Cincinnati has seen a whole lot of interesting and exceptional people over the years and is, in fact, a city rich with culture. Every day, examples of Cincinnati’s storied past and promising future waltz past us, whether we are aware of them or not. David’s Voice recently set out to document some of these living connections between past and future.
Behold these outstanding interviewees: three sets of Jewish grandparents and grandchildren who grew up in Cincinnati and remain here today. They cherish this city and the relationships they have formed as a result of being here. These special six are proof of the tremendous community that is Cincinnati. Below read about the first pair, Gilda Wacksman and her granddaughter Julie Wacksman.
Cedar Village, Connecting Cincinnati's Generations
Gilda Wacksman was born in Cleveland in 1925 and came to Cincinnati at two years old. Growing up, she most enjoyed bowling in her bowling league at Summit Lanes, horseback riding in Indian Hill and visiting the Cincinnati Art Museum. As a budding artist, Gilda maintained a love for the museum and even received a full scholarship to its art camp for multiple summers. She attended Avondale Elementary School, Walnut Hills High School and University of Cincinnati for two years, until her husband-to-be returned from the air force. Gilda says she married her childhood sweetheart, whom she met at 12 years old. Two years later, she decided she wanted to marry him, and a few years after that, her wish was granted.
Upon becoming a young mother, Gilda joined Cincinnati’s chapter of B'nai B'rith Women. A 20-year-old among a group of women her mother’s age, Gilda was the opposite of intimidated. “They gave me a geranium for being the youngest mother there, and I spent 30 years paying them back for that geranium.” She chaired events, started chapters and contributed an immense amount to the organization.
In addition to her philanthropic work, Gilda was immersed in art. She built an art studio in her basement and taught her young daughter how to paint. Gilda put her artistic skills to good use when she was widowed at 50 and had to find a job for the first time. She went on two interviews and got both jobs. “I asked my mother which job to take, and she said ‘Take the one that is the hardest,’ and that’s what I did.” Gilda worked hard as an artist for Burroughs Printing until she met her second husband, with whom she was together for 28 years until his recent passing.
Gilda has lived at Cedar Village for about a year and relishes the relaxed lifestyle and range of activities the nursing home affords her. She most enjoys playing bridge and reading, and is currently enjoying her new nook! The peppy 86-year-old is even on Facebook, explaining, “I’m a hip grandma!” Gilda also enjoys activities around Cincinnati, like visiting with friends at the Sycamore Senior Center and doing water aerobics at the Blue Ash pool. She has never left Cincinnati, because she feels that it is home. Her family is deeply rooted here, and “That’s an anchor!”
Gilda has two children- a daughter in New York and a son here in Blue Ash, plus two granddaughters in Cincinnati. Among other things, Gilda has had a great artistic influence on her family. Her daughter is an artist, her son is in the orchestra and her granddaughters are theatrical performers and singers.
One of Gilda’s granddaughters is Julie Wacksman, with whom Gilda has maintained a close relationship since babysitting her every week when she was an infant. “I love her to pieces, and she’s very talented,” says Gilda about Julie. Gilda has always told Julie to do what makes her happy, and she feels that Julie has taught her to “Get a lot of love.” “Gigi” (as her grandkids call her) and Julie go out to eat together, talk and “Spend as much time together as possible.”
Granddaughter: Julie Wacksman
Julie Wacksman grew up in Blue Ash, Cincinnati. As a kid, she enjoyed swimming at the Blue Ash Recreation Center and spending days with her dad at King’s Island. Julie was also exposed to the arts at a young age and was constantly visiting museums, antiquing and going to the theater. During this time Julie began to exhibit her own theatricality, performing in shows all over the city, including Cincinnati Music Theater. She attended Maple Dale Elementary School, Sycamore High School and Northern Kentucky University, where she received a Bachelor’s in theater.
After college, Julie moved to New York to pursue theater and the auditioning process. She became a singer and performer in the incredible “Cirque Production” (an American cirque company), and even got to perform at The Kennedy Center.
Though being part of an extraordinary theatrical production was an amazing experience for Julie, she decided to return to Cincinnati after a few months, because she realized she “Didn’t want the touring lifestyle.” In addition to missing her family and friends, Julie felt that the cost of living in Cincinnati was hard to beat, especially compared to New York. Moreover, Julie says that “Cincinnati has a great hidden arts scene that people aren’t always aware of.” She refers specifically to the annual Fringe Festival and Tony Award-winning Playhouse in the Park, and remarks that, “The culture here is truly incredible.”
Julie is now a 'mommy and me' teacher at Gymboree Play and Music. The performer still utilizes her theatrical skills, however, through teaching acting at a local modeling agency. As if her life isn’t exciting enough, one of Julie’s favorite hobbies is rock-climbing, and her favorite climbing spots are Climb Time in Blue Ash and RockQuest on Kemper Road. One of Julie’s most cherished activities has and continues to be spending time with her grandma.
Julie has been close to her grandmother since infancy. She was babysat weekly Gilda while her parents worked and was granted the time to develop a close bond with her “Gigi.” Julie’s relationship with her grandma has only flourished over the years, especially since Gilda moved to Cedar Village. Julie visits her there frequently and the two engage in long conversations, go out to dinner and play with Gilda’s dog.
Julie admires her grandmother’s sense of determination and perseverance, even when things get tough. She feels that her grandma has helped her succeed and has always advised her to “Stay your own course and keep your independence.” With so many accomplishments under her belt, Julie is no doubt making her grandmother proud.
Sharona Balk is an English Communications major with a focus in Advertising at Stern College in New York City. She thrives on the excitement of the city but also enjoys basking in the quiet of her hometown, Cincinnati. Sharona loves to write, eat, needlepoint, learn new things and laugh with family and friends. But her favorite pastime is singing- a talent she hones in her school’s acapella group as well as in the shower. Sharona was interning at David’s Voice this summer and hopes to continue her involvement in the Jewish community at large.