(Published Feb 22, 2021)
Having been a member for over 30 years, Cathy Kravitz is something of a JCC celebrity. As a daily lap swimmer who has also participated in dance aerobics and tennis programs, taught art to the kids in the Early Childhood Education program and even exhibited in the JCC’s art gallery, she has a finger in several JCC pies, so it came as no surprise when within the first minute of her walking into the building for this interview, another member called her name in greeting.
That friendliness is why Cathy has been a JCC member for so long. After moving to Indianapolis when her daughter was six months old, “we joined here and the Y, I spent a month figuring it out and the J was the winner,” she said.
Passover with Friends
Cathy’s friendships from the JCC have spilled over into other parts of her life as well. Her family has attended Passover seder dinners at fellow JCC member Lori Katz’s home for three decades, until COVID-19 made gatherings inadvisable. Every year, Cathy is in charge of bringing a few different kinds of charoset, a fruit and nut mixture that represents the mortar used by the Jewish slaves. A perennial favorite, Orange Wine Charoset, comes from another JCC member and friend, Cathy Mendelson. Find that recipe and a recipe for Persian Charoset at the end of this post!
“Everything’s My Favorite”
Cathy’s main vocation in life is art. She’s a painter, a potter, a printmaker and more, and she has cultivated groups of friends to work in each style with. “I have a painting group that I hang out with, a printing group that I hang out with, quilting buddies.” But don’t ask her to name a favorite piece. Her response: “Tons of them.” Cathy’s natural instinct is to enjoy things (she loves art because of the color and how much fun it is to create, after all), so it’s no wonder she loves all of her works equally.
Alongside art, one of Cathy’s other passions is books. She has been part of the same book club since moving to Indianapolis (“We’re still going strong; we do it via Zoom now”). As the book club originated in the Delaware Trails neighborhood across the street from the JCC, the 20 members often attend events at the JCC’s Ann Katz Festival of Books & Arts every fall. She has also written and illustrated several children’s books, and she has a large collection of cookbooks from all over the U.S. and the world. “We don’t travel as much anymore, so whenever I want to go somewhere I’ll just pull out one of my cookbooks. This week I’m going to Russia in my house. I was in Spain last week.”
And of course, Cathy adores having quality time with the people she loves most: her family. Along with her aforementioned daughter, Molly (who now lives in Boston and is married to Will with one two-year-old daughter, Bea, and another one on the way), Cathy also has a son, Ben (who is married to Robin and lives in Bloomington, IN), and she has been married to her husband Bob for 44 years (they also live with their loud and loving hound dog, Poppy).
Whether she’s creating art, reading, cooking, spending time with family or working out at the J, Cathy can always find something to keep herself busy. “I’m never bored. Never have nothing to do. Can’t imagine how anyone could ever be bored. People say, ‘When are you going to retire?’ I say, ‘Retire from what?’ I really like all the things I do. Everything’s my favorite.”
Cathy Mendelson’s Orange Wine Charoset
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup nuts
2 cups dried fruits (“I like mango and pineapple and other mixes”)
2 medium washed oranges, grated or processed
1/3 cup sweet wine
A little lemon juice and cinnamon to taste
Process all ingredients until chunky
12 dates, diced
1/2 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup raisins, plumped in warm water for 10 minutes
Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tablespoon wine
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt, pepper and cayenne to taste
Process until chunky
Passover commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and represents freedom for all people. Passover is celebrated for seven or eight days (depending on the branch of Judaism) starting on the night of a full moon in March or April, corresponding to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Nisan. Passover often overlaps with Easter.
Almost all American Jews observe Passover by participating in a ritual dinner (called a seder, pronounced SAY-der) on the first and/or second night of the holiday. Most American Jews avoid bread and grain products to one extent or another throughout this holiday, in memory of the fact that our ancestors left Egypt in a hurry and didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise.
Strictly observant Jews do not work, go to school or carry out any business on the first two and last two days of Passover (first one day and last one day for some branches).