‘Matriarch of the Meal Site’ celebrates 90th birthday


CRANSTON – At 90, Tillie Orleck is sharp and spry. She still drives, and seems to know everyone at the Providence and Cranston Kosher senior meal sites, where her “near-perfect attendance” and Friday candle-lighting responsibilities have earned her the title of “Matriarch of the Meal Site.” Orleck speaks proudly of her family and memories of Rhode Island, and her face lights up when she speaks about her 21-month-old great-grandson.

On Feb. 15, the senior meal site at Temple Sinai hosted a surprise party to celebrate Orleck’s 90th birthday. The event was organized by Orleck’s friend, Gary Levin, who explained that  Orleck’s “Matriarch” title is well-deserved, as nearly 50 people were in attendance to share the occasion. The assembly enjoyed a kiddush and mishabeirach from Sinai’s Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser, followed by a brisket lunch.

The lunch was attended by Rhode Island Lt. Gov. Daniel McKee, who presented Orleck with a birthday proclamation. Levin presented additional proclamations from Gov. Raimondo, Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, and Rep. James Langevin. Orleck’s sons Ralph and Gary made a surprise appearance, as did Orleck’s brother Norman and his wife, Cynthia.

Speaking to the crowd, Levin explained that Orleck has been a lifelong fan of the New York Yankees. He presented gifts sent by the team, including a photo of Orleck’s name displayed on the stadium’s scoreboard, as well as a Yankees-branded towel and blanket. The gifts even included a box of “Yankee hankies,” for Orleck to use when then the team loses. Orleck expressed gratitude for her friends’ efforts in putting together the party and for inviting her family to celebrate the simcha.

MICHAEL SCHEMAILLE (mschemaille@jewishallianceri.org)  writes for Jewish Rhode Island and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

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