Seniors at Creekside find much to discuss through news

The Jewish discussion group at San Pablo's Creekside Lodge for senior citizens is poring over a newspaper photo of a shoe stamping down on a glass.

The photo ran in the Jewish Bulletin's wedding supplement last January. While that particular issue also sported articles about Yasser Arafat and Palestin-ian unrest, it is the picture of the shoe that inspires the group of 12 women, all aged 80-plus, to open their regular discussion by swapping stories about weddings.

"I was married twice in one day," says 90-year-old Lee Seagel. She recounts how, following a simple civil ceremony, her mother insisted that Seagel and her brand-new husband undergo a "proper" wedding, with a rabbi.

"When my sister came home that day," Seagel muses, "my mother said, `What kind of sister are you? Your sister got married twice and you weren't at either of the weddings.'"

Tillie Helman, who estimates her age at "over 92," also got married twice to the same man, although Helman's two weddings were 50 years apart. And 96-year-old Anna Neubrunn has no bridal photos of herself, because she was the one who took all the pictures on her wedding day.

Every three weeks or so in a quiet lounge at Creekside Lodge, surrounded by shelves lined with Reader's Digest and large-print mystery novels, the Jewish Bulletin and other newspapers get a unique analysis as group members examine the news and relate it to their own lives.

"We like to talk about the cultural changes in the years since we've been around," says the lodge's programs and services director Ada Spanier, 75, who organized the group.

The Jewish Bulletin is especially helpful in building a sense of community among Creekside's Jewish residents, who comprise 30 percent of the lodge's total population. Although many of these Jewish residents are not religious, they do have Jewish memories, Spanier says.

Building a community here is a critical challenge since many residents came to Creekside Lodge from other parts of the country. Often they're in Northern California be-cause their children live nearby, Spanier says.

Resident Frances Weisser, who estimates her age at 83, says she would "rather be in New York City. But my son is intent on keeping me here."

As the meeting continues, the group examines a review of "Kindertrans-port," a play about a child who escapes Eastern Eur-ope in the late 1930s and is adopted by a British family. This in-spires group members to discuss Holocaust survivors they have known.

The discussion group began nearly three years ago as a Yiddish conversation circle, Spanier says. But soon the group discovered that not all Yiddish speakers speak the same Yiddish, and some of the members could not understand one another's dialects.

In addition, a few prospective members craved the group's sense of Jewish community but did not speak Yiddish themselves. So the group's focus changed.

Since this group has at its disposal more than a thousand years of combined life experience, the members' personal reflections on any one topic could go on for days. Spanier says the members would meet every week if they could.

"The loneliness of being older is one of the worst diseases," Spanier says. "A community is a cure for that."