My earliest memories of the Concordia Club are of me as a little girl going to family dinners and parties, excited to know that upon entering the foyer I would be greeted with the warmth and safety of a place where the best of memories would be made.
With excitement, I always anticipated being among family, really good food; being treated with respect from the great staff and knowing I had the freedom to roam the glorious rooms and floors without fear.
Smothered in the comfort of dark commanding woodwork, plush carpets and window treatments, the black piano and glorious staircase, I felt at home there —there in an unassuming building like every other simple cream colored brick building on the Pitt/UPMC campus. Only this building had a quiet elegance with a grand mirrored staircase on which I dreamed of descending on my wedding day.
I felt at home among people I could trust, people I knew from the Jewish community, and caring staff with whom I felt eternally safe. And over the years, I would come to see these people grow old, grow up and one generation replacing the other before it; children and grandchildren being born, raised and married.
In the ’30s, my dear cousin Harold Goldstein became instrumental in every decision that affected the club from bringing Tom the dining room manager over from The Press Club to connecting the right contractor to the building’s maintenance issue. For over five decades he served as a support of its board and house committee. My Aunt Harriet and Cousin Margie have been members for over 50 years. I literally grew up with Concordia Club as part of our family album.
Like my brother before me, at age 11, I started dressing up every week, me in my best dress, best shoes, white ankle socks and the customary white gloves to go to Concordia Club’s second floor ballroom. This weekly routine went on for two years, so when I became a teenager, my parents expected me to have the knowledge and training of a well-mannered emerging adult who knew the proper way to greet a boy and act in social circumstances.
I learned to dance the fox trot at the club, and how to command the respect from my partner, should I ever find myself in a ballroom, dancing to a Bach minuet. What it really taught me was how to expect to be treated and how to treat others. The lessons built a healthy self-esteem, social awareness and respect for others.
As a mother, I dressed my two daughters up and put them together at the black piano, encouraging their tiny hands to the white keys with their little feet dangling from the seat. Many pages of our family photo album are adorned with pictures of my own children as little girls, and more recently as emerging teenagers celebrating their bat mitzvahs with our family and friends.
This year, on Rosh Hashana, was our last time together as a family at Concordia. My oldest daughter is in college and my youngest is about to graduate high school. Aunt Harriet is enjoying the best of her golden years and Cousin Margie is a grandmother.
We are four generations living with Concordia as our backdrop, cradling our circle of life through births, deaths, weddings, milestone birthdays, Jewish holidays, Thanksgivings, Mother’s and Father’s Days. And so it goes, our home away from home. It is a sad day for me as I say goodbye to a chapter well written and well remembered which will always remain dear to my heart and with many fond memories.
(Rochelle Sufrin lives in Highland Park.)