Bea Gold’s first trip to Israel in 1967 was full of hope and fear.
The trip "was an amazing experience for both my husband, Leo, and me,” the 102-year-old recalled recently. “Landing in Tel Aviv awakened an emotional surge we were unprepared for and became the catalyst for our involvement in Jewish causes.”
Among the last group to leave Israel before the start of the Six-Day War, the Golds left certain “that our beautiful Israel would be destroyed.”
Living in New York then, the couple supported a number of philanthropic organizations. After that trip, they became involved in the United Jewish Appeal.
Now, turning 103 on Jan. 30 and living in Boca Raton, Bea Gold remembers her relief when she returned to Israel after that first trip.
“Each time we returned to Israel, we saw enormous growth and advancements,” she said. “The pride I felt in seeing that development was most heart-warming.”
A living Jewish history book
Gold, considered to be a “living history book” for the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, is one of the oldest living members of the Lion of Judah. This group of 18,000 women nationally give time and resources to increase social justice, aid vulnerable populations, preserve human dignity and build Jewish identity locally and globally.
In late January, the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Lions of Judah. Gold, who became a Lion in 1999, is one of more than 700 local women who are part of this sisterhood.
The Lions plan to greet each other at their first in-person event since the onset of the pandemic at their annual luncheon, which has been postponed from January to March 11 because of the ongoing COVID surge.
Bari Weiss will read from her book on antisemitism, as LOJ recognizes a milestone for Jewish women around the world.
“The years have been kind to me, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like without this wonderful group of caring, dedicated and motivated women, working together to make Jewish lives better here and throughout the world,” Gold said. “I’m most honored and proud to be counted among them, and I have certainly gained more than I have given.”
Shortly after moving to Boca Raton, Gold met Della Rosenberg, an activist and leader, who became her friend and mentor. One day, Rosenberg invited Gold to a Lion meeting at her home.
“She knew I wasn’t a Lion, but she pleaded with me to attend because of the anticipated small attendance,” Gold said. “Of course, I couldn’t say no. But in reality, it was all a ruse. My husband knew I wanted to be Lion for all of the wonderful work they do, and he arranged it all with Della. I happily became a Lion that day.”
Several years later, Gold attended the New York LOJ Convention with her daughter, Helaine, who had been a Lions of Judah Endowment National Chairwoman. At the caucus, Gold increased her donor level and also committed to giving to the Lions of Judah Endowment to fund programs and services in perpetuity.
A typical Jewish upbringing
She and her late husband, Leo, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary nine years ago. Now, Gold gets much of her inspiration from her family: two children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren
Gold grew up first on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York, and then in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
“I was always in a Jewish environment and accepted my Jewishness as part of who I was,” Gold said.
She married Leo and they started a family. When Helaine was 2 days old, Leo was deployed. He landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day. Bea and her daughter moved in with her mother, and upon Leo’s return home, they all lived together until her mother passed away.
She visited Israel five times over the past 20 years. Now a great-granddaughter, Maya, studies in Israel, and they speak often. Gold loves to hear stories from Maya about the beautiful landscape she misses.
Gold’s biggest regret is that she didn’t earn a college degree. “I didn’t continue my education, and that to me is such an important part of life,” she said.
Gold has a special plea to younger women who may be interested in helping the world around them:
“Join. Do it. Do it now. I did encourage several friends of mine to become Lions, and I’ve been an advocate for the endowment. To realize that my gift will continue to be relevant in perpetuity is awesome. That’s the importance of Tikkun Olam.”
She attributes her involvement with the LOJ for helping her stay “young at heart.” She also eats lots of fruit and green vegetables.
“Time does have a way of running away from you, but I feel young,” Gold said.
To learn more about the Lions of Judah at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, visit jewishboca.org/loj.
Established in 1979, the JFSPBC is made up of Jewish and social service organizations, synagogues and schools that provide services and programs to recipients in South Palm Beach County, in Israel and around the world.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Bea Gold, 102, of Boca Raton, is a long-time member of Lion of Judah