The growing chorus of Congressional Democrats critical of President Donald Trump’s policies was on display last week when Rep. Andy Levin of Michigan circulated a letter among his colleagues expressing opposition to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s assertion that Israeli communities built across the former Green Line are not in violation of international law. Rather than exemplifying one point of disagreement, the letters listed four other examples of Trump’s shifting of longstanding American principles concerning Israel and the Palestinians.

In the quarter century since he immigrated to New York from Uzbekistan, Eliyahu Rakhminov deservedly earned his reputation as a hardworking and observant family man who maintained a daily presence at Bet Midrash TOV, a Kew Gardens Hills synagogue popular among Sephardic Jews. Last Saturday night, after the end of Shabbos, Rakhminov was fatally struck by a car as he was crossing Jewel Avenue near 140th Street. “Hatzolah arrived almost immediately to revive him, but he was dead,” said Moshe Verschleiser, who lives on the block and witnessed the scene. “He was taken to the hospital but could not be revived.”

The shul with a heart in the center of Forest Hills, through its overall membership, is the story of Jews in New York exemplifying the successive Jewish immigration waves and economic conditions. Through the decades, the constants were its German minhagim and the warmth of its rabbis that reflected in the membership. “It is with great thanks to G-d Almighty, and to our dedicated community, that we celebrate our 80th anniversary,” said Rabbi Yossi Mendelson, mara d’asra of Congregation Machane Chodosh.

On the communal and physical landscape of Kew Gardens Hills, Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim stands as a citadel of Torah learning and anchor for the surrounding community. From his experience, Executive Vice President Rabbi Hayim Schwartz says, “It’s the grade schools that attract Jewish families to neighborhoods by educating the next generation.”

There was plenty of pomp and circumstance as the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates installed its new mara d’asra, Rabbi Dov Lerner, in a celebration that was festive and thought-provoking, headlined by his mentor, Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik. “He is a rabbi who is authentic, honest, and transparent. His primary focus is the well-being of our community,” said Asher Abramovitz, who emceed the ceremony and co-chaired the rabbinic transition committee.

The speakers greeting Rabbi Lerner noted his British accent and the highly choreographed ceremonies of his birthplace. “You definitely speak our language. But most importantly, you understand us,” said Sam Herskowitz, the president of the congregation. “You always wear cufflinks, even on a hot Fourth of July, moving boxes into your new home.”

Every shul has its own way of installing its rabbi. For many, it is a once-in-a-generation event that is worthy of memorable speeches. Like the Queen’s knighthood ceremony, there’s an object for the honoree to wear. “Here are your Young Israel of Jamaica Estates cufflinks, with today’s date, the eighth of Elul.” Herskowitz then clasped Rabbi Lerner’s hand and raised it before the packed shul.

Rabbi Lerner succeeds Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, who has been the rav of this shul for nearly 30 years, inspiring its members during a period of tremendous growth, in terms of membership, programming, and the building’s physical expansion. He and his wife Karen recently moved to Lakewood, chosen for its numerous learning opportunities and its location. “We have a nephew in Lakewood, our son lives in Brooklyn, and our daughter in Baltimore. We are also starting a new chesed project in Lakewood,” said Rabbi Hochberg.

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