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Exercise IS Medicine!

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Mike AlpertAlpert

Welcome to 2020: A New Year and a new decade! I hope that everyone reading my article this month had a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a joyous New Year. For my first article of this New Year, I want to share a story with you about an incident that I had near the end of 2019, an incident that had a profound effect on me.

One day just prior to Thanksgiving, I decided to go out to lunch, and while walking to my car, I heard someone yelling out my name. As I looked in the direction of the voice, I saw a small woman walking towards me. As she approached, I recognized her as a long-time member of our club who is in her 80s. Her name is Monique Saigal, and she wanted to discuss a $39 charge to her account for enrolling in a Personal Training EFT Membership that she did not feel was fair. I told her that I could not reverse it but that I would take her out to lunch anywhere she wanted to go, promising that the lunch would make up for the charge. She chose a small French restaurant near the club, and this is Monique's story:

Monique has been a professor of French literature films and culture at Pomona College for over 45 years and is now Emerita (Emerita is a woman who is the former holder of an office, especially a female college professor having retired but allowed to retain her title as an honor).

Monique was born in Hungary in 1942 and was being raised by her grandmother, Rivka Leiba. On August 24th, fearing for Monique's life, she threw her on a train carrying non-Jewish children whose fathers like Monique's had died in the war. An organization called, "the house of the prisoners," helped war widows by sending their children to spend a one-month vacation with a host family in Southwest France. All the children had their names and ages on a nametag, but Monique did not, as her grandmother feared that, if the train fell into the hands of the Nazis, they would send Monique to a concentration camp. Scared and alone, Monique arrived at the train station and was the only child left on the train platform after all the other children had been picked up by their host family. However, a young Parisian woman by the name of Jacqueline Baleste, who had come to pick up a 10-year-old boy and did not show up, saw Monique crying and screaming and thought that, "this is my gift from God." She embraced Monique and brought her home where she raised Monique and hid her from the Nazis. Monique was baptized and raised Catholic for fear of surrounding Nazis in this occupied zone. One month later, on September 30th, 1942, Monique's Grandmother was gassed at Auschwitz.

Monique has been honored by the State of Israel and the State of California, and a presentation was held on January 8th at our club. After we announced her presentation in December, 100 members signed up to hear her share her story. This was 30 days prior to the event. In order to accommodate everyone, I moved the event to our Group Exercise studio.

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