Veteran Jewish bowlers keep on rollin’
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Veteran Jewish bowlers keep on rollin’

Bowling leagues affiliated with B’nai B’rith were once a common site in Jewish communities throughout the United States. (Photo provided by International B'nai B'rith Bowling Association)

In Harmarville on Wednesday nights, a group of Jewish men bowl. For many of them, this has been common practice for well over three decades.

Mike Samuels started bowling with the group 43 years ago.

“My dad brought me in,” he says. “Other people came in with their dads.”

Samuels joined when he was 18 years old. Back then, there were 120 regular members. Nowadays, there are only 30. But while the group has declined in membership, both its nucleus and objectives have remained. It’s about more than scoring strikes, they say; it’s about camaraderie.

“The same core group has been bowling for 30 years,” says Samuels. “We’ve always had fun.”

The bowlers are affiliated with the International B’nai B’rith Bowling Association. For years, between 10 and 15 members of the local group traveled to the International B’nai B’rith Bowling Tournament. And, despite the tournament occurring in Toronto, Atlantic City, Chicago or Montreal, Samuels remembered attending virtually every one for 35 years.

“I missed when my daughter was born in 1983,” he admitted.

Stephen Neustein joined the weekly group 37 years ago. He called the group a “social league,” and said, “there’s nothing serious about it.”

Neustein explained that the group operates two 16 week seasons. Within each season, teams are divided based upon handicap.

“Everybody usually has somebody who’s lousy,” Neustein remarks humorously, adding, “you ever heard the expression wannabe? I’m a used to be.”

Current averages of the bowlers range between 105 and 168, though some have bowled as high as 200.

“We’re not a big pressure league,” says Neustein. “We’re a friendly league.

“In any given week, two or three guys come to just socialize and not bowl,” he continues. “One guy had shoulder surgery and can’t bowl, another has a cane and can’t bowl.”

Throughout the year, the group throws multiple social events. In the past, bowling-themed stag parties have occurred at Congregation Beth Shalom in Squirrel Hill, area restaurants or Rivers Casino. At the end of the year, the group hosts a banquet and awards prize money to members.

Neustein says that now is a good time for prospective members to join the male-only group: “We allow people who want to come as guests to come and bowl and see what it’s like.”

During the season, bowling occurs on Wednesday nights at Fun Fest in Harmarville, 2525 Freeport Road. The games begin at 8 p.m., though warmup typically occurs 15 minutes earlier. Current league members range in age between 20 and 75. Prospective members can contact Neustein at 412-422-2782 for more information.

“We could use more blood,” says Samuels. “We got all the space in the world for guys.”

Adam Reinherz can be reached at adamr@thejewishchronicle.net.

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