Hilda Shenker celebrates 95 in the beautiful garden she created

Astra hosted Hilda Shenker’s 95th birthday party. Hilda has been a volunteer at the Centre for over 30 years, lovingly tending to the garden.

During the celebration, Hilda recounted how it all began. Shortly after moving to Cape Town, while walking on the beachfront one day, she bumped into Sara Pascal. After telling Sara how she had given up her beautiful garden in Pretoria for the sea, Sara suggested to Hilda that she (Hillda) do the garden at Astra Centre! And so she did! Watering, planting and weeding with passion, enthusiasm and dedication. One of the guests mentioned that when Hilda started, there were only two pots on either side of the steps. She brought plants from Pretoria which today are now trees. While fulfilling her passion, Hilda also made lots of good friends during her frequent visits to Astra.

And then came the challenge of the garden for the coffee shop. Hilda rose to the task and created the most stunning setting. This has played a big part in Coffee Time becoming a popular venue for functions including weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, anniversaries and birthdays. Daytime patrons all enjoy the beautiful garden — appreciating it especially during these covid times!

Director Merle Furman recalled the re-opening of Coffee Time where the guest of honour, Chief Rabbi Goldstein, said “When you do something with beauty, it adds another dimension to your life.”

Attending the party were Hilda’s daughter, Michelle, her son David and two of her three sisters, Queenie Sender and Dora Pick. Queenie related how she had worked as a volunteer speech teacher at Astra in the 1950s.

Referencing his mother’s and aunts’ longevity, David told the guests that part of “the recipe for a long and healthy life was to be of service to others,” and “to have a passion.” This of course was an accurate description of Hilda who, he said, “would get so excited every time I would bring her here.”

Hilda’s son Stanley who lives in Canada wrote, “The garden has grown to be her grand masterpiece and has provided enduring happiness that gardens bring to garden-lovers.”

Hilda has certainly created a most beautiful legacy for all to enjoy and appreciate.

Astra Jewish Sheltered Employment
20 Breda Street, Gardens, 021 461 8414, coffeetime@jsec.org.za

• Published in the PDF edition of the June 2021 issue – Download here.

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