There won’t be any skydiving for 92-year-old Aaron Rosloff this year.
He spent his past two birthdays jumping out of planes as part of a fundraising mission for the South Brunswick Food Pantry in New Jersey.
He planned to celebrate his 92nd birthday, July 3, with a third jump, but after he broke his ankle in two places during last year’s landing, friends and family pleaded with him not to skydive again. The charity flipped: Instead of raising money for Rosloff to jump, people were donating for him to stay grounded.
“It started out somewhat as a joke,” said Robert Wolkoff, the rabbi at Congregation B’nai Tikvah, a conservative synagogue in North Brunswick, N.J., where Rosloff is a founding member. “I told him, ‘I’ll give you $100 if you jump, but I’ll give you $200 not to jump.’”
Rosloff and my family all belong to B’nai Tikvah. I spent a healthy chunk of my childhood there, but I never met Rosloff until June, after B’nai Tikvah launched the Stop Aaron campaign, which collected nearly $5,000 in donations for 2013.
“I’m honored people care about me enough that they don’t want me to jump. I might break my ankle again,” Rosloff told me when I met him in the South Brunswick ranch house he’s lived in since 1959.
Rosloff sports a trimmed goatee and speaks in a jolly rasp. In person he looks at least 10 years younger than his age, probably because of a daily fitness regimen that includes push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, bicycle kicks and shadow boxing. He still drives, although no longer at night.
When I asked Rosloff if he donates to any other charities, he laughed and showed me a pink notebook. Inside he lists every contribution he’s made since 2000. Many of the donations are for $10 or $15, spread around to dozens of charities, from the American Red Cross to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a philanthropic organization that promotes interfaith support for Israel. He tries to send out at least 20 donations per month. His skydiving fundraisers have provided more than $7,000 for the South Brunswick Food Pantry since 2011.
Rosloff’s commitment to giving back was honed over his lifetime. He cites three stories told to him over the years that helped shape his current philanthropic philosophy: his brother Reuben giving up his dress shoes during World War II to a Frenchman who had no money; his brother Joe, who opened a medical laboratory after the Korean War, allowing poor patients to use his services for 50 cents per visit, and his grandmother, who became a bootlegger during the Great Depression, buying necessities for the poor even when she couldn’t afford them.