Queens 2018 In Review

Queens 2018 In Review

By Rachel Goldsmith

As 2018 comes to a close, we at the Queens Jewish Link bring you a look back at some of the most important events in our community and the Jewish world. Our featured articles covered important local, national, and international events and stories of local members of our communities who’ve inspired us.

Masbia’s Food Pantry reopened on 64th Road in Forest Hills last January. They were pushed out of the old site when the space was sold to a developer building luxury apartments. Downstairs from the pantry will be the Henry and Susie Orenstein Emergency Soup Kitchen, a restaurant named in honor of donors who helped pay rent on their ten-year lease.

Shmulie and Nochum Russell of Bayswater inspired us by delivering packages of warm winter essentials. Humans4HumansNYS was a project that these brothers quietly started around five years ago. Recently, they decided to go public so they could reach more people and help more, as the homeless problem has grown.

An El Al flight from JFK made an emergency landing in Goose Bay, Canada. Occurrences of hashgachah pratis were reported by Queens residents: Dr. Dovid Goldschein got to daven and say Kaddish with a minyan in Goose Bay. Rabbi Dovid Willig, another Queens resident, was accompanying his DRS students to learn in the Mir Yeshiva.


Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal was sworn in as the youngest member of the State Assembly, representing Kew Gardens Hills, Electchester, Pomonok, Briarwood, Kew Gardens, Willets Point, and College Point.


The Queens Jewish Link and the Bukharian Jewish Link hosted their Sixth Annual Networking Event at the beginning of February. Local leaders and politicians spoke to the attendees, and several connections and new jobs came out of the event. (Stay tuned for the 2019 Networking Event on Wednesday, February 6!)


The New York GOP tapped Chele Farley to run against Senator Kirstin Gillibrand for her Senate seat, and she made great inroads within the Jewish community, speaking favorably about the community and about Israel at the National Council of Young Israel dinner in March.

Mrs. Lili Friedman, 95, donated an ambulance to Queens Hatzolah. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Hatzolah ambulance took place on Sunday, April 15, at the Boulevard ALP Assisted Living facility in Fresh Meadows, where she currently resides.

In a historic move, the US Embassy was moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a Dedication Ceremony that emotionally moved many Jews all across the world. Ambassador David Friedman, originally from Jamaica Estates and later from Woodmere, declared the new embassy officially open on May 14, saying, “We extend to Israel the same right that we extend to every other nation: the right to designate its capital city.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng saw to it that the House of Representatives approve funding for several causes important to us, including the US-Israel Missile Defense Cooperation; the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), which offers security grants to organizations such as synagogues, yeshivos, Jewish Community Centers, and other Jewish facilities; monitoring anti-Semitism abroad; and for issues related to the Holocaust.

Two thousand attendees flocked to Queens to learn Torah at the OU’s “Torah New York” at Citi Field last May; this was double the number of attendees from 2017. Over 30 teachers came together to teach on a wide variety of topics, from halachah to hashkafah.

Philanthropist Jean Gluck of Forest Hills passed away in May. Mrs. Gluck, an Auschwitz survivor, immigrated with her husband, Eugen, to New York in 1948. The Glucks are the main benefactors of the Young Israel of Forest Hills and the town of Bet El in Israel, and they have supported many, many other worthy causes throughout Queens and the entire Jewish world.

One of our avid readers, Mrs. Sylvia Malick, responded to Mrs. Friedman’s ambulance donation (see above) by setting up her own plans for donation to Hatzolah. We applaud her for reminding us that one mitzvah leads to another!

In June, New Yorkers celebrated Israel’s 70th year at the Celebrate Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue, the Concert in Central Park and Times Square Party, in the United States’ largest annual display of solidarity with the State of Israel.

On June 13 (6/13!), Kew Gardens Hills resident Mr. Aaron Chait received a successful kidney transplant from donor Dr. Tzvi Fischer, a retired gastroenterologist living in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. Afterwards, they discovered an incredible connection between them: The donor was a talmid of Rabbi Leibel Chait zt”l, Aaron Chait’s uncle, who was Dr. Fischer’s rebbe at MTA (Yeshiva University High School for Boys) and remained very close to him over the years. Rabbi Leibel Chait was the m’sadeir kiddushin for Dr. and Mrs. Fischer, Mr. Chait noted.

