On November 15th, JASA Starrett Senior Center held their annual Veterans Day celebration in the lower level of the Brooklyn Sports Club (BSC). The entire BSC Aspen multipurpose room was decked out in the grand old stars and stripes with dozens of attendees dressed in their best red, white, and blue attire. Some of the veterans even donned their military caps and medals.
This public holiday is one of the most revered celebrations for JASA members, particularly because many of its participants have served in World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam War. Since JASA reaches such a diverse community, there are seniors who have also served in the foreign military, such as the Israeli Army or the Russian Air Force. In light of this, JASA decided to dedicate their annual festivity to all veterans, both foreign and domestic.
The commemoration began with the National Anthem, presented by the Starrett City Girl Scouts (and one representative from the Boy Scouts). The Daisies, Caddettes and Juniors saluted the veterans and sang God Bless America. After their patriotic rendition, the scouts faced the Veterans (who were sitting down in a row of chairs) and offered their heartfelt thanks for their service. They presented the vets with a poster covered in hand-shaped cutouts, and little American flags, with the words, “We want to give you a hand for serving our country and protecting our freedom.” The children then handed out cards for everyone in attendance, showing their appreciation for JASA senior members and veterans.
Bilal Malik, a resident of Spring Creek Towers, and a Native American war veteran, was proud to be a part of the ceremony. He is a new member of JASA, and was amazed by the amazing Veterans Day event. After serving in the Vietnam War, from 1970 to 1972, he believes that Veterans Day is an important occasion to remember all of the sacrifices soldiers have made and continue to make.
The event continued with a roaring performance by the JASA chorus, led by Choral Director, Vincent Sica. Some of the songs performed were: The Greatest Love, California Dreamin’, Put on a Happy Face, and many other fun classics. There were also beautiful solo renditions of Give Me Your Tired, This is My Country, Say a Prayer, and a variety of other songs that enchanted all who listened. The songs resonated with the crowd of seniors, who sang along as they were swept away in the exhilarating portrayal of American pride.
Not only have some of the Veterans in attendance served in historical wars, many of them witnessed first-hand the devastation of war. Each person in attendance had an emotional connection to the patriotic event. They knew the importance of freedom, whether it was through their experience bunkering down in London during the Blitzkrieg, or being a little boy trapped in a German ghetto during the Holocaust. Yakov Ryaboy, who is a Holocaust survivor, is a proud WWII veteran. Although he has seen the cruelty of men, in both the ghetto and during war, his love for life, art and beauty have never diminished. Ryaboy says that Veterans Day is about memory—remembering the past and not repeating it in the future.
As a salute to the veterans Ruth Horowitz, President of the Advisory Council, gave a small dedication speech and then handed out gifts to the scouts with JASA Starrett Director, Angela Blyakher.
The commemorative event was the personification of a patriotic spirit. It offered participants an opportunity to honor veterans, and to sing and laugh together. The uplifting affair ended with all the veterans showing their respect; they saluted the singing of the final song, God Bless America.
Photos by Amanda Moses