On Wednesday evening, May 25, Congregation Ahavas Yisroel of Kew Gardens Hills celebrated its 34th Annual Dinner at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. Elegantly displayed peony centerpieces and delicious healthful food added to this lovely dinner.

Rabbi Herschel Welcher, rav of the shul, and Rebbetzin Miriam Welcher greeted each person warmly and made everyone feel welcome and important.

“It’s a friendly, warm shul and the rabbi is accessible,” one shul member commented.”

Another member commented about the shul: “A great shul with a wide range of people from diverse backgrounds that makes it very comfortable, and you can always count on the Rabbi and the Rebbetzin.”

“I love the people in the shul. It’s very down-to-earth!”

Judge David Kirschner, president of the shul, greeted everyone and emceed the event. Judge Kirschner noted that a record crowd was gathered for this elegant event, celebrating the shul and honoring Rabbi Yoni and Mrs. Adina Katz. Yoni Katz is the immediate past president and is a former gabbai sheini. He pointed out that we appreciate the k’hilah even more now, as we are coming out of COVID. He quoted from an article that stated that we are cut off from one another the past ten years and this is attributed to social media.

He also shared an interview with Congressman Ronny Jackson of Texas who said that “we don’t know each other anymore.” Judge Kirschner explained that when we know one another, we are more forgiving of one another. We need to look away from the dysfunction in our government and disconnect with social media and talk with our neighbors. He shared that his gentile colleagues marvel at our community that has so many chesed and tz’dakah organizations and Hatzalah. Some keep Hatzalah’s number in their homes. “The dinner gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we have in Kew Gardens Hills and in Congregation Ahavas Yisroel.”

Rabbi Herschel Welcher then spoke. “We are gathered to celebrate our beis k’neses and to honor Rabbi Yoni and Adina Katz.” Rabbi Welcher shared a teaching of Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l that the purpose of our k’hilah is for k’dushah. K’dushah has to do with how we relate to Hashem in our lives. It’s sanctification of our life and dedication to Hashem. The essence of Torah is dependent on what Moshe would teach. The unique chukim and mishpatim talk about aspects of k’dushah in areas between man and G-d and between man and his fellow man. Core k’dushah is not limited to bein adam laMakom. “K’dushah means being dedicated to the principle of Hashem across every area of our life.”

Rabbi Welcher shared the teaching that when people look fondly on a person, then Hashem looks fondly on them. Rabbeinu Yonah taught that when a person conducts himself regally, with refined character traits, he is m’kadeish Hashem. People see this person and say this is how I want my children to act. Rabbi Welcher shared a story about a rav who was a Holocaust survivor. He had ten children and lost five of them in the Holocaust. This rav would say that we recite let us sanctify Hashem in this world as He is sanctified in the World above. He had five children who sanctified Hashem in the World Above and five who sanctified Hashem in this world.

Rabbi Welcher pointed out that we have come to the end of two exceedingly difficult years. The pandemic brought fear, and we lost korbanos in our community. “Baruch Hashem, Hashem in His kindness has allowed us to come together in good health.” He stressed that we should sanctify G-d’s name in this world. It is our responsibility to Hashem to serve Him and to serve klal Yisrael. “Opportunities for kiddush Hashem are boundless.” He said, “It’s our call to do whatever we can to sanctify the name of Hashem in all walks of life.”

Rabbi Welcher then thanked all the dedicated members of the shul who do so much in all aspects of the shul and named each one specifically. He then shared that the Katz family are very remarkable people. They are dedicated to outreach with tremendous m’siras nefesh for the shul as well. “They are wonderful, beautiful people.” He shared that the shul is the central part of our life, and we wish to celebrate it. “We draw on each other’s strengths. Collectively, we have tremendous power – more than any individual.” He shared a special thank you to Mrs. Sarah Simanowitz, who is leaving after being Director of the Congregation Ahavas Yisroel Gan for many years. He thanked her for all she has done for the popular outstanding Shul Gan, and he wished her much brachah in her future endeavors. Rabbi Welcher also thanked the dinner committee, which included Judge Kirschner, Mrs. Jennifer Jaffe, Mr. Jay Jaffe, and Mr. Mark Frankel.

Mr. Chaim Katz, brother of Yoni Katz, spoke next and shared stories demonstrating the amazing midos of his brother and sister-in-law. Then Rabbi Yoni Katz spoke.

There was a warm, friendly atmosphere, which everyone carried home with them.

By Susie Garber