Israel is experiencing controversy with the United States. Ben Gurion Airport is closed except for limited emergency flights to bring Israelis back to Israel or for others who need to get to Israel. Other carriers can fly cargo flights but not passengers. The U.S. has told Israel that unless they allow U.S. carriers to handle some of these emergency passenger flights, Israeli planes will not be allowed to land in the U.S. This is now under discussion.

Israel is not on lockdown at this time, but a full lockdown is probably being planned for Purim. Yeshiva and seminary students are starting to head home after Purim, and the question is if they will be able to come back after Pesach. There are Israelis who have been stranded in foreign airports due to the Ben Gurion closure, so this whole issue of flights and airlines is important to work out. By controlling travel, the Israeli government has been trying to limit people coming from other countries as a way of preventing the virus from reentering the country.

In a recent daily press briefing, Jen Psaki could not give a straight answer when she was asked several times if Israel is still a close ally of the U.S. What does this have to do with us? How does Israel’s relationship with the U.S. affect us in Queens?

I believe that it affects us because all Jews are family. Our comfort level here depends on the relationship between the U.S. and Israel and the related anti-Israel bias and subsequent anti-Semitic tension in the U.S. That is why, as we have discussed in the past, we all must make a kiddush Hashem wherever we go and keep an eye on any tension between our countries.

This Shabbos is Parashas Zachor, and as we remember Amalek, let us keep in mind the modern-day Amalekim and Hamans who still want to destroy the Jewish nation—Israel and the Jews. May the Jewish people have continued good health, simcha, and peace in Israel and the diaspora and may we see new miracles.

Chazaq Celebrates Successful Get-Out-The-Vote Drive

Chazaq, as part of its unceasing goal to build a stronger future, was involved in registering people to vote and urging the community of Council District 24 to go out and vote. Aside from multiple announcements and reminders on the weekly Chazaq e-mail blasts, they used social media and internet groups, as well as public service announcements at the many virtual Chazaq events and functions.

When meteorologists warned of a massive multi-day blizzard that would blanket the city with snow by Election Day, Chazaq also began urging residents to take advantage of early voting. As a result, the Sunday before the election (the final day of early voting and just hours before the snowstorm started) over 1,000 local residents showed up at Queens College, York College, and Queens Borough Hall to vote.

“Preliminary voting statistics showed that the Kew Gardens Hills community turned out to vote in far larger numbers than any other neighborhood in the council district.” said Israel Peskowitz, Chazaq’s director of community affairs. Chazaq’s get-out-the-vote effort, alongside the tireless work of community and district leaders and local institutions, undoubtedly had a big hand in accomplishing that.

Shevach Freshmen Enjoy Uplifting Siyum

On February 9, the ninth grade of Shevach High School was treated to a very special Tehillim siyum. This event was the culmination of a voluntary initiative spearheaded a couple of months ago by their Biur Tefillah teacher, Mrs. Beanah Greenberg.

After imparting to the girls the koach of Tehillim, and the girls internalizing that we do our hishtadlus of davening but then relinquish our burdens to Hashem, the class eagerly took up Mrs. Greenberg’s suggestion of trying to say every day, on their own time, the perakim of Tehillim for that day of the month. Mrs. Greenberg sent out daily Tehillim reminders and planned this beautiful siyum for the girls, where they each received individually wrapped meals from Carlos and Gabby’s, laid out on gorgeously bedecked tables. But even nicer than the special seudah was the gift each girl received, which was a beautiful, inscribed, illustrated Tehillim.

The girls were welcomed to the siyum by Shevach principal Rebbetzin Rochelle Hirtz and staff members Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff and Mrs. Miriam Krohn, all of whom conveyed in their own words how special this accomplishment was. The students were then inspired by a keynote address from Rabbi Ilan Meirov, founder of the Chazaq organization. Rabbi Meirov noted that the words b’simcha and machshavah are comprised of the same Hebrew letters. He explained that this is to teach us that thoughts have a huge impact on happiness. Dovid HaMelech, despite a life of hardships, was able to always be b’simcha and to compose the mizmorei Tehillim because of his positive attitude.

After Rabbi Meirov’s dynamic speech, freshmen Adina Davidov, Yael Goldfarb, Chana Tova Kasirer, Tehilla Levant, Devorah Lind, and Yael Zimmerman all shared their thoughts on different perakim of Tehillim. It was clearly evident that the goal of this program—that the girls would forge a special lifetime connection with Tehillim—was being actualized. This was evidenced by the fact that many of the girls have already completed the sefer twice and have even started on their third round.

