Active retirement

Active retirement

Local synagogue starts group for Orthodox retirees

Some of the 19 TORA walkers gathered for a photograph. (Michael Karlin)
Some of the 19 TORA walkers gathered for a photograph. (Michael Karlin)

Retirement can be a very relaxing stage of life.

Unless, of course, you have a problem relaxing. After years of working, of having a set schedule, with every minute of the day planned out, you might find that you have the capacity to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what’s next. When you are blessed with good health, the next act in your life can be filled with family, travel, and many adventures.

But where do you begin?

Michael Karlin of Teaneck asked himself this question. He has been retired for about three years, after a 35-year career as an actuary and pension consultant for an employee benefits consulting firm in New York City. “Since retirement, I’ve been dabbling in several activities, such as consulting on social security maximization strategies, volunteer work for Orthodox non-profits, and survey taking,” he said. But he felt that he needed more options — and so did other retired community members.

“I’ve been mulling this over for a couple years already, mentioned it to several people who all thought it was a good idea,” Mr. Karlin said. And then he took action. “Finally, I decided to write an email introducing the formation of this group, seeking people to join the mailing list, and was bold enough to hit the send button.” Other retirees were happy that he did. That’s how TORA — the Teaneck Orthodox Retiree Association — was born. Non-Orthodox Jews are welcome as well, but all events will be run by Orthodox standards.

Mr. Karlin knows that Teaneck isn’t anything like Century Village in Boca Raton, Florida, “where the majority of residents are retired, and there are constant activities for almost any interests. It’s like a camp for seniors.” But he wants to develop programs like Century Village’s, on a smaller scale.

There’s not much available for seniors in Orthodox shuls in Teaneck, Mr. Karlin said. His own synagogue, Congregation Bnai Yeshurun, used to have what it called Chai Society, a group that offered (infrequent) events for seniors. “The Chai Society died from lack of leadership and attention about 3 years ago,” Mr. Karlin said. Just to the east of Teaneck, Englewood’s Congregation Ahavath Torah has a retiree group, Dor L’Dor, which runs events every month or two, “But there is nothing I am aware of in Teaneck,” Mr. Karlin said. “And as the number of older members and retirees increases in the community, it is a void.”

“One objective of TORA will be to list in one place the events that are already being held during the day at other shuls and are available for seniors,” he continued. “This would make it easier for retirees to discover what is already available, even without organizing new events.”

The group has been advertising through Teaneckshuls, on other community news sites, on the mailing list that was initially established, and using plain old-fashioned flyers. “So far, we’ve developed a mailing list of over 50 people,” Mr. Karlin said. But it’s hard to reach everyone, because each synagogue has its own internal newsletter and there isn’t one place that combines everything.

TORA’s inaugural event took place last week, and participants report that it was a great success. Nineteen people showed up to “Hike the Tourne”; Tourne County Park in Morris County includes a ridge offering a panoramic view of the New York skyline. It’s a walk that is appropriate for the hikers’ age range, and was selected for that reason. “I wanted to have a quick event just to get the group going, and a hike was easy, with little preparation work required,” Mr. Karlin said. It was led by Charles Selengut, a regular hiker from Bnai Yeshurun.

“We discovered that hiking is an excellent social activity,” Mr. Karlin continued. “With a group of 19 people walking within about 100 yards of each other, everyone tends to walk a while with one person or in a small group, then they might get separated and you walk with another person or group, and so on. By the end of the hike, most participants walked and conversed with several other people in the group.”

Jane Carr of Teaneck, a member of Bnai Yeshurun, joined TORA for the walk. “If the hike was any indication of this group’s future, it has great potential,” she said. She looks forward to TORA’s next activity, and she is confident that it will succeed. “It was wonderful catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, and meeting new people who are in a similar stage of life,” she added.

TORA hopes to have events every one to three months, and possibly also some type of regular activities, like game nights, once or twice a month. The next planned event is a lunch, with a speaker who will talk about mindfulness. It is planned for Thursday, August 3 — two days after Tisha B’Av — at Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield. “We might also try to run outings — to a museum, a sporting event, or a show — shiurim, and sport activities,” Mr. Karlin said. “The primary intent will be for socializing and sharing common interests with others.”

As for the future of TORA, it all depends on how enthusiastic participants will be. “The success of TORA depends on having a small group of people committed to planning and working on events, and also continually coming up with events that are of interest to retirees,” Mr. Karlin said. This is no easy feat, but he’s confident that it will happen.

If you are interested in joining TORA and being a part of the fun, feel free to email Michael Karlin at

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