Last Wednesday, on the first day of Chol HaMoed, over 2,000 men, women, and children from a variety of Queens communities converged at Haym Salomon Square just outside of the Queens Public Library of Kew Gardens Hills for a Mega Sukkot Unity event, in honor of the year of Hakhel.
In the times when the Beis HaMikdash stood in Yerushalyim, every seventh year, on the holiday of Sukkos following shmittah, would be known as Hakhel. Every Jewish individual - man, woman, and child - would gather, united as one people, to hear the king read from the Torah, inspiring them to recommit to Hashem and His Torah. This Mega Sukkos Hakhel event perpetuated these same feelings of unity, positive energy, and commitment just like in the days of the Beis HaMikdash. “It was truly incredible to see Jews from all walks of life coming together, united as one people, one community, gathering together for one celebration,” remarked one attendee.
The event began with a special kids program, featuring an animated storyteller and spectacular fire show. Children and adults alike were completely captivated by their performances.
This was followed by words of inspiration from world-renowned speaker Rabbi Shais Taub, Director of Soul Words. The rav spoke of the unique mitzvah of Hakhel as well as its practical application today. Rabbi Taub encouraged all participants to become “Hakhel ambassadors” and make their own Hakhel gatherings throughout the year.
As the momentum picked up and the feelings of unity grew, the music began and the true joy of Simchas Bais HaShoevah came out in full force. Singer Nechemia Katz electrified the crowd with his incredible energy, getting everyone to join in unison. Community members danced hand in hand, and with enthusiasm rarely seen before in the World’s Borough. “The mosaic of Queens was seen firsthand on Main Street,” related Avraham Pinkhasov, coordinator for QBSP-Shmira, an integral event organizer.
Special thanks is expressed to NYPD Deputy Inspector Kevin Chan, Commanding Officer of the 107th precinct, for taking a hands-on approach to the event and attending in person together with his Community Affairs police officers Kevin McCarthy and Timothy Gorman. Moreover, coordination with their commanding officer Inspector Richie Taylor proved vital in allowing the event to come together with ease. We take note of Joel Eisdorfer, Senior Advisor to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and Pinny Ringel also of the mayor’s office for their assistance in helping secure appropriate space for the event stage and necessary closures. The event was a unity effort amongst various factions from the Forest Hills/Rego Park including Beth Gavriel, BJCC, Chazaq, VHQ, YIFH, and several Chabad Lubavitch affiliates throughout Queens.
After so much positive feedback, the organizers of the event hope to have more joint community events of unity and enjoyment in the future. We look forward to the ultimate “Hakhel,” when all Jews will be gathered in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh with the coming of Moshiach!
Editor’s Note: A conscious effort will be made to include all divisions of Queens Orthodox Jewry as future events take shape. This event was never meant to chas v’shalom exclude or alienate any group.