A Chance To Give Back
“What berachah do I make on Pringles?”
“Do I need to wash for a hot pretzel?”
“How do I kasher my kitchen for Pesach?”
Across the United States and in every English-speaking country, the first place to which people have turned for answers to questions like these is the halachic series authored by Rav Binyomin Forst, shlita.
An internationally renowned talmid chacham and community posek, Rav Forst has devoted the last 45 years of his life to disseminating Torah and facilitating a high level of halachic observance. His six authoritative sefarim–which have remained national bestsellers for over two decades–are staples of every Jewish library and bookshelf, studied by thousands of Jews from all walks of life.
But one population has been the unique beneficiary of Rav Forst’s halachic prowess: the residents of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns.
For over four decades now, Rav Forst has made himself exceptionally available to the community. Consistently accessible by phone or in person, and always radiating genuine concern and sensitivity, he resolves some of the most personal and difficult she’eilos with warmth, insight, and an outstanding command of halachah. When a she’eilah is particularly complex–requiring more than a phone call–the rav willingly and freely gives of his time, with no regard to shul affiliation or membership.
Three years ago, Rav Forst further raised the level of halachic service by establishing a daily hotline with extended and emergency hours to address the community’s overwhelming needs.
“In his modest way, Rav Forst has impacted every corner of our community,” says Rav Moshe Weinberger of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere.
An alumnus of Mesivta Torah Vodaath and Beis Medrash Elyon in Monsey, Rav Forst studied under Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky, Rav Gedaliah Schorr, Rav Avraham Pam, and Rav Elya Chazan. After several years in the kollel of Beis Medrash Elyon, under the tutelage of Rav Simcha Schustal, Rav Forst and his family moved to Far Rockaway, where he took over Rav Shlomo Freifeld’s daily blatt shiur in 1968 and subsequently served as a maggid shiur in Sh’or Yoshuv for 12 years.
While working intensively on various sefarim, Rav Forst taught in TAG for over 25 years, granting generations of young women a halachic foundation for life–and a trusted address for future she’eilos. The rav also gave an afternoon shiur to the 12th grade at the Mesivta of Long Beach, and a well-attended halachah shiur at Yeshiva of Far Rockaway each Shabbos.
As the years passed, 566 Oak Drive became a community milepost, a place where thousands of she’eilos were graciously received and efficiently answered. And to ensure the tzibbur’s continued mastery of relevant halachos, Rav Forst began giving an annual shovavim series, offering hundreds of men and women the necessary tools to properly keep halachah.
Ten years ago, in a desire to do more, the rav founded Kollel Zichron Ephraim Heschel, a unique halachah-oriented kollel where over 30 dedicated young men integrate intensive halachic study with hands-on shimush, many becoming ba’alei hora’ah who service the community. At around the same time, the rav established a kehillah that operates with a distinct focus on families and children.
The Halacha Hotline–initiated and realized by Rav Forst–has fast become a model for other communities to emulate. In just over three years, it has received over 100,000 she’eilos from near and far, and is now averaging more than 3,000 calls per month. In conjunction with the hotline, Rav Forst established the Dispute Resolution Center, a local service that assists disputing parties in reaching halachically acceptable and mutually agreeable conclusions. His series of pre-Pesach shiurim–set to become an annual event–were a welcome development, providing families with clarity and direction in an often-misunderstood and overwhelming area of halachah.
Through it all, the rav’s gentle, approachable manner has put thousands of questioners at ease, transforming sometimes difficult experiences into unique opportunities for building a relationship.
“For over 40 years, Rav Forst has worked tirelessly, without fanfare, to raise the level of shemiras ha’mitzvos for the community,” says Rav Yitzchok Knobel of the Yeshiva Gedolah of the Five Towns.
Today, after four decades of selflessly serving the community, Rav Forst faces the culmination of a lifelong dream: the Nesiv HaTorah Center.
A multifaceted hub of Torah, avodah, and halachah in the heart of Far Rockaway, the center is set to house under one roof three of the rav’s far-reaching endeavors–the Halacha Hotline, kollel, and beis midrash, acting as a dynamic nerve-center for the entire region.
Headquarters for the Halacha Hotline, the Nesiv HaTorah Center will be a central point of halachic growth and development, streamlining the hotline’s services and uplifting the tzibbur with inclusive, engaging programming. Offering a continuous array of events and initiatives, including important shiurim and community-wide learning programs for children and teens, the unified center will allow for continued expansion and evolution of current services, benefiting residents from Bayswater to Hewlett and beyond.
“The Nesiv HaTorah Center will help shape the ruchnius of our community for many years to come,” says Rav Yaakov Bender, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Darchei Torah. “We are very excited about this monumental project.”
It would be difficult to find a Five Towns or Far Rockaway resident who hasn’t been helped by Rav Forst, through his sefarim and shiurim, warmth and concern, taharas ha’mishpachah expertise, or unmatched availability.
For over 40 years, the rav has devoted his entire being to the community while assiduously avoiding public recognition. Described by rabbanim as an ish tamim and ish emes, Rav Forst has for years remained out of the limelight, focusing only on halachah and continual giving to the klal.
Now, as the Nesiv HaTorah Center stands to become a remarkable reality, Five Towns and Far Rockaway residents finally have a chance to give back–and invest in a center that will enhance their lives.
On Sunday, December 28, all are invited to attend a dinner at the Lawrence Country Club and express their gratitude to a remarkable rav who has changed the face of an entire community. Together with numerous attending roshei yeshiva and gedolim–including Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlita, whose presence and speech will uplift the gathering–community members will come together to show support for a rav who has always been there for them.
In participating in the Landmark Campaign and providing the means to realize Rav Forst’s dream, residents will enable a dual legacy of halachic excellence and community vision to continue–and flourish like never before.