The National Council of Young Israel called on Facebook to ban Holocaust deniers after Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, defended their right to publish posts denying the Holocaust, even though he finds their positions “deeply offensive.”

The last known Nazi in America was deported from Jackson Heights on August 20. In 2003, Jakiw Palij’s US citizenship was revoked, but deporting him proved difficult. European countries refused to accept him, so he continued to reside in plain sight in Queens. In the end, though he was from Poland, Germany chose to accept the moral obligation and allowed the US government to send him there. “Nazi war criminals and human rights violators have no safe haven on our shores,” said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement.

The Queens Jewish Community Council celebrated 50 years at their gala dinner in August. Looking at the tables, one could see numerous Ashkenazi, Sefardi, and Bukharian rabbis, educators, and entrepreneurs, all participating in the mission of the Queens Jewish Community Council, where they offer services to the needy and ensure the well-being of all Jews across Queens.

The debate over closing Rikers Island began to come to the forefront of our political awareness, as town hall meetings sprang up to discuss the pros and cons of a ten-year plan to open a new prison in Kew Gardens.

Ari Fuld, whose family made aliyah from Hillcrest, Queens, was mortally wounded at the shopping center at Gush Etzion Junction. After being stabbed, Fuld gave chase and shot his attacker, saving the life of the next would-be victim, the woman who had just served a falafel to the assailant. Mr. Fuld had been hailed a hero.

A new Jewish mental health support group for Jews started on Monday, October 8, in Kew Gardens Hills. The group is discussing topics affecting the participants, which might include relationships, recovery, stigma, employment, weight loss, benefits/entitlements, etc. People living with disabilities who are unable to physically be at the group can participate by video or conference call using their smartphone or computer.

The Adeena Paknoush Sefer Torah was completed in memory of the Great Neck resident and YCQ alumna who passed away from cancer in January. In her memory, her family teamed up with the school community to commission a sefer Torah, which was a first for YCQ. The Torah dedication was celebrated with a Sunday breakfast and a parade, which all of the YCQ students and community members and leaders attended.

The Shabbos morning massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh brought domestic anti-Semitism to the forefront at the end of October. Local schools and synagogues hosted memorial events, including but not limited to a speech made by Rabbi Avi Hirt at the Queens Jewish Center in Forest Hills, and a Night of Inspiration sponsored by Lander College and Chazaq in Kew Gardens Hills. Synagogues, Jewish schools, and other organizations have also responded by increasing their security presence at facilities and events.

 Midterm elections did not see quite the “blue wave” that was anticipated, but New York certainly saw mostly democratic wins – notably the re-elections of Governor Andrew Cuomo and of Senator Kirstin Gillibrand.

 Measles resurrected as a hot topic in the Jewish community as it spreads in Israel, Brooklyn, Lakewood, and several other Jewish areas. Thank God, so far, no cases have been reported in Queens.

Amazon announced its intention to open offices in Long Island City, Queens. Our governor and mayor are enthusiastic about the potential for bringing more jobs to the city; local residents fear the increased rent costs and denser traffic that may come with it.

Two Jewish politicians, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Assemblyman Rory Lancman, have announced their candidacy for Queens District Attorney. Former State Supreme Court Judge Gregory Lasak is running, as well.

Two teenagers were arrested and charged with first-degree felony gang assault and second-degree felony assault for the Wednesday, November 28, beating of a young Bukharian Jew on 108th Street in Forest Hills. Waleska Mendez, a volunteer at the Masbia food pantry, heard the commotion and heroically intervened, probably saving the boy’s life.

As of the beginning of December, members of our community have begun to get concerned about the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents in New York City, several of which took place in Queens – with notable violent incidents in Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. “Although there has always been anti-Semitism, it was never as overt as it is now, and that is disconcerting,” said Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council.

The New York State Department of Education released new guidelines on November 20 that require more hours of secular studies than there are available in a school day at any yeshivah or day school. The rules are designed to ensure that yeshivos provide the equivalency of the secular education that is given in public schools, but school administrators and advocates don’t believe the required hours are possible to achieve, in addition to religious instruction, within the current length of a school day. Jewish and other parochial and private schools have battled the New York Department of Education over the subject, and Jewish organizations continue to work to reach an agreement everyone can live with.

By Rachel Goldsmith