One of the first things Oakmonte Village resident Joe Epstein shares with visitors is the Mezuzah he keeps in his pocket. More than 80 years ago, his parents gave him the charm attached to a necklace. Since that day, he has had it around his neck or in his pocket every day.

It’s a constant reminder of his religion and traditions and of his family.

“I spent 16 months in combat in Korea during the war and it helped me get through,” Joe says. “I saw a lot, and I thank the Almighty for pulling me through without any injuries and I thank this Mezuzah. It’s never outside my pocket and it’s been like a lucky charm to me.”

The traditions of his life are important to Joe, but without The Jewish Pavilion, he wouldn’t be able to experience Shabbat services, Passover dinner, and more. Joe has macular degeneration and relies on the transportation provided by Oakmonte to go to the store and the doctor, but there is no regular transportation to temple.

That’s where The Jewish Pavilion comes in.

“I love The Jewish Pavilion, it is a gift to The Jewish People who live in places like this,” he says. “I don’t know where I would be without The Jewish Pavilion.”

Joe participates in every event The Jewish Pavilion holds at Oakmonte Village, from Shabbat services every other week to all the special events – like this month’s Purim party.

Joe was raised with conservative Judaism in Pittsburgh. He was studying business when the U.S. Government drafted him to serve in the Army during the Korean War. He served as a medic in the 24th Infantry Division, experiencing some of the most violent fighting during the war.

“They went through hell,” he says.

Coming back to Pittsburgh after the war, he received his bachelor’s degree with G.I. Bill funding. He started his career at the famous department store Gimbels as an assistant buyer in the women’s dress department.

But based on advice and a recommendation from one of his bosses, he landed a position with renowned designer, Leslie Fay, who hired Joe based on the recommendation of his boss.

He spent the next three decades managing Leslie Fay’s retail customers for all of Pennsylvania, and western and central New York.

“People came to me with an open book to buy from Leslie Fay for the season and they would have orders of $250,000,” Joe says. “They were coming to me! I didn’t have to canvas for sales at all.”

He retired from Leslie Fay in the early 1990s as the company struggled through significant changes in the fashion industry. Today, he still actively trades stocks, which has been his source of income since leaving Leslie Fay.

“I’ve been lucky with the investments I’ve had in the 30 years I’ve been retired, and it’s much better than working,” Joe says.

It was not easy for him to move to Central Florida however, and it came down to his eyesight. As the macular degeneration worsened, he found himself only leaving his house occasionally and struggling to drive just to the store and other errands.

His sister had been continually trying to have Joe move to Central Florida and he finally agreed, moving to Oakmonte Village 10 years ago.

Today, when he’s not at The Jewish Pavilion’s services, you’ll find Joe helps run the bingo events several days a week. He met Suzanne Grossner, who is now his best friend and companion.

“My sister told me I only needed one true friend here, and I’m lucky to have found her,” Joe says. “I have never regretted the move as Oakmonte Village is such a wonderful place and I highly recommend it for Jewish people as it’s owned by an Israeli and they cater to us.”

Of course, the times with The Jewish Pavilion are very special.

“It is a wonderful organization and I love attending their services,” Joe says. “We all look forward to everything The Jewish Pavilion does.”