Ben and Sandy Gordon
Ben and Sandy Gordon

The Jean Fischman Chabad Center of the Five Towns is to host its 18th annual dinner celebration on Sunday night, November 4, at 6:00 p.m. at the Grand Ballroom of the Sephardic Temple (775 Branch Boulevard in Cedarhurst). This year’s theme is “Celebrating 18 Years of Inspiration.” While Chabad looks with pride at the many accomplishments of the past, the focus now is on the future, with a vision of growth.

The dinner chairmen are Dr. Binyomin and Mrs. Leah Muller and Mr. Yosef and Mrs. Penina Batsheva Popack. Associate dinner chairmen are Mr. Aaron and Mrs. Necha Fischman, Mr. Israel and Mrs. Sharon Garber, and Mr. Gary and Mrs. Suzanne Wallin. The dinner chairmen for the guests of honor are Mr. Ely and Mrs. Elisheva Baum, Mr. Yochanan and Mrs. Chani Gordon, Dr. Yair and Mrs. Milka Keilson, Mr. Sholom and Mrs. Pessy Jacobs, and Mr. Avrumi and Mrs. Shani Gerlitz. The journal chairmen are Mr. Shalom and Mrs. Sheri Hammer and Mr. Larry and Mrs. Susan Sachs.

The dinner is Chabad’s most important fundraiser of the year and it helps them continue and expand many of the programs and projects they offer throughout the year. They are proud to honor the following families:

Ben and Sandy Gordon. The very first Shabbos that Rabbi Zalman and Rebbetzin Chanie Wolowik spent in the Five Towns was in Sandy and Ben’s home in Lawrence, where the Gordons have resided for over 23 years. Sandy and Ben were there at the very beginning of the Five Towns’ Chabad House, which they helped to establish and become what it is today.

Ben grew up in Crown Heights and attended the United Lubavitch Yeshiva. He went on to graduate from Mesivta Chaim Berlin and earned a Master of Science degree from Long Island University. Ben is the owner of an independent insurance agency, which he established in 1981. In 1995, the occasion of the fifth yahrzeit of his father, Rabbi Nison Gordon, z’l, presented him and his brother with the customary obligation to lead the Shabbat services. However, the local big shul would not consider a layperson to lead the Shabbos services, especially on Shabbos Chanukah, coupled with Rosh Chodesh. With the cooperation of Rabbi Tuvia Teldon, regional director of Chabad Lubavitch of Long Island, services were arranged in the storefront offices of the original Chabad of the Five Towns. Ben made sure that sufficient seats, siddurim, a Torah scroll, and a hot kiddush were supplied. Shortly thereafter, services were held every Shabbos, with barely a minyan. During the first three years of what was to become Chabad’s shul, Ben served as a co-gabbai.

Sandy was raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. She attended Beth Jacob Seminary High School in Williamsburg. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and school guidance counseling from Brooklyn College and St. Johns University. She has worked for the NYC Department of Education as a teacher of adult education for over 25 years, helping her adult students obtain their high school equivalency diplomas. Sandy is one of the shul’s famous “Kiddush ladies.”

Sandy and Ben raised three amazing daughters, all of whom married accomplished b’nei Torah. Perel and her husband, Yosef Yitzchok Hodakov, are Chabad shluchim and educators. They live in New Haven, Conn., with their eight wonderful children. Naomi and Allan Milchman live in Kew Garden Hills with three adorable children. Naomi is an attorney and Allan works in finance. Malkie and Yossi Bennett live in Far Rockaway with their four delightful children. Malkie is a special-education teacher and Yossi is the assistant menahel of Mesivta Ateres Yaakov in Lawrence.

Larry and Esta Gordon. Larry (Arye Leib) and Esta Gordon were both born and raised in Brooklyn and have been residents of Lawrence since 1992. Larry is a veteran journalist who has been writing stories on Jewish life and related issues for 30 years. He is also the acknowledged creator of modern Jewish radio.

In 1977, Larry pioneered the first weekday morning Jewish music and news program on FM radio 91.1 WFMU at New Jersey’s Upsala College. Larry’s program, the “Hebrew and Jewish program,” and the format he created, is the direct predecessor of the famous “JM in the AM” radio show hosted by Nachum Segal.

Esta and Larry were married in 1979, and he attributes his creative accomplishments and many of the ideas to the encouragement and fortitude of his wife and her creative innovations that she acquired in the fashion industry and transplanted to the journalistic arena.

Larry’s interest in journalism is inspired by his father, Nison Gordon, a’h, who traveled from Poland when he was 18 years old to report on life in New York City as the American correspondent for a Polish newspaper. Larry’s father became a well-known Yiddish writer, writing for The Day, The Day Morning Journal, and The Algemeiner Journal, during a career that spanned over 45 years. Esta’s parents endured the Holocaust and are sole survivors of large extensive families. The Gordons have six children, four of whom are married, and eleven grandchildren.

Larry’s own foray into newspaper publishing began in 2000 with the founding of this newspaper, the Five Towns Jewish Times. The ultimate vision for the Five Towns Jewish Times is the fluid juxtaposition of print, broadcast, and online media to provide one reliable resource for information, news, advocacy, fundraising, and promoting achdus within and throughout all the disparate Jewish communities of the United States and the world.

