2015 Shmoozing at the Hebrew Home

2015 Shmoozing at the Hebrew Home

How two volunteers keep residents connected and informed about world events

Hammer and Schneiberg.2015

Netanyahu’s re-election, Loretta Lynch’s nomination, the departure of football player Chris Borland of the San Francisco 49ers from the NFL, the 50th anniversary of the Selma marches — these are among the topics that fired discussion at a recent session of the weekly Men's Shmooze Group, one of the most popular programs for residents at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. The same two volunteers have led the group for over a decade, making its success all the more extraordinary. Retired lawyer Arnold Hammer became the leader in 2003, and a few years later Arnie enlisted Harold Schneiberg to be his partner after the two became friends on a tour of Spain organized by the Foundation for Jewish Studies.

For their efforts to enrich lives and bring joy and friendship to residents, Arnie and Harold were honored with the 2015 Kitty Davis Volunteer Services Award at the April 17 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon. It is an award richly deserved. 

Every week, Hammer, 72, and Schneiberg, 79, fill the hour-long shmooze sessions with stories from headline news. “The goal,” Hammer says, “is to keep these guys current with what’s going on in the world and promote camaraderie.” Their focus is generally on local and international politics, including Middle East developments, the economy, sports, and history. A while back they added a feature called Bum of the Month, which never runs out of contenders. Meetings always end with This Day in History, in quiz-format, and the group members love the challenge of remembering dates, names, and events of the past. They also get a kick out of sharing the occasional joke.

Before retiring in 2002, Hammer worked for the National Labor Relations Board, the Labor Department, and the Federal Labor Relations Authority. He is a member of Adas Israel Congregation and former officer and life member of its board. He also sits on our Board of Directors, is chairman of the Ethics Committee at the Hebrew Home, and is current president of the Foundation for Jewish Studies. Schneiberg, a member of Washington Hebrew Congregation, has a law degree but decided to join his family’s business, 18th and T Liquors, in Washington. He retired in 1996.

The sight of group participants, often in wheelchairs, engaged in a lively shmooze underscores the appeal of learning and sharing ideas at any age — as well as the potential for the kind of personal satisfaction experienced by volunteers like Hammer and Schneiberg. “I love what I do here,” says Schneiberg. “It’s an upper.”

“We’ve met many fine, very smart gentlemen who have been inspirational for us,” says Hammer. “It’s uplifting to know that seniors coping with adversity can still retain a positive attitude — and gratifying to understand that we can make even one person’s day better.” 


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