On Tuesday night, November 30, the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills held a Siyum HaMishnah in commemoration of the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld, HaRav Mordechai Shraga Feivel ben Shmuel Shabsai HaLevi. Eighty-five people, including several of Rabbi Schonfeld’s children, grandchildren, and other relatives attended in person. More than 60 participated by Zoom. The event was chaired by Dr. David Levenson, who also coordinated the learning of Mishnah of Seder Moed Maseches Chagigah by 58 men, some of whom told him, “Even though I don’t usually learn on a regular basis, I want to do this to show hakaras ha’tov to Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld.”
Rabbi Stuart Verstandig, President of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, took this opportunity to announce the creation of the Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld Adult Education Center at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. The Center will sponsor special lectures, shiurim, and programs. As continuing adult education was very important to Rabbi Schonfeld, the shul felt that this was a most fitting way to honor his memory. The inaugural program is to be a lecture by Dr. Shnayer Leiman, presented at the shul’s annual Chanukah oneg.
After completing the learning of the Mishnah and making the Hadran, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld introduced his son and guest speaker, Akiva Schonfeld, Esq. In his remarks, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld thanked the shul’s members for being a source of encouragement to him and his family this past year, and noted that his father was and remains a source of inspiration for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
Akiva Schonfeld called the members of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills his grandfather’s other family, and he noted that both families were witness to his grandfather’s greatness. He spoke of Rabbi Schonfeld’s great passion for Yiddishkeit and for Eretz Yisrael. He reminded everyone of his grandfather’s dedication to each person in the shul and the neighborhood, and he quoted his rabbi as saying, “There are thousands of people in Kew Gardens Hills who don’t know how much they owe to Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld for the wonderful community they have.” Because of the great respect that people had for his grandfather, he always imagined that his funeral would be attended by hundreds and hundreds of people. However, the Ribbono Shel Olam had another idea and took him at a time when only the closest family members could be present. He thanked the members of the Young Israel for stepping to take care of his grandfather in his later years and, because his grandfather never spoke without mentioning the S’fas Emes, he ended his talk with a word from the S’fas Emes.
The evening ended on an emotional high-note with the screening of a video from the YIKGH’s May 2012 60th Anniversary Dinner in which Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld spoke of his life and his mentors.
By Rebecca Wittert