ROCKVILLE, Md. – You’d never know it by looking at him, but Morris Erger is 100 years old.
Erger, a Rockville resident, hit the century mark on 12-12-12 and celebrated by going to one of his favorite places: the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington. As he walked in, children gathered in the lobby broke into a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Cookies, cake and other treats were spread out on a table. A smiling Erger took a cookie, but before taking a bite, he raised the treat and said “l’chaim!” which means “to life!”
Two women, who are clearly decades younger than Erger, note his vigor.
One declares, “I want what he’s drinking!” The second adds, “Is he married?” And with the timing of practiced comedy team they say in unison, “Because we’re available!”
Erger goes to the JCC at least four times a week to socialize, take part in the cultural events, and to work out. He used to exercise every day but backed off his routine lately – just a little.
“I come here every second day now,” he says.
His workouts consist of walking on the treadmill, hopping on a stationary bike and lifting weights.
Erger says he’s been through a lot in his 100 years, explaining he is a Holocaust survivor.
“But we’ll leave that,” he says quietly.
As he attempts to explain how it is that he’s lived so long and remains so healthy, he returns to his time in a concentration camp in Austria.
“I must have done some good things in my life,” he says, his speech still heavily accented.
He explains a man in his small group was dying of hunger. So Erger decided to try something.
“I took from everybody a bite of bread and gave it to him, and he got well.”
The memory brings a smile to Erger’s face – a face that is remarkably youthful, given his age.
Erger says it’s important to him to be “a good Jew,” to be active within his community and to practice his faith. He works to pass that on to his granddaughter, Tori Seidenstein, a 16-year-old student at Walt Whitman High School.
Seidenstein says she admires her grandfather’s ability to keep pace with modern life: he owns an iPad and uses it to read two newspapers a day.
“I have no words enough” to express all he feels for her, Erger says of his granddaughter:
The day’s festivities wouldn’t end with cake and cookies though. The family planned to head out to dinner.
Erger says he’d probably keep to his eating routine, including topping off an evening meal with schnapps. But just a little.