That all the students tremendously enjoyed the evening was reflected in their comments afterwards. In their words: “Thank you for giving me the opportunity for making Tehillim such an important part of my life.” “I look forward to using the beautiful Tehillim you gave us to make it all the more meaningful.” “I am so grateful to start off my high school experience with a teacher like you! Thank you so much!!” “I have never experienced anything like this in my entire life.”

And in the words of parents: “Thank you very much for starting this wonderful initiative and planning such a beautiful siyum!” “We appreciate your efforts to positively encourage the girls’ connection to Hashem through tefillah.” “The beauty of this program is that everyone is involved, and the girls are unified through saying Tehillim.”

Thank you to freshmen Rochel Becker and Sarah Wiederkehr for reporting on this special event. May the Queens community continue to share such nachas from our young ladies!

Keeping Spirits High At YCQ

Just before students and staff from Yeshiva of Central Queens headed off for a much-needed school break, the eighth-grade SET³ STEM Club participated in a spaghetti bridge building competition. Each student received a kit complete with spaghetti and glue guns in order to build his/her bridge. The goal was to design and build a structure that would hold the maximum amount of weight applied. Students first explored the field of engineering, discussing civil engineers, responsible for design and construction, and mechanical engineers who focus on building the most stable structures. Usually the students work in teams to discuss options; this year the lessons were on Zoom, with the students each building their own bridges, then meeting for the competition. All the bridges held a good deal of weight with many holding the maximum weight of over 20 lbs.

In a special presentation, just prior to winter break, the second-grade students received their first Chumash. After working hard with their morot and music teacher Morah Tali Brody, they performed a beautiful rendition of Modeh Ani and read together from their first Chumash. Their families joined in via Zoom to watch this special event. Viviana Olsen, 2-204 said, “It felt amazing, I was really excited, my Chumash was brand-new. It was so special to receive my first Chumash with my name on it and have my very own to learn from.”

To bring in the crazy, exciting, fun month of Adar and to celebrate Rosh Chodesh, preschool and elementary school students wore their craziest, silliest hats to school while class 3-211 danced down the hall singing “Mishenichnas Adar,” increasing the excitement in the building.

To close out this week, on motzaei Shabbat, the fourth-grade girls enjoyed a virtual melaveh malkah organized by Mrs. Shirley Pourad Kaikov. Each student received a custom bag, replete with snacks, supplies for a craft project led by Morah Tova Friedman, and ingredients for a make-your-own pizza with instructions by YCQ’s very own Rabbi Luigi Ribalt. The guests heard words of wisdom though a meaningful story told by guest speaker Mrs. Amit Yaghoubi. To end the evening, the participants enjoyed videos of Morah Silverstein’s class performing Adon Olam and Morah Friedman’s class performing Kos Yeshuot.

During these unprecedented times and the challenges that both students and staff are facing during this school year, the ongoing exciting events are keeping spirits high and students engaged in their learning at YCQ.

Upcoming Events

Queens Jewish Center Hamantashen Demo. Learn how to bake hamantashen on Zoom (To join: Zoom.us. Phone: 646-558-8656, Meeting ID: 937 1352 2296, Password: 294175). Presenters will go through a step by step process. Feel free to watch and/or join in from your own home. Kids are welcome. Contact the QJC office for a list of ingredients you will need. (e-mail offfice@myqjc.org; phone: 718-459-8432)

Rabbi Judah Kerbel’s Shabbos Book Club, motzaei Shabbos at 7:30 p.m.

The Queens Jewish Center (MyQJC.org,  HYPERLINK “mailto:office@MyQJC.org” office@MyQJC.org) invites the community to come together over Zoom to discuss the assigned books. Schedule of book discussions is as follows:

March 13: Glikl: Memoirs by Glikl bas Leibel, edited by Chava Turniansky

To join visit Zoom.us or dial 646-558-8656; meeting ID: 937 1352 2296, password: 294175

(All books are available for purchase on Amazon. Dates and times subject to change.) 

Chanita Teitz is a real-estate broker at Astor Brokerage in Kew Gardens Hills, serving the entire Queens vicinity. For all your real-estate needs, call her at 718-263-4500 or e-mail chanita@astorbrokerage.com. Read more of Chanita Teitz’s articles at 5TJT.com.

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