On July 3, Aaron Rosloff took a major leap of faith.
The South Brunswick resident, joined by leaders and members of Congregation B’nai Tikvah in North Brunswick, went skydiving that day to celebrate his 90th birthday. The adventure raised more than $2,000 for the Food Pantry of South Brunswick.
“I wanted to do something for a charity, and our shul has close ties to the food pantry,” said Rosloff. “We run a lot of events for them.”
When he announced his plan several months ago in the congregation bulletin, the reaction was perhaps not surprising. Most people, he said, told him he “was crazy and they would pray for me.”
However, a number of members began to warm to the idea. When Rosloff took his jump at Cross Keys Airport in Williamstown, he was joined by B’nai Tikvah president Gary Bergman and members Michael Weiss and Hadas Elami. Each jumped in tandem with an instructor.
About 30 other synagogue members, including Rabbi Robert Wolkoff and his family, made the 90-minute drive south to cheer the skydivers on. Also joining the festivities were Rosloff’s son and his family, who came from Long Island with a large birthday cake so everyone — even strangers who came over to congratulate the nonagenarian jumper — could join in the festivities on the ground.
“It was thrilling to go with Aaron,” said Bergman. “We were among only a few first-timers there, but everybody was interested in Aaron. It was really such a nice experience.”
The skydiving company provided instruction before take-off. The jumpers had to demonstrate they knew all the positions to ensure a safe landing.
The only disappointment for Bergman was that the group could ascend only 8,000 feet because of the heavy cloud cover. “I’m going to do it again,” he said, “although I haven’t got any volunteers to go with me yet.”
The birthday celebrant said skydiving “was a wonderful experience. It just wasn’t long enough. By the time you recognize where you are and what you are doing, you’re ready for the landing. It takes all of five minutes. You’re freefalling at about 100 miles an hour when the parachute opens.”
The leap culminated Rosloff’s lifelong interest in aviation.
“I had wanted to do this my whole life,” said the retired insurance broker. “When I was in the Army Air Corps I had many opportunities to fly training planes but I had no need to jump because that’s not what I did.”
His interest started early on. Growing up in New York, Rosloff said, “my cousin Rosie used to joke you had to duck when you walked into [my] room because there were so many model airplanes hanging from the ceiling.”
After taking a few courses in airplane mechanics, Rosloff enlisted in the military during World War II and was assigned as a crew chief at Foster Field in Victoria, Texas, keeping AT6 (advanced trainer model 6) planes in top shape.
Rosloff got a surprise at the airport when he spotted a vintage AT6 parked behind the hangar. After the jump, he went over and spoke to its pilot, whose father happened to own it. After hearing Rosloff’s story, the pilot contacted his father, who invited Rosloff to come back for a ride on the plane.
“The jump was almost anti-climatic,” said Rosloff. “I was having such a good time with my children’s friends and the others from the synagogue who came out for me; some were young enough to be my children or even grandchildren, but I don’t really have any friends left my own age — and then finding that airplane,” he said.
Rosloff said he would have jumped years earlier if not for the strenuous objections of his wife, Millie.
“Years ago I mentioned to Millie I wanted to go. She said I could go if I wanted to, but she wouldn’t be here when I got back. So that was that,” he laughed. “Ironically, for my 65th birthday, as a surprise Millie bought me a balloon ride — but she wouldn’t come with me.”
Millie died five years ago and, said Rosloff, “This seemed like the right time.”
“I have my health,” he said, “and who knows if I’ll have another five or 10 years.”