On Wednesday evening, June 29, the Queens community, local rabbanim, and local politicians gathered to bid farewell to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, Rabbi Dr. Richard Weiss and Rebbetzin Adina Weiss, who are leaving the shul after 17 years. The Weisses will be moving to Woodmere, and Rabbi Weiss will be working with Yeshiva University, mentoring students entering college on track to go to Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
The shul filled to capacity and many people were tearful as they participated in this beautiful tribute. Mr. Glenn Cohen, chairman of the farewell tribute, welcomed everyone. The program began with everyone singing the Star-Spangled Banner and then HaTikvah. Mr. Cohen spoke first. He shared the whole shul’s wishes of hatzlachah for the Rabbi and Rebbetzin and their hopes that they will stay in touch. “He will be missed in this community. He is a mentch.” He shared that Rabbi Weiss personified what a rav is. “The Rabbi and the Rebbetzin have been leaders throughout Queens. We appreciate the time you gave us.”
He acknowledged the Rabbi’s thorough scholarship and thanked him for his leadership, guidance, and friendship. He shared that the Rabbi and Rebbetzin’s impact will continue to be felt in our community.
Next, Rabbi Daniel Pollack, representative of Congresswoman Grace Meng, presented a proclamation to the Rabbi and Rebbetzin from the Congresswoman that praised their extraordinary accomplishments and dedication in serving the Queens community.
Next, the audience watched a video that included farewell messages from former shul presidents, the current shul president, former chairmen of the board, and the current chairman of the board.
Mr. Larry Rosman, Chairman of the Search Committee when Rabbi Weiss first came, shared on the video that Rabbi Weiss will be missed by everyone in the community. “Thanks for being with us in good times and in not such good times.” He wished the Rabbi and Rebbetzin good health and blessings. He thanked the Rabbi for his lovingkindness and concern for each member of the community. “He is an excellent teacher, rabbi, doctor, and friend.”
Mr. Gary Schackne said that the words of the former president of Israel fit him well. “Seventeen years of tov. He speaks from the heart.” He praised Rabbi Weiss’ emotional comfort, energy, intelligence, and humor. “He celebrated with us in times of joy. He agonized with us in times of angst, and he mourned with us in times of bereavement. He was always there for us. He is leaving behind a grateful community that was inspired by his speeches, gladdened by his humor, and uplifted by his presence.”
Representatives on the video shared the following comments: “There is no one who hasn’t benefited from your warmth and caring. During COVID, the Rabbi’s medical expertise, as well as his religious and medical guidance, were so appreciated. The shul is better for his guidance. We will miss you terribly. You are so devoted to everyone in our community. Rabbi Weiss introduced a weekly T’hilim program and a Rosh Chodesh program to the shul.”
Next, Rabbi Moshe Faskowitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Madreigas HaAdam, shared that it’s taxing on the neshamah to say goodbye to a friend. In Parshas VaYeitzei, Rashi teaches that when Yaakov left, there was a void in the city. Rabbis of the community represent the radiance, praise, and beauty of a community. Rabbi Faskowitz shared that since Rabbi Weiss came, the face of the community gained in radiance, praise, and beauty. Rabban Gamliel taught Rabbi Yehoshua that when you become a rav, you might think that you will receive honor, but instead you become a servant. “Since you came to Queens, we felt your dedication and devotion to every member of the community. You always were available and you cared. You made our lives so much more beautiful.” Rabbi Faskowitz praised Rabbi Weiss’ versatility. He is a wonderful speaker, talmid chacham, poseik, and he is m’kadeish sheim Shamayim all the time.
He blessed Rabbi Weiss that he will use all of his talents b’simchah and continue being m’kadeish sheim Shamayim in his new place. He concluded that we will always see these past 17 years as a blessing from Hashem.
Rabbi Weiss’ daughters each spoke on the video and shared their strong connection and thanks to the community. Rabbi Etan Schnall, incoming rav of the Young Israel of Hillcrest, shared that in Parshas VaYeitzei when Yaakov left, the Torah highlighted that the place would never be the same. He shared that Rabbi Weiss’ Torah and chesed set the bar high. “There will always be your impressions on the community. It can’t be the same without you. Hashem should assist us to live up to your example.”
Councilman Jim Gennaro then presented a city citation to Rabbi Weiss for being an outstanding citizen.
Following this, Rebbetzin Adina Weiss spoke. She shared how Esther gathered everyone together to pray and fast. The breaking of Haman’s evil decree was accomplished by everyone coming together. Everyone had to help. She remarked on the warmth of the community and how everyone is there for one another. “Every person matters. I will miss each and every individual and the community as a whole.”
Then, Rabbi Dr. Richard Weiss shared an emotional speech. He related that Queens is blessed with a diverse group of wonderful leadership. He acknowledged his predecessors and his immediate predecessor, Rabbi Simcha Krauss zt”l, who was such a great rabbi. He also acknowledged past shul presidents and past chairmen of the shul board. He praised the innumerable volunteers in the community. The community is involved in so many endeavors, he said. He added that the new rabbi will serve as a wonderful rav, and he wished him much hatzlachah. He thanked Abe Feld and then he thanked his own family.
He then shared a d’var Torah about Parshas Korach. He explained that Korach misunderstood what the t’cheiles was for. He thought it had intrinsic value, but that is not the purpose of t’cheiles. The purpose of that one strand is to make the rest of the garment more beautiful and meaningful. If you take away the rest of the beged and it’s all t’cheiles, then it loses its significance. The role of a rabbi is to be a strand of t’cheiles – to beautify people’s lives and enhance and uplift them and, at times, to ease their pain. That strand is supposed to be interwoven with the rest of the community, and it’s supposed to make the community better, both spiritually and materially. He stated, “It has been my distinct privilege and honor to try to do all of that.” He thanked everyone for the relationships that fermented over the past 17 years. The rest of the garment, the community, endows that strand with greater meaning and value. “I believe that I have developed and evolved since I came here because of you. This entire community has made me a better rabbi, and for that I thank you.”
He then noted that we all need these strands of t’cheiles to enhance and upgrade us. He then shared heartfelt thanks to his parents, his daughters, his in-laws, and his wife.
He thanked the community for the privilege of serving these past many years, and he expressed wishes to celebrate with us in the future.
Mr. Cohen then presented the Weiss family with a beautiful, framed Birkas HaBayis for their new home. He said that they should have given them two and hung one in the Young Israel of Hillcrest, which will always be their home.
Driving home from this moving event, as the sun was setting, this writer felt the poignancy of the moment. Time moves on, and we have to cherish the people in our lives: the rabbis, teachers, family, friends, and everyone who helps us to grow. Tomorrow is a new beginning. Queens is thankful for all the wonderful rabbis that have graced this community, and we wish Rabbi Weiss and his family good health and much hatzlachah and brachah in their new community.
By Susie Garber