The rain held up on the afternoon of Thursday, September 23, the first day of Chol HaMoed, for a Sukkos celebration hosted in the sukkah of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards outside of the Helen Marshall Cultural Center at Queens Borough Hall. Under the two previous Jewish Borough Presidents, no sukkah was ever erected on Borough Hall property.

Shimi Pelman, district leader of the 27th Assembly district, addressed the gathering. “One of the things that I have learned about Queens is that the Borough President is a major unifying person in our lives.” Pelman added, “As we all know, Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world, with so many languages spoken and ethnicities of people living within our communities. Under Donovan Richards, an enlightened Borough President, we have a sukkah. What he does on behalf of all communities is so heartwarming, so heartfelt, so unifying that I am thrilled to be here and be his friend.”

Rabbi Avrohom Hecht, Executive Director of Project Lead, praised the Borough President for undertaking the Sukkos celebration and discussed the underlying theme of the event - unity. “The four species [of Sukkos] represent four types of people, and it is only kosher if all four are together. So, we always have to look for unity in the community. The only time we are strong is when everyone comes together.” Rabbi Hecht took a hands-on role in the building of the sukkah and ensured proper Halachic guidelines were followed. For his efforts, the rabbi was awarded a Citation of Honor recognizing him as “an outstanding leader, worthy of the esteem of the community.”

Richards acknowledged those gathered and called it “an honor to celebrate the holiday with each of you.”

Other speakers included City Council Member Selvena N. Brooks-Powers of Far Rockaway’s District 31, a position previously held by Richards, and City Council Candidate Lynn Schulman, who hopes to represent the district that encompasses Borough Hall, among others. Dignitaries included City Council Member Karen Koslowitz; Assembly Members Andrew Hevesi and Nily Rozic; Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, CEO of Chazaq; Rabbi Shlomo Nisanov, rav of Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim; Judge David Kirschner, Queens Supreme Court Judge Nominee; community activist Alan Sherman; Linda Lee, City Council candidate; Simon Sebag, Jewish liaison for the Public Advocate; Brent Weitzberg, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Borough President; and Avi Cyperstein, Vice President of Chaverim of Queens, amongst others.

By Shabsie Saphirstein