By Daniel Perez
Towering over Flushing Meadows, Terrace on the Park was a fitting venue for the third annual dinner celebrating Chazaq, the Queens-based kiruv organization that has inspired thousands of Jews to reach for greater spiritual heights since its inception in 2006.
City and state government officials, business moguls, and members of the local community rubbed elbows Wednesday night, September 9, united by their shared support for Chazaq and its many accomplishments.
Chazaq provides “an opportunity for youth to grow in the Jewish community, to be in a Jewish environment,” said New York City Councilman Rory Lancman. The councilman, whose district includes Jamaica Estates and Kew Gardens Hills, added that Chazaq’s community-oriented programming helps participants “to integrate as Americans [while] staying within the Jewish world.”
Also in attendance was watch magnate and prominent philanthropist Eugen Gluck, who pointed out that Chazaq is broadening the scope of its outreach. “They’re affecting people who aren’t necessarily Sephardi,” he declared, noting the organization’s involvement in helping establish a shul in Forest Hills.
Also among this year’s distinguished attendees was state assemblyman Michael Simanowitz. An award recipient from Chazaq’s first annual dinner, Simanowitz described Chazaq as “an incredible organization,” expressing admiration for the Meirov brothers (Rabbi Ilan Meirov is the group’s founder; his brother Yaniv is its head of operations) and their colleagues.
“Their programming, their lectures, their youth outreach . . . What they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time is remarkable,” said Simanowitz, “and it’s something that they should be very proud of.”
The evening’s program, which began with a live performance by Israeli vocalist Tal Vaknin, was emceed by Yaniv, who remarked on Chazaq’s ever-growing reach, having positively impacted the lives of over 8,000 participants this past year alone. He extolled the organization’s work as a religious institution. “If you need inspiration, if you need shalom bayit (marital harmony), then we will do whatever we can to get you that inspiration, and to get you that shalom bayit.”
“I must add,” said Meirov, “that baruch Hashem, Chazaq has become a leader not only in spiritual matters but also social and political matters as well. All of this is thanks to your support and dedication.”
One of the dinner’s chairpersons (and former Chazaq honoree) Shalom Zirkiev, expressed a similar sentiment, commenting that divorce rates in the local community are down, and more teens are “off the streets,” since Chazaq began its soul-saving work.
New to Chazaq’s programming repertoire in the last year: a youth sports league, which a promotional video announced was instrumental toward instilling a greater sense of discipline in local Jewish youth, and a healthy respect for authority.
This year’s honorees included Mr. and Mrs. Simcha Mushayev, for their dedication to youth outreach; Rabbi and Mrs. Yitzchak Oelbaum, an esteemed Torah scholar and key adviser on Chazaq’s educational programs; Mr. Manny Behar, a longtime director of the Queens Jewish Community Council and recipient of this year’s Community Service Award; Mr. and Mrs. Elisha Hisiger, in recognition of their community-strengthening activism in the wake of the tragic kidnappings of several Israeli yeshiva students in the summer of 2014; Mr. Robert Gurgov–co-founder of the popular Sushi Fussion restaurant chain, and his wife, recognized as “Pillars of Chesed” for their philanthropy in supporting Chazaq; as well as longtime Chazaq supporters Mr. and Mrs. Moshe Sdayeb.
The evening concluded with a most joyous hachnassat sefer Torah–the dedication of a newly completed Torah scroll. The scroll, which had been added to by several Israeli Torah sages, was completed at Wednesday’s dinner, with the right to fill in the last few letters being auctioned off to support Chazaq’s programs.
Complete with a gourmet meal, music, dancing, and a hefty dose of charity, Chazaq’s third annual dinner proved an enjoyable and meaningful transition to the Jewish New Year.