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Bel Kaufman, An inspiring woman at 101 February 21, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized, Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

From time to time we are asked the question: “What if this was your last day?”  Instead I was wondering: “What you would do if you knew you were going to live to be 100?”  How would you live differently?  Would you still retire at 62 or 65 or even 70?  What interests would you pursue if you knew you had another 35 or 40 year to pursue them in after retirement?  What ways would you contribute to the world during those 35 to 40 years?

ImageRecently I was sent a delightful YouTube of 101-year-old Bel Kaufman. She said that retiring is like retiring from life and is quoted to have said, “I’m too busy to get old.”  At 100 she taught a college class on Jewish humor at Hunter College.  Even she seemed impressed by being asked to teach a class at her age.  She still has a sharp mind and a great sense of humor, as you will see on this YouTube on fascinating elders.


Bel Kaufman was born in 1911 in Berlin, Germany where her father was studying medicine, but her native language was Russian.  She was raised in Odessa and Kiev (present-day Republic of Ukraine) until she was twelve and her family immigrated to the US.

Bel is best know for having written a best selling 1965 novel Up the Down Staircase that was turned into a movie.  The book was based on some of her experiences as a high school teacher.  Her grandfather who wrote the stories that were developed into Fiddler on the Roof and who corresponded with other Russian authors such as Leo Tolstoy influenced her.

Here is a talk she gave at Iona College.  It well worth listening to the YouTube. Bel talks about humor, her novel, and her experience of having her novel being made into a movie.


“What you would do if you knew you were going to live to be 100?”  Did these YouTubes change your idea of what it is like to be old.  I hesitate to say senior since Bel said being called a senior reminded her of senior prom.



1. Analog - February 21, 2013

I loved this video! Incredibly inspiring, and I like this form of the “what would you do…” question better. It got me looking at my bucket list again 😀

2. myatch9 - February 22, 2013

Live to serve life, and God will take care of the rest. “Re-tire” sounds like “re-tread” to me, anyway.
–Martin Ball

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