Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Senior Class

On Tuesday, I attended the Senior Discount Culture Fair organized by Councilmembers Jessica Lappin and Gale Brewer. I asked my friend and MJH volunteer Sol Rosenkranz to be my date since he lives just a few block from the fair’s location at the American Museum of Natural History and is himself an active senior. I also had a small ulterior motive for asking Sol to attend. I figured if I encountered any senior Upper West Siders who said we were too hard to get to, I would just point to Sol and say: “Have you met Sol? He is a Museum volunteer and takes the 1 train.” I only had to do that a couple of times. Sol told me I was stirring the pot.

Most of the people we encountered were familiar with the Museum of Jewish Heritage and eager to hear about our upcoming season of programs. The program calendar will be available in August, and until then I was happy to peddle news of our current exhibitions and the remaining Woody Allen films. I can’t tell you how many times I said to people: “This week’s film is Radio Days…and next week we’re showing Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex.” You can only imagine the range of responses I got from a group of people whose average age was about 79.

Late in the afternoon, a woman came up to me share a marvelous memory. Her father was interviewed for the Ours To Fight For exhibition a couple of months before he died. She had suggested to him that he talk about memories of comradeship during the war. Her father died before the exhibition opened in November 2003, but her family would say, “Let’s go visit Dad.” And they would come to the Museum to see him talking about Carmen Miranda, and see him in the exhibition as a happy and healthy older gentleman. I made sure to tell her that Ours To Fight For is traveling, and in fact just opened at the Holocaust Museum Houston.

It was a really meaningful afternoon, made all the more special by spending time in the presence of such special folks. More than 600 seniors were in attendance, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she hoped next year it would be held in her district, at the Javits Center. If you don’t want to wait until next summer, a new guide to cultural events for seniors was just published by New York City and the Alliance for the Arts.

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