June 27, 2024
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June 27, 2024
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Moriah Senior Center in Washington Heights Marks 50 Years

(l-r) Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, Moriah Director Shuli Gutmann, State Sen. Robert Jackson, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of Agudath Israel of America.

Walking through the doors of the Moriah Senior Center on Bennett Avenue in Washington Heights, New York the interior was unrecognizable. Regal white curtains draped the walls, decorated with blown-up portraits of Moriah regulars from decades past. The decor was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Moriah Senior Center, which was celebrated by hundreds of patrons and supporters on Monday, June 24, at a special gala luncheon.

The event centered on the theme of “generations,” highlighting the multigenerational community built out of Moriah over five decades in the neighborhood, and the emotion in the room was palpable.

“I wanted to celebrate the generations of clients that came before us and will come after us,” explained Shuli Gutmann, director of Moriah. Gutmann took over as director of the only kosher senior center in northern Manhattan nearly 14 years ago, after years of seeing the impact that Moriah had on her own family. Her grandmother was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the meal delivery service when Moriah was established in 1974, and her mother Judith Levy has been a part of Moriah for decades as well. “It is so important to have a space where seniors can spend their days feeling like a part of something bigger,” Gutmann shared of her experience in the anniversary video.

Shuli Gutmann in the transformed space of Moriah.

Gutmann mentioned throughout the celebration that the Moriah Center represents the “enduring power of generations working together in harmony,” thanks in major part to Agudath Israel of America, which opened the center 50 years ago as a vital resource for the kosher keeping community of Washington Heights. “Thanks to the Agudah, and to our incredible staff members and volunteers, there are multiple generations of families benefiting from our center.”

In his remarks during the luncheon, Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of Agudath Israel noted that Moriah is one of three totally kosher senior centers run by the organization, and the only one in Manhattan, making it an incredibly special place beyond the services it offers. And although it caters to seniors who keep kosher, Moriah Senior Center is not exclusively for the local Orthodox community; in fact, many of its clients come from other demographic segments of Washington Heights, including the large Spanish-speaking population.

A luncheon attendee is wowed by mentalist Michael Samen.

“This is a place where all of the communities of Washington Heights can be together,” remarked Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine, who proved his point by opening his speech with greetings in Hebrew and Spanish, as well as an offer to do it in Greek. Levine then presented a proclamation marking June 24, 2024 as “Moriah Senior Center Day,” adding to the two other similar proclamations already given by Rep. Adriano Espaillat and Mayor Eric Adams.

State Sen. Robert Jackson, a longtime resident of Washington Heights and a frequent visitor of Moriah over the past 50 years, also presented a proclamation at the gala. “[Moriah] has extended the family circles and the lives of the seniors in this community,” he said to the crowd. “As long as Moriah is here, I don’t plan on going anywhere!”

Over a delicious luncheon of roasted salmon and chicken, those in attendance viewed a special video commemorating the 50-year anniversary of Moriah. In the video, clients, staff and volunteers all echoed the same sentiment: that Moriah Senior Center is a second home and a second family for many seniors in the community. Then the crowd connected in person with a performance from mentalist Michael Samen, who got attendees to participate in his mind tricks and illusions. As dessert was served, it was evident that the seniors were made to feel special that day, and that the essence of Moriah Senior Center’s 50 years had been captured with a celebration of generations.

“In the early stages of our planning, it was already clear to me that Shuli [Gutmann] wanted to depict the intergenerational impact of Moriah,” explained Rivka Holzer, the event planner responsible for setting the scene of Monday’s gala. “I thought the gallery design — the hanging portraits, the draped curtains, the baroque-style fruit bowl centerpieces — would transform the space into a work of art. I’m so pleased with how it came out, and I think we were able to execute the vision really well.”

In fact, Holzer’s and Gutmann’s vision for the event was executed so well that attendees throughout the luncheon expressed their awe of the setup as well as their gratitude for the special treatment. “I feel like royalty,” expressed one senior. “This is really amazing.”

Shuli Gutmann with the proclamation from Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine naming June 24, 2024 “Moriah Senior Center Day.”

“The transformation of the center was unlike anything anyone [at Moriah] had ever seen before,” noted Gutmann. “It was very special and certainly worthy of the milestone that we’ve reached. I think people walked out of this event feeling great about who we are at Moriah and what we offer. I look forward to meeting the next generation of seniors who can share their stories and their talents with us, and grow our family.”

Moriah Senior Center is located at 90 Bennett Ave. in Washington Heights and serves a hot kosher lunch to seniors on a daily basis in addition to other services and resources. More information can be found at www.moriahseniorcenter.org. Holzer can be reached at [email protected].

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