At the Spanish Jewess Luncheon, back row, L–R: Abigayle Aronov, Cecil Bressler, Alicia Hassin, Magda Gruenglas, Sarah Rakofsky, Rabbi David Algaze, Ruth Hannah Sapir, Leah Valentin, Elisheva Naghi, Sylvia Benzaquen, Raquel Fereres-Moskowitz, and Esther Koppel. Front, L–R: Rivkah Ruth Gross, Tania Shulman, Naomi Rodriguez, and Esther Valladares.

By Chanita Teitz

We attended the beautiful wedding of Mimi Reich and Ari Weiss. Steven and Tova Reich, parents of the kallah, are formerly from Kew Gardens Hills and there were many familiar faces there. Dina and Abe Weiss, parents of the chassan, are our machutanim. So, we went with some ulterior motives to see our children and grandchildren, who all looked handsome and beautiful. Tova marched with grace and poise and Eli had the important job of placing the glass on the floor for his uncle Ari to step on. The machutenistas danced together with our daughters and granddaughters. It was a zechus and a joy to dance at a simcha with our extended family. Mazal tov to the entire Reich and Weiss families.

I made some interesting observations at the wedding. First, Ari’s saba, Mr. Lock, said the last berachah under the chuppah. His pronunciation of the words was a combination of his European upbringing as well as some Sephardit Hebrew attesting to his living in Israel. How interesting and special was the melding of the words in both dialects. This is his badge of honor for his escape from the Holocaust and to his aliyah to the new state of Israel. How one Jew continued to build and rebuild. He should have continued nachas from his beautiful family.

Another interesting observation was at my table. The lady I sat next to had an uncommon last name but one I’ve heard before, but she and her husband haven’t been able to find a common ancestor with others with the same name. In my family too, I know of two people with the name of my great-grandfather, but we don’t know a common ancestor to confirm the connection.

Often when a gadol is niftar we say that our generation is orphaned by this loss. I think that the “missing links” in our families are also a form of orphanhood. We are all related and interrelated, but war and exile has torn apart family connections.

Our melding of dialects, customs, and our being a scattered people all over the world is our nation’s badge of honor and our national persona. Let the Hamans of the world think they can hurt us with boycotts and other demands. We’re not afraid of them. But we need unity instead of strife and divisiveness to succeed in our fight against our enemies. Have a freilichen Purim!

At the Spanish Jewess Luncheon, back row, L—R: Abigayle Aronov, Cecil Bressler, Alicia Hassin, Magda Gruenglas, Sarah Rakofsky, Rabbi David Algaze, Ruth Hannah Sapir, Leah Valentin, Elisheva Naghi, Sylvia Benzaquen, Raquel Fereres-Moskowitz, and Esther Koppel. Front,  L—R: Rivkah Ruth Gross, Tania Shulman, Naomi Rodriguez,  and Esther Valladares.
At the Spanish Jewess Luncheon, back row, L—R: Abigayle Aronov, Cecil Bressler, Alicia Hassin, Magda Gruenglas, Sarah Rakofsky, Rabbi David Algaze, Ruth Hannah Sapir, Leah Valentin, Elisheva Naghi, Sylvia Benzaquen, Raquel Fereres-Moskowitz, and Esther Koppel. Front,
L—R: Rivkah Ruth Gross, Tania Shulman, Naomi Rodriguez,
and Esther Valladares.

Past Events

Judias Unite Again! “I feel like I’ve just entered a room full of sisters,” said Sarah Rakofsky in her opening remarks at the second Luncheon for Spanish-speaking Jewesses, or Judias, held at La Bella Restaurant in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens on Sunday, March 2. As the ladies went around the room introducing themselves, all of them expressed tremendous excitement about being together with other women who, like them, were Jewish and spoke Spanish.

This second luncheon had more than double the attendance of the first. Most of the participants from the first luncheon came again. Their families come from Spanish-speaking countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, and El Salvador. The new attendees had backgrounds from the Dominican Republic, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and Spain.

Rabbi David L. Algaze gave a shiur on the role of Esther in the story of Purim. Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Rabbi Algaze is the founder and spiritual leader of Havurat Yisrael in Forest Hills. The rabbi was impressed with this “group of women of shared backgrounds in Latin America with a sincere desire to study Torah and draw inspiration from teachers and one another. A veritable surprise in the New York community! The passion, sincerity, and love of Torah and Israel were in evidence throughout. This group has enormous potential to radiate their enthusiasm and commitment to many others in the large community of greater New York. My deepest congratulations and hatzlachah rabbah!”

