In the decade since its founding, Chaverim of Queens has grown from its initial two volunteers to more than ten times that number, providing emergency vehicle assistance for the Queens Jewish community. This past Thursday, January 3, its members held their annual Members Appreciation Dinner at Beit Eliyahu in Fresh Meadows, where they honored Mrs. Esther Friedman, widow of Jack Friedman z”l, in whose memory the Queens Chaverim is dedicated. “He was a man of great deeds when he was alive. After his death, his family met with us and founded Chaverim in his memory,” said Chaverim co-founder Avi Cyperstein.
The dinner honored Chaverim volunteers Uri Schlachter and Yair Adler. “Yair went beyond the call of duty, and Uri works behind the scenes,” said Cyperstein.
He thanked the Friedman, Fried, and Mermelstein families for their ongoing support of Chaverim, which helps fund the phones, the dispatch app that volunteers use, and tools that assist drivers. Such items include reopening cars for locked-out drivers, jump-starting batteries, refilling tanks and flat tires, and shoveling trapped cars from thick snow banks.
As with the volunteer ambulance service, and volunteer neighborhood watch, Chaverim has become an important element of the Queens Jewish communal infrastructure. What they have in common are their reliance entirely on public donations, community support, and a diverse membership that includes Ashkenazim as well as Bukharian Jews who speak Hebrew and Russian, among other languages. Alongside individual donors, local businesses also gave their support, including Wasserman’s Supermarket, FM Home Loans, Mechy’s Takeout, and East Coast Auto, among others.
Avi’s father, Aaron Cyperstein, introduced Queens Borough President Melinda Katz (a supporter of Chaverim from its inception), Councilman Barry Grodenchik, representatives from the 107th Police Precinct, and Rabbi Daniel Pollack, who spoke on behalf of Congresswoman Grace Meng.
The younger Cyperstein noted that even with more than a hundred volunteers, the organization is still looking for more members who can assist drivers across Queens, as well as dispatchers to field calls. “We invite men and women to dispatch. It is an excellent opportunity to work from home.”
By Sergey Kadinsky