Mr. Seymour N. Chesir’s dedication to the Yeshiva of Central Queens both preserved its legacy of excellence in both Judaic and secular education and fomented the vision for the years that lay ahead. In the month since Mr. Chesir’s passing on November 19, his lasting impressions have emerged from those who knew and worked with him, solidifying his consistent efforts. For well over half a century, Mr. Chesir devoted countless hours serving on the YCQ Board of Trustees as president and chairman of the board, and his name remains synonymous with the contemporary YCQ.
The Yeshiva of Central Queens’ name was predominant in the Chesir household. Seymour’s beloved wife, Elissa a”h, paid much attention to her husband’s endeavors and together they took pride watching their wonderful children thrive. It was only a few weeks ago that am Yisrael lost the esteemed Elissa Chesir, a former leader in the YCQ Parents Association and a stalwart supporter of AMIT, the children’s organization once known as Mizrachi Women’s Organization of America. Their successful children include Joshua, who graduated from the Yeshiva in 1971, David in 1972, Aaron in 1975, and Benjamin in 1984.
Born August 22, 1930, Mr. Chesir was a partner at Stein Schwartz Chesir & Rosh, LLP, a Manhattan law firm where he established a respectable reputation for himself, while providing for every need of his cherished family and becoming involved in communal endeavors.
Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, executive director of YCQ, remembered Mr. Chesir’s influence. “YCQ did not take Mr. Chesir’s suggestions and advice lightly. His opinions held great value and are engrained in the framework of the Yeshiva that continues to, baruch Hashem, flourish today. For decades, Mr. Chesir stood alongside Rabbi Menachem Rottenberg z”l, the former executive director at YCQ, as an advocate in striving for the highest levels of Torah and general education.”
As the Yeshiva board chairman, Mr. Chesir was responsible for leading the monthly meetings, covering the agenda, and keeping order. Mr. Chesir was a gentleman with extensive foresight and imaginative and practical ideas. He was respectful to the countless speakers who addressed the board and expected the membership to follow suit.
Mrs. Reize Sipzner, longtime YCQ vice president and annual dinner chairperson, had a deep admiration for Mr. Chesir and his wisdom. “It was an absolute honor and privilege to ‘sit at the table’ with Seymour Chesir a”h for well over 20 years,” she said. “Seymour was first to arrive at every meeting, handsomely dressed in a business suit and bowtie. He listened and always gave us his wise counsel and sage advice. The Yeshiva was of utmost importance to him, and he made it his life’s mission to enable YCQ to provide a superior Jewish and general studies education while closely watching the bottom line.”
In 1972, when Rabbi Rottenberg observed the extensive growth of the Queens Jewish community, an ideal location was sought for a new modern Yeshiva building. Mr. Chesir became involved in the Yeshiva’s expansion project, and it was in part his concept that remains on display at the intersection of 70th Road and 150th Street in Kew Gardens Hills today.
“We are eternally grateful to Mr. Chesir and Rabbi Rottenberg for laying a strong foundation so that the Yeshiva can successfully pursue its mission to give each child a superior Torah and general education and raise a new generation of Torah-loyal families l’Hagdil Torah u’l’haadirah,” said the reigning president of the YCQ Board, Dr. Joel Wein.
Carrying the burden of the Yeshiva was no small feat, and many of its achievements, including the construction of the Kew Gardens Hills campus in 1975 and the state-of-the-art Junior High School building in 2000, are an enduring testimonial to Mr. Chesir’s legacy.
Serving with distinction became second nature for Mr. Chesir as he and his eishes chayil set an example by accepting awards at two of the Yeshiva’s Dinners. The Chesirs, in the ultimate definition of a YCQ couple, did not seek the recognition; rather they felt it vital to support the philanthropic projects of the Yeshiva. Together they took a hands-on approach to education and the Yeshiva’s welfare, enabling generations of alumni to follow.
“He graciously accepted to be honored twice at our annual dinner,” recollected Mrs. Sipzner. “I personally worked together with him and was enriched from the experience. He taught us all how to work together for a common goal while exercising patience and respect for one another. When describing Seymour, I think of an extremely dedicated and devoted servant of Hashem,” she concluded.
It was on March 6, 2011, that YCQ held its 70th anniversary dinner at the Sands in Atlantic Beach honoring both Rabbi Rottenberg and then-chairman emeritus Mr. Chesir who, together, had led a remarkable period in the Yeshiva’s history.
Mrs. Ruth (Sole) Merrill, whose involvement with the Yeshiva coincided with Mr. Chesir’s leadership, remembered the chairman fondly. “During my 20 years as a YCQ parent, I served on the YCQ board as a Parents Association representative for eight years, during which Mr. Chesir was the chairman for the entire time,” stated Mrs. Merrill. “My favorite memory was at the annual first grade Siddur and second grade Chumash presentations. The pride on his face and the joy in his voice as he called out each student’s name and presented them with their appropriate sefer and chocolate bar was totally genuine. The normally serious chairman suddenly transformed into another proud relative.”
During his time presiding on the Yeshiva board, Mr. Chesir left an indelible mark. As he was retiring from the chairmanship, Mr. Israel Glaser, YCQ’s current chairman, was beginning his tenure on the board. “I always found him to be very affable and always approachable,” Mr. Glaser reminisced.
Although Mr. Chesir no longer served as the chairman of the board, his undying loyalty to the Yeshiva continued. “He would still devotedly attend monthly board meetings and commuted hours each way to do so,” added Mr. Glaser. “His dedication to the Yeshiva was well known, and today we continue to benefit from the visionary leadership he and others imparted on the Board.”
The children, extended family, including Seymour’s brother Isaac, and friends of Seymour and Elissa Chesir, should take comfort in knowing that the labors the couple invested in furthering education will have an everlasting effect for generations to come and will serve as their eternal heritage. May they be a meilitz yosher for all of klal Yisrael.
By Shabsie Saphirstein