One of the attendees, Tania Shulman, remarked that it “has been a pleasure to spend time with this group so far. I hope for our next meeting the rest of the (Judias) come out from hiding and join us.” The next luncheon for Judias is scheduled for Sunday, April 6. Contact Sarah Rakofsky at for more information.

Bnos Malka “Clown” Around. Each year, the 7th-grade class at Bnos Malka Academy celebrates the girls reaching bas mitzvah with a special mother—daughter breakfast. The chesed component this year had the girls learn medical clowning. Mrs. Michal Levine of Areyvut instructed the girls on the ins and outs of clowning, makeup, and animal balloons. The class then paid a visit to the Boulevard ALP Assisted Living Residence in Kew Gardens Hills. Mrs. Lisa Steinberg, director of care management at the Boulevard, remarked, “Our residents always appreciate visitors. The girls from Bnos Malka were incredible. They were so sweet and engaging.” The girls strolled through the dining room, in full costume, handing out animal-shaped balloons to all and spending quality time talking to the seniors. The young women were amazed as they met a number of centenarians, one of whom was a 103 years old. Some of the more memorable quotes offered to Mrs. Shuly Zuckerman, the middle-school assistant principal at BMA, were, “You made my day–no, you made my week”; “These girls are delicious”; and “Your girls are very special.”

It is hard to know who enjoyed themselves more, the residents or the girls. Many were already planning their next visit to the Boulevard even before they left.

Ohr Natan Shul and Community Center’s Fight for Survival. More than 50 residents of Rego Park jammed into a fourth-floor courtroom of the Queens Civil Court on Friday as the synagogue and community center Ohr Natan fought back attempts by developers to evict the major center for Bukharian Jews. They were there in support of their beloved rabbi, Nahum Kaziev and the Ohr Natan synagogue and community center he heads. The landlords, developers who are planning to demolish the beautiful synagogue when its lease ends in 2017 in favor of a large development, are seeking to evict the synagogue immediately through trumped-up legal charges of non-payment of rent, a charge Ohr Natan denies, citing proof of its attempts to pay the rent. Judge Terrence C. O’Connor said that he would read the written motions and render a decision in the near future.

In addition to the broad community support, Congresswoman Grace Meng and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz praised the work of the organization, noting, “The Bukharian community in Queens is thriving and your center is an integral part of this development.” In another major letter of support and direct appeal to the developers, Cynthia Zalisky, executive director of the Queens Jewish Community Council, which represents 146 organizations, noted: “The Educational Center for New Americans (Ohr Natan) is an essential organization that needs to continue its important work within the immigrant community. We strongly urge you to allow this Center to serve the constituents for the remainder of the lease. Anything else would cause . . . hardship on the Bukharians living in the area that need and depend on its services so much.”

Founded in 1986, Ohr Natan invested more than $2.1 million to renovate the old Trylon Theater on Queens Boulevard as well as $1.2 million in rent as one of the major shuls and community centers for the area’s large Bukharian Jewish population. The Trylon LLC developers that acquired the building had informed Ohr Natan of their intention to build a housing development on the site, leaving the shul and its 1,000 members “on the street.” According to Rabbi Kaziev, “once the developers became aware of our intent to fight the planned 2017 eviction when our lease officially ends, they began a series of legal maneuvers that would move up the date of expulsion to as early as weeks from now.” He said that the Bukharian Jews were already denied any access to their ancient heritage as a result of living under Communism for 70 years, are being actively recruited by missionaries, and now face the ultimate rejection as the shul and center they have adopted sends them packing.

The developers have all but ignored the pleas from local elected officials and community leaders as well as a “tzav ikul”–an injunction, by the Vaad Harabbonim of Queens. Rabbi Kaziev said that attempts by his organization to reach an accommodation with the Bukharian Jewish developers, including retaining the beautiful shul and building above it, have been rejected. “Attempts are made throughout the city to save synagogues that are no longer functioning let alone an active shul with 500 people who daven there every Shabbos.” He pointed to the recent announcement by Mr. El Gamal, an Islamic developer, who vowed to rebuild the Garment District Synagogue as part of his large development despite the fact that the synagogue membership is dwindling. “It is shameful for Jews to destroy a vibrant and dynamic shul,” the rabbi emotionally stated.

