Twenty-one nonagenarians gathered Oct. 21 at the Jewish Congregation of Concordia in Monroe for an annual celebration of their milestone birthday.
At Shabbat services three days later, they were called to the bima to receive an aliya while gathered under a huppa in front of family and friends. The kiddush featured a birthday cake in their honor.
At the luncheon, chair Judy Schneider led the group in the Sheheheyanu prayer.
“This is so meaningful to them to be acknowledged,” said Schneider, who began chairing the event five years ago when her own 90-year-old mother was living with her. “Judaism teaches respect of elders. I cherish older people and it’s a pleasure for me to do it.”
Those asked professed no secret for living a long life. Charles Weiss, a 92-year-old resident of Concordia, laughed and said, “Good Lord, I’ve been looking for that answer myself. It’s all the luck of the draw.”
Dave Hirsch, also a 92-year-old Concordia resident, lamented the limitations of old age. “I used to play a lot of golf, but all I do now is read and a little gardening. I love having a vegetable garden.”
However, Hirsch, who is retired from the marketing business, said he feels fortunate to have reached his 90s, considering he was critically injured while fighting in the South Pacific during World War II.
“I was in the Air Force before there was a real Air Force,” recalled Hirsch of his time with the Army Air Corps. “I still have shrapnel in me as a souvenir. They were actually going to cut my leg off.”
Leona Schneider, a 91-year-old former homemaker from Wantagh on Long Island, was there with her 97-year-old boyfriend, Morris Lefkowitz, who formerly owned a kosher butcher shop in Spring Valley, NY.
“Actually, we live together,” said the Monroe Village resident with a smile.
A long-time volunteer for Hadassah chapters in Long Island and Monroe, Schneider said she attends congregational activities and tries to keep herself busy.
Lefkowitz, she said, does a lot of volunteer work traveling to assisted-living facilities to conduct religious services for residents.