Senior Prom

Hebrew Home’s annual event shows residents still have spring in their step


Victor Mastro was doing exactly what Chubby Checker was telling him to: He was doing the twist.

“C’mon baby, let’s do the twist. Grab me by my little hand. It goes like this.”

Mastro joined more than 200 residents who attended Hebrew Home at Riverdale’s second annual senior prom, an event to give senior citizens an afternoon of fun with fellow residents. It also was an opportunity to remember high school proms from decades past — or in some cases, go to the prom they never had a chance to attend.

“I like the camaraderie,” Louis Blumenthal said. “It’s fun. You take pictures of people you are living with, and having fun.”

Blumenthal, 91, never got the chance to attend his high school prom at George Washington High School in Manhattan. That’s because it was 1943: World War II was in full swing, and in light of what was happening overseas, his school canceled the annual gala.

Since he arrived at the Hebrew Home last year just in time for the assisted living facility’s first senior prom. While he might have been a hit on the dance floor then, this year Blumenthal said he’s making room for other dancers. His balance is a bit off and he’s fallen a few times over the past year, so the extent of his moves was from a chair not far from the activity.

The truth is I’d like to get up and dance, but I better not,” Blumenthal said.

When Betty Joblove attended her prom at an all-girls high school, a family friend arranged by her mother escorted the 87-year-old the event. This time, however, the newly crowned prom queen took fellow Hebrew Home resident Paul Glasser with her.

“It’s so much fun to be here with people I know,” she said.

The student-run group Music V’s from Salanter Akiba Riverdale High School, already a regular visitor to the Hebrew Home, performed for the prom attendees. SAR sophomore Oren Neuwirth, 16, said his favorite part of the afternoon was dancing with seniors, and just having conversations with them.

“It’s important and we’re really gaining a lot out of this in terms of learning from what they can teach us,” Neuwirth said. “And they have a lot to teach us.”
Classmate Abigail Saltzman agreed.

“We believe that age unites us — and the prom is a perfect example of how anyone can be a prom queen or king for a day, no matter what their age,” RiverSpring Health chief executive Daniel Reingold said. RiverSpring is the parent organization that operates Hebrew Home.
“There is no age restriction when it comes to having fun.”

Reingold said state Sen. Jeffrey Klein approached the Hebrew Home with an idea of creating an event to bring community elders together. The idea later developed into the senior prom.

“They deserve a day that’s just theirs,” Klein said. “I think they enjoyed the music, the dancing.”

Putting the afternoon together was a group effort. Hebrew Home provided the food, staffing and deejay. The Kingsbridge Riverdale Van Cortlandt Development Corp. donated corsages and boutonnieres for attendees, and pianist Frank Paccione volunteered his time. Klein’s office assisted with organizing and promoting the event., Wendy Steinberg, Hebrew Home’s vice president of communications, said.

Mastro — who is not a resident at Hebrew Home and finally done dancing the twist, said the senior prom at Hebrew Home was a way for some residents to look back at a time earlier in their lives and share those memories with fellow residents.

“I just wanted to see the fun that was created from last year,” Mastro said. “The unity, people. How would you say enjoying themselves a little bit? Letting loose.
“Share the air. Share the sunlight. Share the energy.”

CORRECTION: Victor Mastro, who attended the Hebrew Home at Riverdale’s senior prom, was visiting the Hebrew Home and is not a resident. A story in the June 8 edition stated otherwise.