Last Tuesday afternoon, US Rep. Grace Meng took time from her busy schedule to see firsthand the amazing work of the partnership between the Chazaq Organization and Met Council on Jewish Poverty at the Lev Aharon Community Food Pantry in Kew Gardens Hills. Meng was joined by her friend and ally Linda Lee, the Democratic Nominee in the race for City Council in District 23 to replace CM Barry Grodenchik.

Meng observed as pantry volunteers were assisted by our community’s elementary-aged girls taking from their summer break schedule to help the needy by packing bags of groceries ahead of the afternoon’s distribution.

“Thank you to Chazaq for inviting me to visit its pantry and learn about its operations,” said Meng to the Bukharian Jewish Link following her exclusive tour. “It was an honor to meet the volunteers who help ensure the success of this facility.”

Meng was also met by the Chazaq CEO, Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, who expressed the dire needs of the community and the void the pantry fills. “The line is often around the corner,” said Rabbi Meirov, pointing to the corner of Main Street and 72nd Avenue. “Our facility is proud to serve all residents of our area. In recent months, the need for food security has grown exponentially. We are proud to have Met Council as our partner in filling this community necessity.”

Meng added, “Chazaq is to be commended for all its tireless efforts to feed hundreds of families from our community, and to ensure that nobody goes hungry, particularly as we work to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. I also commend Met Council for sponsoring this critical initiative.”

“I’m so grateful for groups like Chazaq and the Met Council for supporting projects like the Lev Aharon Community Food Pantry,” said Lee. Lior Kleinman spent a considerable amount of time educating the nominee on the nuances of the pantry’s practices as he was at its helm for some time. Today, Aviv Simantov heads the pantry’s efforts. Lee took note of his attention to detail as the volunteers ensured that clients would receive all available food items. “It’s due to their generosity and hard work that many of our neighbors avoid going hungry,” added Lee.

Natan Aboff, a Chazaq employee who leads the organization’s social media presence, commented, “We just completed the fast of Tish’ah B’Av, when we gained a new understanding of meaning in our lives. Today, as I helped bag groceries for the needy families in our neighborhood, I was shown a new element to how small gestures of kindness can truly make a person’s day.” Other Chazaq leaders included Rachman Soleymani, who leads the special projects of the organization.

Izzy Peskowitz, Chazaq’s director of governmental affairs, related to Rep. Meng a comment he heard from a neighborhood resident. “I never thought that we would see a breadline here in Kew Gardens Hills,” said Peskowitz, noting the dismay on the resident’s facial expression as that of one similar to those of Parisian faces as they watched Nazi tanks rolling in at the start of World War II.

“It is remarkable to see the efforts of two wonderful organizations like Chazaq and Met Council working in seamless synchrony. Met Council has always been there to ensure that the poor and hungry can eat with grace,” stated Shimi Pelman, president of Tomchei Shabbos of Queens. “It is a powerful statement to see these organizations recognized by elected leaders like Congresswoman Grace Meng, who has rallied to organize Federal security aid for our institutions, and Democratic Nominee Linda Lee, a strong supporter of Jewish causes.

“The type of work that Chazaq does continues to amaze me, especially considering its efforts at the Lev Aharon Community Food Pantry,” said Aaron Cyperstein, Managing Director of External Affairs for Met Council on Jewish Poverty as he explained the relationship between the two groups.

Also in attendance were notable Jewish liaisons for elected officials and community leaders Alan Sherman, and Shaya Lloyd of Queens Borough Safety Patrol – Shmira. Rabbi Daniel Pollack has long represented Meng, while Adam Suionov proudly represents the Office of City Council Member James Gennaro in District 24, home to the Lev Aharon Community Food Pantry.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein
Photo Credits Israel Peskowitz