By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – When Harry Getzov speaks at Temple Beth El next month as part of Literatour, the Jewish Book Festival of the Springfield Jewish Community Center, it will be a homecoming for the author.
Born in Springfield in 1957, he was raised in the area and his family attended Temple Beth El, where he was bar mitzvahed and where his parents, Ethel and the late Ramon ( a past Temple Beth El president) were longtime members.
Getzov will speak about his book, “gOld: The Extraordinary Side of Aging Revealed Through Inspiring Conversation” on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at noon at Beth El.
Getzov says that his was a musical family — his father was a songwriter who penned tunes for Frank Sinatra among others). Getzov went to Boston University and Emory University Law School, becoming an entertainment lawyer and artist manager for the comedy team, The Jerky Boys.”
At one point a few years ago, after going through a divorce, he said he began looking for something new to inspire him.
“I had always volunteered with seniors for as long as I can remember at some level, so I tried to at that point marry my love of the law with my love of seniors and tried my hand at estate planning and elderlaw, and I hated it. Navigating the tax code literally hurt my brain,’ he laughed.
But while working in elderlaw, he began meeting older people with fascinating stories about their lives. One day while he was running an estate planning seminar, he heard the story of a man who was at the invasion of Normandy.
“In a half an hour there were 50 people around this table listening to his stories and I had an ‘aha’ moment,” Getzov said. “I said I don’t want to count these peoples’ money and do wills and trusts, I want to hear their stories.”
In the early 90s, he began informally interviewing seniors in New York where he was living, then the interviews became more formal and he began traveling around the country to talk to hundreds of seniors from all walks of life.
He founded Eldercation: Tapping into our Greatest Undiscovered Natural Resource, a website project featuring the stories of the 1,600 individuals over the age of 70 that he has met and interviewed over the years.
“The mission of Eldercation is to inspire people to engage seniors in a more consistent basis and a more meaningful way,” he said.
Last year, he put the information he gleaned from his many interviews with seniors into his book “gOld,” including one chapter on Cantor Morton Shames, the cantor emeritus of Temple Beth El.
Getzov said he hopes that through his book his readers learn the value of bonding with their elders.
“They are going to learn that it is really worth it to stop once in a while and engage with a senior and listen to them, and share. They want to hear from us too…We are operating at such break-neck speed all the time, we have to stop once in a while and take the earbuds out of our ears and get our heads out of our smartphones and notice what is going on around us. I personally think that to engage with seniors you have to slow down and the the value of that is great.”