The Chazaq organization is renowned for its inspirational lectures and for its outreach to the unaffiliated offering life-changing after-school programs for public school youth and transferring hundreds of students to yeshivah.
When a beneficiary of this outreach work seeks to further his knowledge of Torah, this is when Chazaq’s Yeshiva Gedola Beis Nosson Meir fills the void. “It has been about three years since this started with our Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Walkin coming in from Lakewood to do this,” said a member of the kollel, R’ David Kalmus.
Raised secular, the Forest Hills resident was connected to the kollel by Chazaq Operations Manager R’ Yaniv Meirov, who has known Rabbi Aharon Walkin for many years. Today, thanks to the yeshivah, Kalmus is inspiring both public school students and businessmen alike by delivering various classes throughout the week.
Recently, the yeshiva held a festive Melava Malka in Kew Gardens Hills to benefit the Beth Midrash and Kollel. Rabbi Walkin showed a new side of him as he chose not to speak much at the event but rather sing as he joined special guest from Israel, Rabbi Shmuel Brazil and played the guitar, in what turned out to be a riveting kumsitz. The event provided an opportunity to meet the yeshivah’s teachers, students, and supporters.
As diverse as the Queens Jewish community is, so is Chazaq’s Yeshiva Gedola in which its participants include Ashkenazim and Sefardim of all backgrounds, working men and full-time learners. “After receiving s’michah at Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, I wanted to continue learning,’’ said Rabbi Binyamin Khaimov, who is studying Yoreh Dei’ah with Rabbi Avichai Ben Shushan at the Chazaq Kollel.
“The Program has great rebbeim, and a style of learning that makes you want to come back,” said Mr. Borukhov, who works in real estate and makes the kollel a part of his daily routine.
Among the rebbeim is Rabbi Mordechai Aryeh Hecht of Kew Gardens, a veteran m’chaneich who has inspired hundreds upon hundreds of students over the past few decades. “There’s a large group that learns halachah, Chumash, Gemara, and hashkafah. They address what we are supposed to be doing and how we live our lives. It’s practical halachah,” said Rabbi Hecht.
The connection between Chazaq and the yeshivah-kollel was explained by Chazaq Director Rabbi Ilan Meirov. “Chazaq is involved in so much outreach and, baruch Hashem, so many lives have been changed. But we realized we must polish future leaders of the community to assure all the people coming back to the fold won’t be lost along the way due to lack of leadership within the community. So the kollel is really a continuation to the kollel that Rabbi Walkin ran in Ohel Simcha for approximately two decades. Now we are simply trying to keep developing leaders of the community.”
Chazaq’s kollel, headed by Rav Aharon Walkin, and the Beth Gavriel Kollel, led by Chief Bukharian Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli, are the two largest kollelim for the Sephardic and Bukharian community in Queens. “Though there is much more to do,” said R’ Yaniv Meirov. “So many more young rabbis would love to join and grow, and if we had the necessary funds we would make it happen immediately”.
Rabbi Nissan Shalomayev leads the Bukharian Jewish Congregation of Hillcrest, a nearly five-year-old synagogue in a corner of Hillcrest that previously did not have one. “In the kollel under Rabbi Walkin, we are trained not only to learn but to put it into action by paskening (giving a halachic ruling) to the sh’eilah (question),” said Rabbi Shalomayev. “It’s truly a unique kollel. Everyone smiles here.”
Along with deep lineage of talmidei chachamim in his family, Rabbi Walkin learned with some of the leading poskim of the generation, such as Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, Rav Avraham Pam, Rav Yisroel Belsky, and Rav Dovid Feinstein, among others. “The formula that guaranteed the success for all of these teachers, and the formula that we bring to our yeshivah is absolute love for the students,” he said in an earlier interview with the Bukharian Jewish Link. “You need to be there for them and worry about them and care for them and love them like they are your own children.”
For R’ Yaniv Meirov, the connection between Chazaq and the Yeshiva Gedola includes members of his extended family. “I am a businessman. I developed a relationship with the rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Walkin, two years ago. I came and learned for an hour each week and now I learn for several hours each day with about 20 other businessmen,” said Moshe Sdayeb, Meirov’s bother-in-law. “This program is truly changing the face of our community”.