Roughly 30 vehicles drove along Spruce Lane in East Meadow on Sunday, celebrating Max Schrier’s 90th birthday. Balloons poked out of car windows and passengers stuck their heads out of their sunroofs and cheered as they passed his home on a chilly but sunny morning.
Some vehicles stopped in front of Schrier’s house so drivers could give him gifts, cards or cake. Schrier’s eyes turned to crescents as his dimples rose under his mask.
“It’s like the whole temple came out to wish him a happy birthday,” said his daughter-in-law, Marci Schrier.
For most of his life, Schrier was a member of what was once Temple Emanu-El, in East Meadow. He and his fellow congregants now belong to Temple B’nai Torah, in Wantagh, which merged with Temple Emanu-El in June 2018.
Schrier had contributed to the theater productions at Temple Emanu-El since 1988, as both set designer and cast member. He continued his involvement when the temples merged.
“Max has been involved with our temple shows for several decades and is our much-loved patriarch,” said Lisa Shubin, of East Meadow.
Schrier had hoped to celebrate his landmark birthday with his daughter, Deena Rudolph, as a computer analyst in Montreal, and her husband, Jeffrey. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Canadian border is closed, and Schrier is still isolating at home because of his age.
His birthday was on Sunday, and the congregation wouldn’t let him celebrate without making a production of it. In addition to being surprised by the car parade, Schrier woke up to see his lawn decorated with a large sign that read, “Happy Birthday Max.” Congregants also created a compilation of photos and videos from the temple.
In almost every theater production in which Schrier acted, his character’s main prop was a broomstick. During the car parade, congregants presented him with what they called the “golden broom,” a broomstick they decorated and spray-painted gold.
“He hears like he’s 90, but everything else about him is not 90,” his daughter-in-law said. “He’s touched a lot of lives.”
Schrier grew up in Brooklyn, and graduated from New Utrecht High School in 1948. He met Hannah Blum, now his wife of 66 years, before serving in the 780th Artillery Unit of the U.S. Army in the Korean War, in 1952 and 1953. They married the year after he got back. “She waited for him, and they wrote love letters when he was in Korea,” said Schrier’s son, Eliott.
Schrier earned a degree in art education from Brooklyn College and a Master’s in fine arts from the University of Ohio. He was the fine arts chairman at Far Rockaway High School for 26 years, before leaving the Far Rockaway School District in 1986 and spending the next 12 years in retirement. Then, in 1998, he started teaching again — ceramics, at Nassau Community College.
Eliott and Marci have two daughters, Emily, 28, and Gabrielle, 26. Emily is a special education teacher who takes on roles at different public schools in Long Island and Gabrielle is a business analyst. Deena and Jeffrey also have two children, Rachel, 32, and Adam, 28. Rachel is a professor at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and Adam is a software developer in Montreal.