20/20 is supposed to be perfect vision, but as we leave the year 2020 and roll into 2021, what vision are we witnessing? To help me focus on the year that passed and on the year that is coming, I came up with words and phrases that have been added to our vocabulary.
Last year the word “pandemic” was something from history books. Thoughts of the Black Plague, typhoid fever, and the Spanish flu came to mind. But what did any of them have to do with us, in the 21st century? More specifically was the term “coronavirus” and even more specifically “COVID-19.” Last year at this time we didn’t even know the virus existed and by January we thought it was limited to far-away China. By February it had reached our shores, but we still laughed at the confusion that began filling the news. After Purim all jokes were forgotten as people were getting sick, some seriously sick, and the hospitals were overburdened. People were on ventilators and some were dying.
So much confusion. So many theories. Is it true that China wants to rule the world so they unleashed a deadly virus to cause havoc all over the globe? Is this considered biological warfare?
Coronaviruses aren’t new. SARS and the swine flu were around already a few years ago. The “common” cold is a cornonavirus. Why wasn’t a vaccine developed? Why was the hydroxychloroquine regimen used by Dr. Zelenko rejected? Was there unintentional neglect in the overworked hospitals or were the medical staff consciously making life-and-death decisions?
How does this affect us locally? For one, our library is still a COVID testing center. Why not alternate between neighborhoods so we can get our library functioning again? There are libraries in every neighborhood so they can be set up as testing sites on a rotating basis.
Businesses in New York are hurting, including in our neighborhoods, where many people were put on furlough. If you aren’t working, you fall behind on rent, mortgage payments, and tuition. It’s hard to believe, but there are food pantries in Kew Gardens Hills.
What about the term “fake news,” which we’ve been hearing now for a few years? We don’t know what to believe anymore and mainstream media is losing viewers and listeners and readers to news agencies that are trying to get us the truth.
We still can’t get to Israel, unless you are going to a family simcha or, chas v’shalom, to a funeral. If you are ready to make aliyah, there are Nefesh B’Nefesh flights, but you will have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival. The health department checks up on people to make sure they are not breaking the quarantine. Still, the numbers of COVID cases in Israel keep rising. Now, with the vaccine, they are hoping to see those numbers go down.
Another word that has been voiced out loud is “socialism,” which once was a form of government that was shunned in America and not taken seriously here. Socialist and communist countries were our enemies. Now, this new reality is percolating in Congress and we will soon see how far this will go. As we cross over to a new secular year, we must stay alert to where we’re headed.
Grand Chanukah Car Parade
Chanukah celebrations were different but not forgotten in Jamaica Estates as they put a new twist and a few turns into Chanukah planning. During a pandemic, how do you celebrate a holiday that’s traditionally full of indoor chagigot and close family, friends, fun, and laughter? You bring it outdoors!
As a sign of communal spirit and collaboration, the neighborhood shuls joined together to present a Chanukah Car Parade. Efforts were coordinated by Rabbi Shmuel Kogan of the Bukharian Chai Center, Ariel Shimonov of the Bukharian Jewish Community Center of Jamaica Estates, and Simcha Sommer and Zach Herskowitz of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. Other sponsoring synagogues included the Congregation Beth El, Congregation Anshei Shalom of Jamaica Estates, Kahal Beis Yitzchak, House of Torah, and Young Israel of Holliswood.
Protected and directed by both the NYPD and Queens Shmira, the parade route started at Cunningham Park and wove through the streets, bringing joy and light to the entire neighborhood. Event planners had reservations for nearly 100 cars and floats, but more than 200 vehicles participated in this wonderful event. Participants both young and old enjoyed watching decorated trailers, including one with a fire juggler, the Chai Riders motorcycle group, and large inflatables atop many cars (animals, dreidels, and menorahs). Music, light sticks, as well as sufganiyot and chocolate gelt for all participants rounded out the event. The final stop was at the “Grand Chanukah House” (home of Harold and Fran Biller) elaborately decorated with many Chanukah lights and inflatables as well as a 12-foot lit menorah!
