back 50 years, the weekend promises to reunite former teen club and BBYO members and advisors, former campers and camp counselors, and of course, former bowlers who remember the lanes and leagues of yesteryear.
One highlight of the July 4 Reunion Weekend is the Bowling Tournament at Holiday Lanes located at 4589 East Broad Street, on Sunday, July 7. Reuniting former bowlers, refreshing members’ memories of the lanes, and fun and friendly competition are all on the tournament’s schedule. From 9 am to 12 noon, the entire community is invited to come reminisce and reconnect while knocking down some pins and swapping stories about the old bowling lanes. Of course, participants are welcome to have a nosh, too. A Kosher breakfast will be served, and prizes will be awarded to the top performers.
The tournament will hearken back to a golden era of the Jewish Center. The Center’s newest expansion project, now coming to completion, might also remind members of their years spent hanging out with friends around a game of ten-pins. Prior to the current building, the former Jewish Center that opened in 1949 was a community gathering place. It was where friends would meet to swim in the two outdoor pools, teens would congregate for teen clubs like Pegasus or, later, for BBYO conventions, Little Leaguers would pop fly balls in the air, and, of course, members of all ages would enjoy hitting strikes and spares in the bowling lanes, whose popularity peaked in the mid-1950s to early 1970s.
The bowling lanes are at the top of list when members recall those early years. Nearly everyone who went to the old Jewish Center remembers them, and many say their fondest memories are of the lanes and of the iconic figure of its former manager, the late Carl Berman. Beginning in 1955, Carl managed the lanes for more than 20 years, and for his son, Ron Berman, the lanes were more than memorable. Ron spent his formative years at the lanes, making friendships that have lasted a lifetime. He continued bowling long into adulthood, as a member of the I.M. Harris B’Nai Brith men’s bowling league.
“The bowling lanes were a hang out place, a place where you could talk and solve the problems of the world, you know— talk about the things that teenagers talk about,” Ron reminisced about the years he would come to the JCC and spend the whole day near his dad in the bowling lanes, knocking down pins, helping out, and sometimes, even being knocked down by those same pins! “Like the pin-boys and pinsetters back then, I used to help out with setting the pins back up; you know, there’s nothing better than setting pins and having a bowling pin come up and hit you in the shin,” Ron joked.
Ron fondly remembers his dad as one of the Jewish Center’s pillars. “He fit right in. My father was proud to be a part of the social, cultural fabric of the JCC. Judaism has survived the last hundred years or so because of the social aspects of it, and my father was proud to be a part of that. He was very close to the JCC. The most important thing in his life was his family, and the JCC was like an extended family for him,” Ron recalled.
Not only did Carl Berman manage the Center’s bowling lanes, he also helped promote them, writing weekly publicity pieces which he submitted to the OJC and other local publications. “I remember running over to the Ohio Jewish Chronicle Sunday nights to drop off his articles before their deadline. The leagues would play on Sundays—they still do to this day—and he would report the results of the games every Sunday night, which came out in the following Saturday’s edition of the OJC.”
Don Zauderer, a former JCC member and avid bowler who now resides in Bethesda, Maryland, also remembers Carl Berman as an iconic folk figure in the Jewish community of the 1950s and 1960s. “He was an interesting guy who was always around to discuss the topics of the day with and get advice from. He was a genuinely nice guy, almost like a teacher to us kids at the lanes,” recalled Zauderer. “Carl made the JCC a welcoming place. We felt comfortable there because of him; he was a great steward for the JCC and he made that world hospitable and friendly for us.”
Zauderer grew up on the South side of Columbus, and without the Jewish Center, he doesn’t think he would have had nearly the connection to fellow Jews or nearly the number of Jewish friendships that he had then, and continues to maintain to this day. A friend first introduced Zauderer to the bowling lanes at 10 years old. “Fred Luper, Al Friedman, Allen Weinberg, these were some of my best friends growing up. And I met them all through my connection to the Jewish Center and the bowling lanes. So the Center is very important to me, and the lanes were, for me, a nice gathering place to enjoy each other’s company. There was a spirit of community there that is hard to find.”
“The JCC opened up a whole world to me of relationships and interesting people,” Zauderer reflected. He hopes to return to Columbus for the JCC’s July 4th Reunion Weekend and the Bowling Tournament on July 7th. Of belonging to the JCC, Zauderer said, “It absolutely reinforced my commitment to the Jewish people. And our special culture, traditions, and values were all strengthened and reinforced for me by my involvement in the Center.”
Joel Schwartz learned to bowl at the Jewish Center when he was a young boy and his mother, a bowler on the JCC’s traveling women’s bowling team, taught him. He has vivid memories of Berman and the bowling lanes. “Carl ran the place. He was just the nicest guy. He would do anything for you, just a great guy. Carl knew my grandfather, my mom, I mean, he knew everybody,” Schwartz said. “I bowled in the league here in fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. When we bowled, we usually came to the Center. It cost forty cents to bowl a game back then. I vividly remember the candy and food machines they had in there—a dime bought you the best ice cream sandwich! And every time we used to bowl, we always got an ice cream sandwich afterwards. It was a great place.”
For the past five years, Schwartz, a local attorney, has also presided as Treasurer of the I.M. Harris B’nai Brith Bowling League. Years after his youthful days hanging out in the Center’s bowling lanes, he ran into some friends he had played with in his elementary and junior high years. They encouraged him to join the B’Nai Brith league. “I’ve been doing that for 30 years now,” Schwartz said. “The JCC’s new J-Zone and all that kind of stuff is nice; this will build memories for the kids. This will do for the next generation what the bowling alley did for mine. The same kind of memories I have of the bowling alley and stuff, this will be what the kids remember. So they’ll keep coming back.”