By Sandy Eller
She may be listed on Wikipedia as the thirteenth-oldest verified supercentenarian in the world, but this week, Goldie Steinberg went by another title: Birthday Girl.
A resident at the Grandell Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Long Beach, Mrs. Steinberg is reportedly the oldest Jew in the world, the eighth-oldest person in the United States and the oldest resident of New York.
One of just 67 supercentenarians whose age has been verified by the Gerontology Research Group, Mrs. Steinberg is also one of twelve Grandell residents who have been privileged to celebrate their 100th birthday.
Mrs. Steinberg came to the United States at age 23, brought over from Kishinev by a wealthy uncle, along with her sisters Sara and Rose Karfunkel. Upon their arrival in America, the sisters changed their family name to Garfunkel, and Goldie, possibly the last survivor of the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, settled in Brooklyn.
She met her husband Philip, who also hailed from Kishinev, through the Kishinev Society, and the couple raised their two children at 6309 23rd Avenue in Bensonhurst. Philip Steinberg, who worked as a jeweler on Fulton Street, died in 1967.
Mrs. Steinberg lived in Bensonhurst for a total of 72 years, finally deciding to relocate to Grandell in 2004 so that she would not become a burden to her children.
“You never know if being in a heimishe nursing home, which is under strict rabbinical supervision and is 100 percent kosher, could have given her the zechus for her incredible arichusyamim,” Grandell administrator Moishe Heller said.
Mrs. Steinberg was in high spirits for her birthday, clad in a purple dress and a sweater she made for herself, adorned with a cameo. Mrs. Steinberg insisted on having her hair professionally done in honor of the momentous occasion. “A girl stays a girl even at 114,” joked Heller.
The three-hour bash featured music, blue-and-gold balloons, sushi, fruit platters, hors d’oeuvres, pink cupcakes, cookies, and several bottles of liquor, giving participants the opportunity to make a l’chaim in behalf of the the guest of honor.
A large white birthday cake adorned with pink and lavender flowers and a picture of Mrs. Steinberg took center stage, along with the birthday girl, who was seated on an elaborately upholstered white chair. The former seamstress, grandmother of four, and great-grandmother of seven was in high spirits, chatting happily with visitors and the many members of the media who were on hand to record the milestone event.
Among those in attendance were many of Mrs. Steinberg’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Also present were Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, past congressional candidate Bruce Blakeman, Councilwoman Eileen Goggin, Councilwoman Fran Adelson, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, with Senator Dean Skelos sending a proclamation honoring Mrs. Steinberg.
Youngsters from several schools including Torah Academy for Girls, Shulamith School for Girls, Yeshiva Ketana of Long Island, and Yeshiva University High School for Girls in Hollis came to Grandell to celebrate with Mrs. Steinberg.
A delegation of over a dozen girls from the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, weekly visitors who go to school just down the block from Grandell, were also present for the festivities, lining the walkway as the guest of honor was wheeled into the gala celebration, showering her with flower petals and singing both “Happy Birthday” and Yaakov Shwekey’s “Eishes Chayil.”
“The girls love visiting the residents,” said Mrs. Perel Rauch, a sixth- through eighth-grade teacher at HALB, who also heads the school’s Bikur Cholim Club. “They often visit Mrs. Steinberg and speak to her, and in amazement, they watch her keep busy with her knitting. They find it truly wondrous that Mrs. Steinberg is still such a capable person at her age.”
“We are thrilled to be able to celebrate yet another birthday with Mrs. Steinberg and her family and are happy that more of our students will be able to participate in such a momentous occasion,” added Mrs. Yael Axelrod, director of student life at HALB. (VosIzNeias.com)