Sam Lehrfeld celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday, the second time in two days. The New City resident actually reached the century mark on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Lehrfeld was honored on Monday at the JCC of Rockland in West Nyack, where he is a member. Lehrfeld works out three times a week — two of them with a personal trainer — and uses dumbbells, an overhead shoulder press and rowing machine. The retired clothing designer and manufacturer works with Fitness Manager Steve Smith, who prior to meeting Lehrfeld developed routines for seniors in their 60s and 70s.
“We’ve tried to do some things that help him with daily living,” said Smith. “When we work on something traditional, you see his competitive edge come out.”
“Exercise is the best medicine,” said Lehrfeld, who suffers only from arthritis and uses a walker.
Exercise has been a big part of his life.
“I started when I was 10 years old,” Lehrfeld said. “I was a member of Maccabiah.”
Indeed the competitive drive has been with Lehrfeld a long time. In the 1920s, he was active in track and field with Jewish sports organizations in his native Poland and tried out in 1932 and 1935 for the first and second Maccabiah Games in Palestine. He was selected as an alternate in 1932 and earned a spot on the team in 1935 but could not go for family reasons. Coincidentially, the JCC of Rockland is hosting the Maccabi Games in August of this year.
Lehrfeld married in early 1939 and fled east with some family members, including his nephew, Bernhard Storch, from the approaching Nazis. They wound up in part of Poland occupied by the Russians and were soon transported deeper into that country. Lehrfeld who was trained as a tailor was put in charge of a factory making coats for aviators and his nephew joined the Jewish Polish division of the Russian Army.
Once the war ended, they left Russia and returned to Poland. After learning of the deaths of many family members, they went to Germany and in 1947 obtained immigration papers for the United States. Lehrfeld owned a ladies’ custom clothing business in New York for many years before moving to Florida with his wife. Storch has served as head of the Jewish War Veterans for Rockland and Orange counties.
Daniel Lehrfeld said while his parents lived there, his father at age 70 joined an over 55-tennis league. He played in that league until he was 88 years old. Lehrfeld lives in New City with his daughter, Rita Reiss. Daniel and his wife Lynn also live in New City. When Daniel retired three years ago he began working out at the JCC and his father joined him. Now his father is a “regular,” evident from the many JCC members and staffers who wished him a Happy Birthday.
Lehrfeld has three surviving grandchildren, one died on 9/11 and one great granddaughter. When his family gathered for his 100th birthday party on Sunday, there were four generations of 110 members of the extended family.
His son described the event.
“It was more than a birthday party, (it was) a celebration of 100 years of life well spent.”