The Queens community is blessed by an incredible organization that doesn’t let anything – not anything – stop its overflowing love for the Jewish community and its mission: always looking for a need in klal Yisrael and seeking to fill it.
I spoke with Robbie Aboff, Events Coordinator for Chazaq, about Chazaq’s work during the pandemic. It was truly heartening and inspiring to recount all that Chazaq does and continues to do with tremendous siyata diShmaya and its trademark energy and excitement.
In the beginning, when the pandemic struck last spring, Chazaq was challenged. Over the years, Chazaq organized hundreds of events and shiurim in dozens of shuls and community centers. Now, when there couldn’t be live events, the question for Chazaq was: “How will we give people the chizuk they need and want, when they can’t leave their houses?”
Chazaq has always worked together with another amazing organization that started in Queens, TorahAnytime. At the onset of the pandemic, Chazaq worked hand in hand with TorahAnytime to live stream all the Chazaq shiurim so that the greater public could access the shiurim or call in if they didn’t have Internet access. Chazaq organized the first emergency T’hilim chizuk gathering with Rabbi Yitzchok Sorotzkin of Lakewood and Rabbi Gamliel Rabinowitz of Israel, two g’dolim. Over 40,000 devices tuned in, and from that event Chazaq saw a thirst for using modern technology to get inspired and be strong during this challenging time.
Next, Chazaq offered shiurim for men and women and children of all ages and all backgrounds. Subjects ranged from shidduchim to hashkafah to emunah, and more. It was clear that people were unified by Torah and T’hilim, so this was replicated in the months that followed. Speakers from around the world were featured, including speakers from Queens, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, and the UK. People from all over tuned in.
Some of the many highlight events included shiurim co-hosted by publishers where authors gave live-streamed talks about their s’farim. Some of these authors included Rabbi Paysach Krohn (well-known mohel, author, and speaker), Rabbi Moshe Bamberger (Mashgiach Ruchani at the Lander College for Men and Beis Medrash L’Talmud), and Rabbi Daniel Glatstein (rav of Kehillas Ahavas Yisrael). Theses shiurim gave people inspiration and a glimpse into a sefer that rabbanim put hundreds of hours into creating.
Tragically, Chazaq and klal Yisrael lost so many tremendous g’dolim during this pandemic. Chazaq featured numerous memorial events, which included events in memory of Rosh HaYeshiva Rav Aharon Walkin, Rabbi Yaakov Menashe, and Rav Dovid Feinstein.
Chazaq has continued to feature weekly shiurim that began during the pandemic. “Turn Saturday Night into Motza’ei Shabbos” is one such popular event. It features Dr. David Lieberman, well-known author and speaker, discussing transforming relationships, and Rav Dovid Goldwasser, well-known speaker and author, sharing teachings from Pirkei Avos. Dr. Lieberman uses feedback and emails from the community to focus his discussions.
Every Thursday night is jam-packed with shiurim on the parshas ha’shavua. Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss, well-known speaker, Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier, of the Shmuz, Rabbi Yitzchok Bistritsky, renowned talmid chacham and community activist, and Rabbi Yitzchok Sorotzkin, prolific writer and former Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe Yeshiva, share their Torah insights.
Also, Chazaq hosted numerous Torah Marathons on legal holidays and fast days. On Memorial Day and on Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz there were 21 speakers. On Tish’ah B’Av there were five special programs and over 175,000 devices tuned in.
Chazaq hosted over 600 events during the pandemic and over 400,000 devices tuned in. Baruch Hashem, so much Torah is being disseminated throughout the world. It’s amazing!
Chazaq features shiurim and events, but its main mission is to bring Jewish children away from public school and to enroll them in yeshivah. The staff continued and continues to work nonstop even when the offices had to be closed, and over 100 public school students were transferred to yeshivah during the pandemic. Chazaq continues to run its after-school programs via Zoom with ten-plus hours of classes for public school students. These classes run for students of all ages. Chazaq is thankful to all the organizations that partnered with them during the pandemic to feature so many beautiful events.
Recently, Chazaq partnered with Chickens for Shabbos and Olam Chesed to donate household items, toys, and clothing as a hakaras ha’tov to the rabbanim and moros in local Queens yeshivos.
During the pandemic, Chazaq’s food pantry found a new location in Kew Gardens Hills. In addition, Chazaq felt it was important to bring a smile to people during these challenging times, so they ran two massive live-streamed events of family entertainment. One, in the summer, hosted renowned singers and acrobats, and one, during Sukkos, featured a different fun event each day of Chol HaMoed. Singers like Joey Newcomb and Simcha Leiner performed, as well as the Big Apple Circus. One thousand people tuned in to the Sukkos program. Families sent photos of their family watching the program.
Hashem should continue to bless Chazaq, and we should all see the end of this pandemic right now!
For more information about Chazaq’s upcoming events, go to Chazaq.org. Partner with Chazaq’s holy mission and go to www.Givechazaq.com.
By Susie Garber