When Aaron Rosloff announced at a board meeting of Congregation B’nai Tikvah that he planned to skydive to celebrate his 92nd birthday as a fund-raiser for the South Brunswick Food Pantry, there was concern.
Although he had jumped the two previous years to celebrate his July 3 birthday, he broke his ankle last year on landing.
Rabbi Robert Wolkoff immediately offered to donate $100, but said he would double that if the Kendall Park resident didn’t jump.
That was about two months ago. “From there it kept going and going,” said Rosloff. “Now it’s out of my hands.”
It has now snowballed into the “Stop Aaron” campaign launched by the South Brunswick Social Services Department and B’nai Tikvah.
Rosloff has agreed to forgo his jump if by the end of the month donations top the $3,600 raised last year. His previous jumps have netted almost $6,000 for the pantry. Once $3,000 is brought in, Rosloff said, he would personally add another $1,000 to the total.
“I was looking forward to the jump,” said Rosloff. “I know why I broke my ankle. I broke a rule and it won’t happen again. But I feel I have to honor their consideration for me. I had no idea my welfare was so important to so many people and I’m grateful for it.”
So, if the goal is reached, he said, “I’ll cancel it for this year — but I may do it for my 95th.”
South Brunswick social services director LouAnne Wolf, a B’nai Tikvah member, said her department was sending out letters to its donors about the campaign.
“I told Aaron, ‘This will be your legacy. We will keep doing this every year,’” she said. “Really, he is 92 years old and he doesn’t need to be jumping out of planes. He’s going to kill himself.”
Wolf said funds are desperately needed as the economy has continued to squeeze even formerly middle-class people.
“Two years ago I would have told you the summer was pretty quiet for us, but no longer, ” she said. “We are busy all year. There are people who work for school districts, like aides, who don’t work in the summer. Kids are out of school. We’re spending more money because people need help with rent, utilities, and, of course, food. We’re always running out of certain foods.”
Because of the spike in diabetes and overweight children, Wolf said, the pantry is trying to distribute healthier items such as brown rice rather than white rice or whole wheat pasta, quinoa, and low-fat and -sugar snack foods. It is also consistently in need of peanut butter, jelly, and coffee and has refrigeration for donations of fresh fruit, produce, and dairy products.
“I am so excited about this fund-raiser,” said Wolf. “Aaron is a close friend with a great heart, and it’s wonderful he wants to do this for us.”
Rosloff enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II, where he was assigned as a crew chief at Foster Field in Victoria, Texas, keeping AT6 (advanced trainer model 6) planes in top shape. Although he had the opportunity to fly while testing planes, he never jumped.
About 20 years ago he went parasailing while vacationing in Acapulco with his late wife, Millie, reigniting his interest in skydiving. However, Millie squelched it.
Several years ago, while visiting his daughter and grandchildren in Haifa, Rosloff again got the skydiving bug when his grandchildren took him to meet their jumpmaster. However, Rosloff was not allowed to jump without a doctor’s note. He e-mailed his doctor, but, he said, he never heard back and assumed she “didn’t want to get involved with this old kook.”
On his next visit, the doctor asked him if he had skydived, producing the letter she had sent.
“It turned out my daughter decided not to tell me about the letter and hid it,” Rosloff said.
She is, he added, quite relieved about the Stop Aaron campaign.