In addition to its fully functioning shul with tefillos and shiurim, Ohr Natan offers a full program of afterschool programs, adult education (including ESL), food distribution, and many events. Since 1991, it has published Druzhba, a monthly magazine with a readership of 80,000 people throughout the five boroughs, the largest publications read by immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Rabbi Kaziev issued an urgent plea to save the shul and the “neshamos of 1,000 Jews who may potentially be lost to our people forever as the danger of assimilation threatens to take its toll on this group of Jews.”

Shevach High School Production Regales Queens Community. The Queens community was treated on Sunday, March 9 to the annual Shevach High School production. The play, “The Hidden Equation” was complete with drama, dances, choir, and ensembles. The girls performed professionally. The costumes were colorful, unique, and appropriate to the theme. The drama contained mystery and suspense together with humor and thought. The theme came through clearly: we can plan, create, and even orchestrate, but the reality is that full control is in the hands of Hashem alone.

The production coordinators were Ms. Ahuva Hirtz and Ms. Sara Lieberman, both Shevach alumnae. Production heads Sara Lander, Gitty Moskowitz, and Ita Steinberg devoted themselves to their responsibility of making the production a unifying and uplifting experience for the students and audience. Under the direction of Shevach’s principal, Rebbetzin Rochelle Hirtz, together with the assistance of many talented sub-heads and performers, this year’s production was one of the best ever. The entire administration and dedicated staff had much reason to be proud of their girls. The entire school of approximately 200 students deserve the credit for a job well done.

Upcoming Events

Megillah reading times. This is a comprehensive list compiled by Yussie Englander.

Strike on Heaven video. Thursday, Taanis Esther, before Minchah, 5:50 p.m. at Congregation Ahavas Yisroel, 73rd Avenue and 147th Street. A 32-minute documentary exposing the Nazis’ war on Yiddishkeit and powerfully showcasing the Jewish people’s unwavering commitment to Torah.

Spring Cleaning and Preparing for Passover. Debbie Ginsberg of Uncluttered Domain will present Wednesday, March 19, 8:00 p.m. at the YI of Kew Garden Hills, 150-05 70th Road. Preparing for Pesach doesn’t have to be stressful! Learn easy tips that will help make home organization more manageable and Pesach preparation more enjoyable. Break down goals into manageable steps, minimize clutter, ideas for productive ways to discard unwanted items, time management, and much more!

A Life Not with Standing. YESS! and the YIKGH invites the community to a fascinating lecture on Sunday, March 23, 7:00 p.m. given by, noted speaker and writer Chava Willig-Levy. Ms. Willig-Levy is an inspirational individual who has shattered many stereotypes about people with disabilities in the workplace, in the community, in the classroom, and on the college campus. The lecture will be held in the main synagogue at the YIKGH. Light refreshments will be served. Admission is free. Sponsorship opportunities are available at $54, $72, and $180 which will offer preferred-reserved seating as well as personalized book signing(s) after the presentation. To become a sponsor, please contact Rebecca Wittert at or 718-575-2702.

The Big Chazaq Event II. Sunday, March 30 Featuring Charlie Harary, Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein, and Rabbi Paysach Krohn at Forest Hills High School 67-01 110 Street. Door opens 6:30 p.m.; event begins: 7:00 p.m. Tickets: $25, $36, $52—VIP. To order tickets call or text 917-617-3636 or 646-541-6833, e-mail, or visit Limited sponsorships available. Proceeds go toward Chazaq outreach programs. Sponsorship for the night of unity, inspiration, and unforgettable memories with 1,000-plus attendees is available and includes ads in the booklet, tickets to the event, and much more.

Mix & Mingle While Doing Mitzvot! Attention, singles 35 and older: Have an enjoyable interactive evening while preparing packages for patients at North Shore University Hospital. March 30, 6:00 p.m. at Young Israel of New Hyde Park. Call 212-613-8188 for more information. Space is limited.

A Shidduch and Shadchan Event in Queens. Kosher Chef Productions Event Planning presents an event for Yeshivish Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Singles, ages 25 and up at Carlos and Gabby’s (67-11 Main Street, Flushing) party room. Meet great shadchanim and great singles. They expect a high ratio of shadchanim! Bring at least 10 printed copies of your complete shidduch profile. Event to be held Monday, March 31, 7:00—10:00 p.m. You must sign in at this event! For more information: Chef Moshe, or 845-397-7271 v

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


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