The multifaceted outreach work of Chazaq is best known for its programs aimed at public school students, seeking to educate them about Jewish observance and encourage their transfer to yeshivas. To facilitate the classes, lectures, and learning regimen, Chazaq has been operating Kolel Zichron Moshe VeLeah in Kew Gardens Hills for the past three years under the leadership of Rosh Yeshiva Rav Ahron Walkin.
“Chazaq is known for its shiurim but you can’t just build from the bottom up, you must also build the top, develop leaders,” said Chazaq co-founder Rabbi Ilan Meirov.
The kollel is located inside Congregation Od Yosef Chai on 73rd Avenue with the inaugural semicha celebration taking place across the street last Sunday at K’hal Nachlas Yitzchok. Rav Noach Isaac Oelbaum congratulated the eight newly minted rabbis and tied the celebration to the global Siyum HaShas that took place the day before. “If you want to be matzliach in business, you have to be fully consumed by it. The same with Torah learning. And you also need a good business manager,” he said.
All eight of the musmachim grew up in Queens, in the heart of the Bukharian Jewish community. “The Torah is connected to Shas and giving to the community. Don’t keep it to yourself,” said Rav Walkin. “Share the riches. Be selfless, give and teach Torah.” His own devotion was described by Rabbi Meirov who noted that Rav Walkin has a comfortable home and kehilla in Lakewood and initially he commuted to the kollel in Queens. Eventually an apartment was provided where he can stay during the weekdays. The Rosh Yeshiva made this long trip and took on the tasks of the kollel out of a strong sense of connection with Bukharian Jews and the goal of reuniting them with their heritage.
“It is a warm environment with a lot of simcha. It is a deep learning with sugyot in Gemara, Shulchan Aruch and Bet Yosef. It’s everything under one roof,” said Rabbi Michael Khaimov.
The semicha and siyum celebration was graced by rabbinic leaders in the community, family members of the musmachim, supporters, and Queens Borough President candidate Elizabeth Crowley. Bukharian Community Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli, and Rav Benzion Kook of Israel were scheduled to attend but were unfortunately unable due to unforeseen matters. “The more kollels the better. They enhance the community. It’s uplifting,” said Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, Rabbi of Kehilat Sephardim.
At his side was Rabbi Yitzchak Aminoff, who noted that the semicha he received does not end his learning regimen at the kollel. “We finished basar v’chalav, and now we’re moving on to Taarovot or mixtures. In addition to the learning in the kollel, Chazaq also gives us an opportunity to work with public school students in many areas,” he said.
Although Rav Oelbaum’s thoughts on the Siyum HaShas appeared in the event’s official journal, he was not among the 90,000 Jews at MetLife Stadium on Jan. 1. “I came home Thursday from Lublin, the place where it all began,” he said. “We did not have 100,000 people, maybe a couple hundred. They came from Kiev, Moscow, Eretz Yisrael, Borough Park, to celebrate Siyum HaShas in Lublin.”
The palatial facility in this eastern Polish city hosted Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, under Rosh Yeshiva Rav Meir Shapiro, the initiator of the worldwide Daf Yomi program. The yeshiva was shuttered at the onset of World War Two, with surviving talmidim relocating to Israel and America. In 2003 the Polish government returned the building to the Jewish community. “We stood where Rav Meir Shapiro had misayem Shas twice,” siad Rav Oelbaum. “The kedusha of the Beis HaMikdash is implanted forever. The building is all we have and you still feel standing there, the kedusha rishona.”
Before making the siyum, Rav Oelbaum spoke of the unprecedented amount of daf yomi learning taking place worldwide. “Even the gedolei doros... Learned a blatt here and a blatt there. One leaf on a stem. Today even baalebatim (working men) are misayem Shas.”
Rav Walkin also launched a new evening Daf Yomi shiur at 8:30pm open to the public at 72-36 136th Street.
The eight rabbinic graduates of Chazaq’s Kollel Zichron Moshe VeLeah are: Rabbi Binyamin Khaimov, Rabbi Tomer Zino, Rabbi Azarya Pinkhasov, Rabbi Yitzchak Aminoff, Rabbi David Kalmus, Rabbi Avichai Bensoussan, Rabbi Michael Khaimov, and Rabbi Nisan Shalomayev.
The Queens Jewish Link congratulates the musmachim of this kollel and wishes them well in their rabbinic work.
By Sergey Kadinsky