BY AMANDA MOSES
JASA Starrett Senior Center has a dedicated membership filled with seniors who have lived through many wars. During their longevity, these seniors have developed an appreciation for life and the beauty of freedom, which has often been protected by the armed forces. In honor of the Veterans who have served in both the United States and abroad, JASA hosted a patriotic concert on Thursday, November 10th.
In the lower level of the Brooklyn Sports Club (BSC), dozens of attendees gathered in JASA’s multipurpose room dressed in their best red, white and blue attire, and some vets were decked out in military caps and medals. Amongst the crowd was 98-year-old Alexander Gayevskiy, who donned a blazer covered in medals signifying his faithful service to the Russian military. The longtime Spring Creek Towers (SCT) resident remembers fighting for eight years in the Soviet Union military during WWII and the 1945 Soviet-Japanese War. “As a veteran, especially at my age, I can only tell people that Veterans Day means to enjoy life and our freedom. We must be happy and appreciate the little things,” said Gayevskiy.
The day’s celebrations began with a flag ceremony by the Starrett City Girl Scouts (SCGS), where they recited the pledge of allegiance, and sang God Bless America. Daisies, Cadettes and Juniors also saluted the veterans with a heartfelt rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The group of scouts then offered JASA a large, custom-made “Thank you card” to all of the veteran members, and then proceeded to hand out smaller cards to all of the attendees. “The scouts always love visiting the seniors, and events like these show the girls the importance of community service and honoring veterans for their efforts,” said Daisy Scout Troop Leader, Tasha Hendricks-Jones, whose daughters are both members of the SCGS.
After the scouts performed, the JASA Chorus sung great all American hits: Hey, Look Them Over, The Yankee Doodle Boy, Grand Old Flag, Over There, What A Wonderful World, The Caisson Song, and Say a Prayer.
The songs resonated with the crowd of seniors, who sang along as they were swept away in the exhilarating portrayal of American pride. Irving Katz, 89, a veteran of World War II, who served in the U.S. Navy aboard a destroyer ship, held in tears of joy as he joined the chorus in signing, Say A Prayer. “I think, what I am most grateful for coming back from the war alive, and just being alive today. It’s getting harder to do things as I get older, but I am grateful to be alive,” said Katz, who was also the Commander of the Starrett City-Harry Green Post 150, Jewish War Veterans, from 2002-03.
Not only have some of the Veterans in attendance served in historical wars (WWII, Korean War, and the Vietnam War), many of them witnessed first-hand the devastation of war. Each person in attendance had a heartfelt 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 has never diminished. The cheerful conductor says that Veterans Day is about memory—remember the past and not repeating it in the future.
As a salute to the veterans Ruth Horowitz President of the Advisory Council read the lyrics to Taps, and then handed out gifts. Also present during the ceremony was a representative from Roxanne J. Persaud’s office, commending the senior center on their beautiful ceremony. The uplifting commemoration had many of the seniors proud to be Americans.
Photos: Amanda Moses