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16 Over 61: Meet Arthur Grabiner

This profile appears as part of “16 Over 61,” a collaboration between the Forward and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan’s Wechsler Center for Modern Aging.

Arthur Grabiner, 95, was shaped for life by his service during World War II.

Arthur Grabiner

Image by Arthur Grabiner

A Navy combat veteran who served in the Pacific Theater, Grabiner has devoted himself to educating younger generations about the experience and costs of war. In recognition of both his service and his commitment to education, he was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame in 2019.

A lifelong New Yorker, Grabiner, a member of the inaugural cohort of “16 Over 61” honorees, adapted his mission to meet the painful circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, participating in a multitude of Zoom events honoring the armed services and remembering those lost to the war.

“Ever the dedicated optimist, Dad is making post-COVID plans to resume educating and inspiring youngsters,” wrote his son, Douglas A. Grabiner, who nominated him for “16 Over 61.”

Describe your ideal birthday celebration.

At 95 years of age, I’m excitedly anticipating my 100th birthday. I’ll be surrounded by family including my children, grandchildren, perhaps great-grandchildren by then, friends and fellow WWII Veterans. No one will tell me I can’t have a second slice of birthday cake… hey, it’s my 100th birthday celebration. And we’re going to have a PARADE!

You wake up on a beautiful Sunday morning with an unplanned day ahead of you, and no responsibilities. How do you choose to spend it?

16 over 61

The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and the Forward present 16 over 61. Courtesy of Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan and The Forward

Start my day with challah french toast, enjoy an outdoor concert adjacent to the water, catch the last few innings of a Mets’ victory on TV, celebrate the day with dinner in the company of family followed by a rooftop film at The Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.

What makes you smile, no matter what?

“Hello, Grandpa!” telephone calls from my three grandchildren.

When you get good news, who is the first person you tell, and why?

I’ll tell my son, Douglas, who enjoys saying, “Most children never meet their hero. I was raised by mine.”

What’s your earliest Jewish memory?

Friday night Shabbos dinner with family at home. My mother, Misha, would wake before sunrise, bake the challah, mandel bread and kugel, cook the gandz (goose) or katshke (duck), make the gefilte fish, chopped liver, kreplach and matzah ball soup from scratch, and prepare the chickpeas. My father, Hyman, would prepare the homemade wine. The entire family would gather at Mama and Papa’s dining table to celebrate together.

What’s one thing you absolutely cannot live without?

Shabbos cholent. Flanken, beans, potatoes and vegetables slow-cooked in a pot overnight. My mouth is watering answering this question.

How do you feel you’ve changed over the years? What ideas have been most meaningful to you as you’ve traveled through life?

My mantra has become “Roll with the rhythm of the world.” In other words, getting aggravated only gets you aggravated. So, why bother?

Has your Judaism informed how you approach the process of aging? If so, how?

Judaism instructs that our time on earth is a gift to ourselves and to all those whom we encounter. Abraham lived to 175 years of age. At 95, I’m therefore middle-aged, I tell myself.

What does the idea of honoring and celebrating aging mean to you?

Modern agers are not dispensable. We’re brimming with experience, wisdom, lessons to share and teach. Honoring and celebrating aging further motivates us to continue to embrace this gift of life in a purposeful fashion by remaining vital.

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