With so much happening at this time, it may be easy to overlook that this week’s edition of the Queens Jewish Link is the 400th since the first copy was published in 2012. The month of Adar also marks the 20th anniversary since my parents purchased their house in Forest Hills. Looking back at these two chronological markers, we can see how much our community has matured in developing its voice, and my own personal growth.
On a sunny Saturday morning, I sat on the porch of my parents’ new home and, without any entertainment or furniture, I stood up and took a walk on 108th Street with a friend. We paused at Congregation Machane Chodosh. I walked inside and took a seat among the worshippers. This is where my path to observance began. From that point, Saturday became Shabbos.
Nearly a decade ago, Yaakov Serle and Naftali Szrolovits dreamed of putting the Queens Jewish community on the front page every week. In a media landscape of multiple free weeklies, thick newspapers filled with Torah content, and glossy magazines reporting on the hot-button topics among Orthodox Jews, would our neighbors have space on their tables for one more publication? Would advertisers invest in this new product?
The local yeshivos recognized the potential of a community-based newspaper as a venue for sharing their academic programs, the successes of their students, and opportunities for the public to offer support. Among the chinuch organizations, Chazaq has been a partner of the Queens Jewish Link from its beginning. Its success has been our success.
Our Rabbinic Consultant, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, provides valuable insight on halachic matters, historical context, and communal leadership. His personal background, education, professional positions, and life experience give him a unique position of understanding the various sectors of American Orthodoxy. We mourn the loss of his father, Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld zt”l, who was a builder of Kew Gardens Hills as a mekom Torah, and recognize that his work continues through our Rabbinic Consultant, and the various local organizations in which he is involved that promote chinuch, kashrus, civic involvement, and helping the needy.
Local businesses recognized this newspaper as a messenger for a very targeted audience – one that lives within walking distance, or a short drive, to restaurants, real estate, insurance agents, repair shops, entertainment, and much more.
Elected officials and candidates for public office also took note of the newspaper, sharing their legislative accomplishments and proposals as they relate to the Orthodox Jewish community. We can look back with pride at this newspaper’s role in preventing a proposed bus lane on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills that would have resulted in traffic congestion and fewer parking spots on a busy commercial strip. In the heart of Kew Gardens Hills, we reported on the rezoning of single-family homes to accommodate multi-generational households and families with many children.
In our effort to increase voter participation among Orthodox Jews in Queens, our columnists identified our allies and encouraged readers to offer them support. When Borough President Melinda Katz ran for District Attorney in 2019 in a tight primary against a leftist who sought to stop prosecuting certain offenses, our readers made the difference in a razor-thin victory. Last year, when Rep. Grace Meng ran for reelection, our readers turned out to give her a commanding victory margin so that there is no doubt in her ability to represent this district.
Earlier this month, we celebrated the return of Jim Gennaro to the City Council, where the results showed a decisive increase in voters in the Jewish community. Alarmed by an anti-Semitic tweet that was shared by a leftist candidate, our story was picked up by other news organizations, community leaders, and activists. Our readers repudiated a candidate who received donations from across the country along with celebrity endorsements, in favor of the former Queens College professor who has been our ally in combating anti-Semitism, BDS, and a proven supporter of yeshivos, senior centers, and community nonprofits. He also takes pride in his role as the community’s designated chametz purchaser. We will continue to encourage voter participation in upcoming elections, building on our recent victories.
Concerning Israel, we’ve reported on the work of Bet El Institutions and Ateret Cohanim in their contributions to Yishuv HaAretz, and P’eylim Lev L’Achim in kiruv. I am forever thankful to our columnist Dr. Joe Frager for taking Yaakov Serle and me to Kever Yehoshua bin Nun in 2018, a rare opportunity coordinated with the Israeli Army that gave us a firsthand example of what we could stand to lose if BDS succeeds – a Jewish holy site covered in hostile Arabic graffiti.
Since the launch of this newspaper, Queens Hatzolah purchased new vehicles and medical equipment; Queens Shmira and Chaverim of Queens also benefited from our reporting of their lifesaving work, and we’ve encouraged our readers to join these volunteers in person and in spirit. From its inception, we have been the media sponsor of Save Our Schools, promoting the “giving of tz’dakah in one’s community” to provide a “fundamental and enduring Jewish education for our children.”
During this pandemic, the Queens Jewish Link has provided vital coverage on the distribution of PPE, meals programs, parenting advice, testing sites, and vaccination. We’ve encouraged our readers to carry on with their lives in a safe manner. Two cases in point: the mobile parade thanking Queens Hatzolah volunteers, and the car rally in support of the police department. Both of these events were sponsored by the Queens Jewish Link, reported by other news organizations, and inspired other Jewish communities to hold public events in a safe and healthy manner.
In defense of religious freedoms, our reporter Shabsie Saphirstein served as an Agudah plaintiff before the Supreme Court, arguing for the reopening of our shuls in a manner that balances health concerns with the First Amendment. On these pages, he shared his experience as a local resident who was represented in the country’s highest court.
As a historian, there is a sense of responsibility in our obituaries of rabbanim who built this community, g’dolim who had relationships with some of our readers, and stories of former shuls that had an impact on past generations of Queens residents. Such stories serve as a testament to their impact on our community’s development.
Looking ahead, the source of our success has been HaKadosh Baruch Hu, who has blessed the Queens Jewish Link with a loyal readership, dedicated advertisers, and capable staff. Our masthead names the communities where our copies are distributed. For the readers who have moved to the suburbs, as we’ve put Queens on the front page, we would like to share the news that emerges on Long Island. Let us be your source for events, ideas, and opportunities.
By Sergey Kadinsky