The Gordons were instrumental in the founding of Chabad of the Five Towns when Larry and his brother had a yahrzeit for their father and wanted to recite Kaddish and daven in a Nusach Ari minyan which at that point had not existed in the Five Towns–yet. The rest is history.

Yakov and Rachel Lowinger. Yakov is from a family of nine siblings from Boro Park that has settled in the Five Towns area. He obtained his doctoral degree in sociology from John Hopkins University in Baltimore. For his dissertation, Yakov received a Fulbright scholarship to conduct research in the former Yugoslavia. After marrying Rachel in 2007 and spending a few months together traveling through Eastern Europe, Rachel and Yakov moved to Montreal, where Yakov was very involved in kiruv and chinuch at yeshiva Ohr Somayach. Today, he continues his efforts on behalf of Jewish youth in Lawrence and Far Rockaway through his involvement with various outreach organizations as well as his academic research, which aims to clarify some of the challenges of the new Jewish generation. He is a visiting professor at Yeshiva University and teaches many courses, including several related to the sociology of medicine, mental health, and Judaism. Yakov is a committed learner and davener, and has lately added an accidental but successful stint with High Holy Days chazanus at the family shtibel. Although Yakov has many commitments and wears many hats, his most cherished and joyous occupation is spending time with his children.

Rachel was born in Romania, grew up in Raanana, Israel, and later completed her education in Toronto and Montreal. In Montreal, Rachel was involved with the Chabad community at both the Montreal Torah Center and Chabad of Queen Mary. Rachel obtained a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Concordia University, Montreal in 2011 and will iy’H be a licensed psychologist next fall. She works at a clinic in Manhattan and as a Mommy in Chief. In addition, when friends come along with chesed ideas, she is glad to participate in any way she can. Yakov and Rachel enjoy hosting and hope to use their home for chesed and hachnasas orchim for many years to come.

Gidon and Alla Shema. Gidon was born in Naharia, Israel, and came to the U.S. in 1981. He moved to Crown Heights, where he davened with the Rebbe on a fairly regular basis. Alla was born in Minsk, Belarus, and moved to Crown Heights in 1990 to join the rest of her family. She was only in the U.S. for two weeks when she met Gidon across the street from 770.

Gidon and Alla moved to the Five Towns and established Jerusalem Florist in 1994. Jerusalem Florist serves the neighborhood and beautifies Chabad for all its occasions. At the time that they opened, they were the first and only florist in the neighborhood that was Shomer Shabbos. Rabbi Wolowik came into the store to introduce himself to the Shemas and immediately invited them for a Shabbos meal. Even after all these years, Gidon and Alla remember that first meal there as being amazing, warm, and inviting.

The Shemas’ three beautiful children, Morad, Ronnie, and Bella, have been educated at Gan Chamesh. Gidon and Alla did not have their families nearby to help raise their children and being part of the Chabad environment made them feel like they were part of a warm and extended family. They are still awed and amazed that Chanie greets every child in shul by name and the Wolowiks are involved in so many people’s lives in a positive way.

The Shemas are grateful to the rabbi and Chanie for always being there for the community, in times of simcha and in times of sorrow. Gidon recalls when he needed the rabbi’s help at 1 a.m. and without a moment’s hesitation the rabbi was there for him.

So when the rabbi asked them to be honored, there was no way they could say no. Gidon and Alla consider it a privilege to help Chabad in any way and do so with simchas ha’lev.

Zack and Dovi Tomaszewski. Zack and Dovi were married in June 2002, and began their life together running a Spanish-speaking kiruv camp in Baltimore, where they met Mrs. Susy Adler, the director of Gan Chamesh. Once they settled in Far Rockaway and started their beautiful family, it seemed natural for their daughter Levana to begin her education in the Pink Room. Since then, the Tomaszewskis have been hooked on Gan Gamesh, sending each subsequent child from Bagel Babies through the Orange Room.

Zack was born and raised in L.A., where he attended YULA, followed by Ohr Yerushalayim, then Bais Yisrael, and finally Sh’or Yoshuv, where he’s been learning ever since. His work in Camps HASC and Simcha inspired his career as a physical therapist. In more recent years, he has expanded professionally and became a licensed contractor, initially specializing in disability facilities, and eventually working in general local contracting as “Zack the Builder.” Two years ago, the family moved to Central Avenue in Lawrence, right across the street from Shaaray Tefila, where they now enjoy a connection with Rav Dovid Weinberger.

Dovi grew up with her parents, Rabbi David and Mrs. Julie Abramchik, in Boston, where she graduated from Bais Yaakov of Boston and attended Darchei Bina, and then Stern College. She has her master’s in social work from Hunter College and has been working for Chai Lifeline for ten years. More recently she has become the school therapist at TAG Elementary and opened a small private practice working with children.

They are loving and dedicated parents of Levana, 9 (Pink Room); Atara, 7 (Orange Room); Yitzchok Meir, 5 (Red Room); Baily, 2 (currently in Purple Room); and Batsheva, 9 months. The girls currently attend Bnos Bais Yaakov, and Yitzchok Meir is in pre-1A at Yeshiva Darchei Torah. What makes Zack and Dovi such big Gan Chamesh fans are the warmth, personal attention, creativity, and love that they feel through their children’s chinuch. They were particularly touched that moros take time to call and text pictures of toddlers enjoying their first days to put parents’ minds at ease.

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