As the Summer Olympics Kick Off in Tokyo, the Los Angeles Jewish Home Celebrates a Gold Medal Relationship Between a Championship Gymnast and Her Grandfather
It's not every day you can draw a direct line from the Los Angeles Jewish Home to the Olympics—though we do pride ourselves on award-winning care. But, this year, an exciting connection will be on full display as world-class gymnast Jade Carey competes in Tokyo for Team USA, while her grandfather and his fellow Jewish Home residents cheer her on from the Jewish Home.
Jade's grandfather, Eisenberg Village resident Oscar Szmuch, 78, is no stranger to athletic competitions. He represented the United States in the quadrennial Maccabiah Games in Israel as a marathon runner in 1989; in 2005, his daughter (Jade's mother, Orley Szmuch) competed there, as well. "We are the only father and daughter who have been in the games, and Orley was also coach of the U.S. women's gymnastics team for a competition in Argentina," Oscar says proudly.
Born in Siberia, Oscar escaped Nazi-occupied Europe with his family and fled to Argentina, where he lived until making Aliyah (moving to Israel) in 1963. After serving in the Israeli army, he made his way to America, ultimately settling in Northridge, California, where he raised his family.
"My wife and I had three daughters, and everyone has always been very athletic," Oscar says. "Orley was all-American at Florida University. One of her sisters was a very accomplished diver. I loved excelling at sports and have loved watching my girls surpass me even more."
Oscar has been widowed for more than a decade. Five years ago, facing health challenges from multiple myeloma, he moved to the Jewish Home. "I was paralyzed and needed help. Now, I'm walking again. No more marathons for me—but I work out every day, and I've never given up pushing my body to do better!" he says.
That same ethos of training and discipline has also propelled Oscar's granddaughter Jade to impressive heights of success. At 21, she is a global gymnastics superstar: On vault, she earned silver medals at the 2017 and 2019 world championships, and she was both the 2017 US national champion and the 2018 Pan American champion. On floor exercise, she won silver at the 2017 world championship and clinched the top spot at the 2018 Pan American games.
"Jade was the first US woman to qualify for the Tokyo games, and when they were postponed last year because of the pandemic, it was really difficult for her," Oscar recalls. "Now, after all her hard work, I believe she will medal. Simone Biles is the only one who can beat her, and although Simone is the best ever, Jade has beaten her twice. I'm not bragging; it's a fact!"
Although traveling to Japan to see Jade compete in person is not in the cards, Oscar won't be alone when he tunes in from the Jewish Home. "This is a great place to be because everybody really cares," he says. "From the nurses to the kitchen staff, they treat you like family." Watching his beloved granddaughter bask in the spotlight at the Olympics while surrounded by his Jewish Home family, for Oscar, is a combination that feels just like winning gold.