From trains to the Palace, Montefiore day trips take off

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Seniors at the Montefiore Center have ridden a Napa Valley Wine Train, spent a day in Muir Woods and laughed at Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, thanks to grants from two anonymous donors.

The response to the outings has been "phenomenal," says Karen Crane, manager of Montefiore senior programs at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

"This season, what we're finding is people are hearing about [the trips] even before we get fliers on the stand."

A committee of 10 seniors plans the monthly trips, which have included a ride on the Roaring Camp Railroad in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an evening at A Traveling Jewish Theatre and tours of the Palace Hotel and Chinatown in San Francisco, and Filoli House and Gardens in Woodside.

"The grants have allowed us to subsidize the cost of going so they're very affordable," says Crane. "There's also the community aspect. I think it enhances people's enjoyment of the trip to go with friends, and I think some people come to meet new people."

JCC members are charged approximately half what it costs the center to provide lunch, van and admission.

The Christmas evening outing to Kung Pao Kosher Comedy was especially memorable for Crane.

"We had two tables right up front by the stage. The comedians engaged in conversation with several members of our group and it was hilarious. Lisa Geduldig, the coordinator, welcomed us as a group on the microphone in front of everyone. She had a prize for the oldest member of our group, who was 92 at the time."

Daytime events include lunch where much of the social action takes place, according to Crane.

"Food is always a popular aspect of the trip. We try to go to good restaurants. It's a time when people get to know each other and chat and relax. I think it fits in with a focus in Jewish tradition of sitting at the meal table together."

On a recent trip to tour San Francisco City Hall, 32 seniors met for lunch first at Max's Opera Cafe on Van Ness. Over hearty sandwiches, they spoke enthusiastically about the outings.

Harriet Kossoff, who chairs the travel committee, says they try to make sure the trips won't require too much walking and that the atmosphere is comfortable for new people.

"We're meeting nice people each time. We try to separate cliques so we can meet and welcome new members. I've met a lot of lovely people," says Kossoff, 78.

"We have a very broad spectrum of people participating as far as ethnicity, socioeconomics. They come for different reasons," says Harriett Ross, a seventy-something member of the travel committee. Many come to meet other seniors, she added.

"A great many people are widowed or divorced. They're by themselves."

Stanley Gendzel, who gives his age as "past 86," says the people on Montefiore trips are "friendly" and the "price is right."

Kossoff says she loves the trips and enjoys the planning that goes into them.

"It's nice to plan something and then go out and do it. It's a labor of love really."