Heart and soul of Bustleton's Klein JCC retires

Ruth Morley, who retired after nearly 40 years at the Klein JCC in Bustleton, shown in 2004 presenting a check to Jose Levy, president of a synagogue in Cuba.
Ruth Morley, who retired after nearly 40 years at the Klein JCC in Bustleton, shown in 2004 presenting a check to Jose Levy, president of a synagogue in Cuba.
Posted: January 13, 2014

RUTH MORLEY, 79, has been the go-to Gal Friday and every other day at the Klein Jewish Community Center in Bustleton since 1975.

So her retirement last week filled her 10th boss, president/CEO Andre Krug, with sadness - even though, as a parting gift, Morley gave him the childhood accordion she played "Lady of Spain" on at Tony Grant's "Stars of Tomorrow" on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City.

"Now, I'm going to be crying," Krug told the Daily News. "I'm going to try to find somebody who has her creative juices, but I'm not sure I can."

Those creative juices, Krug said, included Morley's profitably renting the Klein JCC's theater to a wide range of acts, one of which made the late 1990s unforgettable.

"Ruth rented the theater once to The Cave," Krug said. "I didn't know what The Cave was. I walked out of my office and I couldn't believe my eyes."

The Cave is a group of male strippers. Morley rented them the Klein JCC theater to shoot their promotional video on the same night that Russian religious services were being held in the next room.

"The Cave gentlemen were escorting women in to see their show," Morley said, "and people going to Russian services were surprised to see all those men in G-strings. I remember one of the Russians saying, 'Nice tush.' "

Morley mostly rented the theater for children's dance recitals and musicals, and once, she said, for "the Madonna of Russia - at least that's what they told me."

Gary B. Freedman, who was board chairman in the late '90s, said Morley's gift was turning the facilities into a cash cow, which the Klein JCC sorely needed.

"She was not willing to let Chicken Little lose her head," Freedman said. "When I became chairman, I honestly didn't know if we would survive financially." But Morley rented the facilities at a furious pace to keep money coming in so the center's mission could continue, he added.

"We've always had a diverse population, but we've always been a Jewish community center at heart," Freedman said. "There's a concept in Jewish philosophy called 'Tikkun Olam,' which means 'repair the world.' This is the heart of the Klein JCC. You see a problem, you do what you can to make things better."

Morley was a huge part of keeping that heart beating.

Serving at Klein JCC "from the time we put the first shovel in the ground," Morley is proud she organized a "Tikkun Olam" humanitarian mission to Cuba - a cruise to deliver medical supplies, personal items and money to struggling synagogues there.

Reflecting on her nearly 40 years at Klein JCC, Morley said, "I wore a lot of hats," which is like Chase Utley saying, "I hit a lot of baseballs."

She plans to cruise her way toward 80 in July - literally - on the ocean.


On Twitter: @DanGeringer

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