Golden Slipper Stays Active This Summer


Photo courtesy of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
In 1922, a group of Jewish Masons gathered regularly to socialize and play cards. They’d divide up their winnings and distribute them to families in need of money for food, coal and other essentials. These selfless acts of kindness are the roots and the inspiration of Golden Slipper Club & Charities, now nearly 600 members strong.

The tradition continues to this day.

Golden Slipper continually finds ways to serve young and old. Operated almost exclusively by members and volunteers, Golden Slipper Club takes pride in serving the Greater Philadelphia region. Today, the organization maintains and grows an unmatched summer camp for children, a college scholarship fund for deserving students, a welcoming center for older adults and many other initiatives — all of which were deeply impacted
by COVID-19.

“We will be ready to go back to in-person events and programs as soon as it’s safe,” Golden Slipper board Chair David A. Simon said. “But we are active right now. And we will continue our robust online and virtual programming that reaches people across our communities.”

Summer is camp season and, for the first time in its 72-year history, Golden Slipper Camp is unable to host campers and staff. But the camp’s director, Uncle Justin, was determined to keep campers engaged in the “Slipper Spirit.” Staff created a month-long virtual calendar for campers to engage in programming, such as virtual get-togethers, Mitzvah Mondays, talent shows and the end of year closing ceremonies.

“Most camps are shut down,” Simon said, noting that camps that did open in other parts of the country were devastated by COVID-19 outbreaks. “It was a difficult and tough decision to make but it was the right one. And the feedback has been very positive.”

The camp offered families their deposits back or the option to roll them into next year and, with more than 100 campers already enrolled for next summer, the staff has a positive outlook for the future.

Another area of retooling was its in-person programs, Golden Slipper Gems, which traditionally offers everything from recreational activities, such as games and entertainment, to courses that explore popular topics in depth and introduce older adults to new areas of learning and experience. Gems programs and services are tailored to each of their locations to meet the specific needs of that community.

Programs take place at Adath Israel on the Main Line, at Shir Ami in Bucks County and at Federation Housing locations. Golden Slipper had already explored the idea of meeting its members where they were and had started the year with a new pilot program that took all in-person programming at both the Bucks and Main Line locations and putting them online under one banner. The program started out strong, but then in March they had to move fully online.

“The staff didn’t miss a beat; they just jumped right in,” Simon explained. “But moving everything to Zoom, including our lecture series, was our main concern. The average age of our members is 80 and only half of them use email or are online at all, so we were concerned that Zoom classes might not work. But we could not have been more wrong.”

Simon noted that attendance has been extremely high for each session, and that the audience is extending beyond the Greater Philadelphia community, with people from Texas and Arizona signing on.

“We’ve been humbled to learn how much our members depend on these programs for their mental health and general well-being,” Simon noted. “We start the classes early so people can chat and check in with one another. People are always smiling and happy and waving, it’s wonderful to see.”

The members of Golden Slipper Club & Charities are proud to see these programs thrive and flourish even under such difficult conditions, including the Passover League, which runs 23 seders across the Delaware Valley and this year held one very big and successful virtual seder. And on the club level, virtual board meetings have been updated to include Q&A sessions with local business leaders and media personalities have also proved popular. Many of the club’s board members are retired and live in Florida, and the virtual format allows more of them to engage and interact with their peers.

For Simon, seeing the entire Golden Slipper community finding new ways to sustain and thrive is very revealing.

“Seeing how successful we’ve been leads me to believe that once we go back up and running we will, to some degree, continue to offer some type of video components,” he said. “Especially if people can’t be there. We always host the largest seder in the region — in 2019 we had 400 older adults in attendance. But by offering a virtual component, we can still offer a space for older adults who can’t make it to the seder but should still be able to be there.”

For now, Golden Slipper is focused on trying to keep doing things for its members that will remain relevant. Simon credits support from the greater community and from the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia as a critical component for its success.

“We are doing a good job,” he said. “We are thankful we are able to keep our community involved, we look forward to continuing to serve our community and we will take the best of both worlds going forward — in person and virtual.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here