Music, singing, and dancing along 99th Street welcomed a new Torah at the Chabad of Rego Park on Sunday. “Chaya’s Torah” is named after Rabbi and Rebbetzin Blokh’s 18-year-old daughter who passed away in 2020.
Born with brain damage and special needs, Chaya was one of 11 children of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Blokh. Throughout Chaya’s life, Rabbi Blokh did “special projects in her merit,” like giving Shabbos candles to patients in local hospitals.
The newly written Chaya’s Torah “is a living testament, a sort of abiding of Chaya continuing to be a source of light and joy,” said Rabbi Blokh.
Reading from this Torah regularly “will bring merit to her; and because this is bringing everybody together in joy, it is something that really is tremendously meaningful to us.”
This year is also the mitzvah of Hakhel. Every seven years, the King of Israel would assemble the Jewish people to hear the words of the Torah.
Chaya’s Torah “is an opportunity to bring people together and celebrate together all different segments of the community, different backgrounds, uniting in the joy of the Mitzvah,” said Rabbi Blokh.
It took the Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based Rabbi Yossi Liron a year to write the new sefer Torah. This is the fourth Torah for the Chabad of Rego Park.
Before writing the final letters of the Torah inside his home with Rabbi Liron, Rabbi Blokh said, “Chaya, and all those who are not here, will be here not only in soul but in body.
“This is a tremendous opportunity. All of the gates of heaven are open. For whoever will need materially, physically, in every regard, we just have to walk it. The path and the door that opens all the blessings is the Torah: learning, studying, and living it.”
Once the Torah was written, singing and clapping broke out inside the Rabbi and Rebbetzin’s home and then outside. With police cordoning off the streets, hundreds of people danced and sang alongside the new sefer Torah, starting from where the Chabad of Rego Park first began in 1997, at the Blokhs’ home.
A keyboardist was playing on the back of a flat-top truck along with recorded music. A video playing of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson on the side of the truck seemed to encourage the simchah with his smiles and gesticulations.
Students from the Lubavitch yeshivos in Queens were present, said Rabbi Blokh. Hakafos and blessings were said outside the Chabad of Rego Park’s current location at 65-10 99th Street. Lunch was served inside.
Chana Nurinova was moved to near tears when signing the Torah. She called the shul “my place, my home.”
Yonatan Yusupov, one of the sponsors who wrote a letter in the new Torah, said the Chabad of Rego Park “is very accepting, very open.”
Some of the donors towards the new sefer Torah include David and Robert Abaev, founders and owners of the CityMed Urgent Care centers, and Alex Weinstein, founder of Dyninno Group, “a technology company that provides products and services in the travel, fintech, and entertainment sectors,” according to its website.
Rabbi Blokh said that his “community is bigger and wider than those who just show up to events.” Rabbi Blokh was born in Moscow, Russia, and the Rebbetzin was born in Minsk, in what is now Belarus.
Chabad of Rego Park has a Talmud Torah for fifth to 12th graders with approximately 45-50 students attending regularly. Teenagers can play pool, socialize, learn, and talk with Rabbi Blokh at a lounge open seven days a week. Both are located at 99-21 62nd Drive.
The Chabad of Rego Park has a Shmurah Matzah food pantry and will also host two public Seders. To sign up for the Seders or for more information about Chabad of Rego Park, go to their website, chabadrego.org, or call Rabbi Blokh at 718-393-3085.
By David Schneier