As the parade got under way, Rabbi Dov Lerner of Young Israel of Jamaica Estates riding atop the lead float declared into a loudspeaker, “To the west, the sun is on its way down, and on Chanukah it is exactly as the sun begins to set that our obligation to light the candles begins, because as we see darkness. It is our obligation to fill the world with light, and as the streets start to empty, we fill them with noise, joy, gratitude, and celebration. With this magnificent trail of cars that goes as far as the eye can see, we go through our neighborhood showing our commitment to bring light into each other’s lives and hope into the darkness. Chanukah Sameach to one and all!”
CHAZAQ Programs Highlight Safety
The Chazaq organization went on the road this past Sunday distributing essential face coverings in Manhattan and Nassau County. The morning began with “Giving is Living,” a virtual shiur with Harry Rothenberg inspiring the Lido Beach community. The renowned orator tied in the class to the present need to protect oneself and others by wearing a face mask. In line with the theme, he explained that one of the ways we care about fellow people and give back to humankind is to wear a facial covering.
The event united the shuls of the community: Lido Beach Synagogue, Bach Jewish Center of Long Beach, Chabad of the Beaches, Cong. Benai Asher, and the Young Israel of Long Beach that also took on the hosting duties for the program. Much appreciation is given to its newly installed mara d’asra, Rabbi Binyamin Silver, who was inaugurated on the sixth night of Chanukah, December 15, for coordinating the communal logistics.
“If this past year has taught us one overall lesson, it is that nothing takes precedence over health and well-being while always reinforcing our faith in Hashem’s ways,” stated Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, Chazaq CEO. “Joining with friends to provide two Jewish communities with a means to protect themselves exemplifies the core values of our mission.”
The afternoon continued with a mask giveaway in front of Eastside Kosher, the supermarket that serves the robust Jewish community of the Lower East Side. Appreciation is extended to Mrs. Dassie Litchman, Chazaq NYC coordinator, for helping inform the community and organize the distribution.
“Chazaq seeks to include all communities in our efforts. It was a privilege to coincide a moving shiur with promoting public safety in two respected Jewish neighborhoods,” noted Robbie Aboff, Chazaq’s events manager.
To bring a face-covering initiative to your area or to schedule a motivational lecture, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chanukah Snow Day at Yeshiva of Central Queens
By Noam Traeger, grade 8, and Eyal Traeger, grade 7
For the first time in two years, there was a snow day for the students and staff at Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ). On Thursday, December 17, the sixth day of Chanukah, the children of the New York area enjoyed a snow day. For the students of YCQ, this was not an ordinary snow day that was spent away from school and school activities.
Their morning began with a schoolwide virtual davening and Hallel led by the school’s amazing rebbeim — Rabbi Bernstein, Rabbi Soffer, Rabbi Ribalt, Rabbi Hamel, and Rabbi Nat — as well as eighth-grader Yuval Wortzel. The davening was filled with ruach and was a beautiful way to bring everyone together virtually. “Even though we davened using Zoom, we had a wonderful and inspiring davening,” said Yuval. After davening there were two Kahoot games about Chanukah. The games were led by Ms. Rosenblum and Rabbi Soffer. There were questions about Chanukah dates, events, and details about menorot and chanukiot. There was even a question about the name of the Greek translation of the Torah (Septuagint). The Septuagint was created for Greek-speaking Jews in the third and second centuries BCE. “That was a really hard question, but the game was really fun!” said Leora Traeger, grade 4. The points were tallied and one class from each grade won a pizza party for their entire class.
During the afternoon, students enjoyed their time in the snow, with parents sharing Snow Day 2020 pictures of YCQ students for all to enjoy in a Snow Day video. Students built snowmen and even an upside-down snowman wearing YCQ swag. There was even a snow chanukiah with ice candles colored with food coloring.
Later that evening, the YCQ PTO ran a virtual “create your own dessert” program where students learned to create amazing winter treats, led by Lizzy Kramer, grade 6, and her mom. During the session, there were tutorials and demonstrations on how to make muddy-buddies and hot-cocoa bombs. What a tasty end to a fun day! This snow day was a much-needed break and a great Chanukah gift enjoyed by the entire YCQ family.
“The Book of Sh’mot: To Know God.” Sunday, January 10, noon. Congregation Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills presents the Shiur HaChodesh for Women by Women, a shiur via Zoom from Israel. Dr. Yael Ziegler, senior lecturer in Tanach, Herzog College, and Matan, Israel, will present. Men are welcome. Please contact email@example.com for more information and Zoom link.
New Community in Israel. A Zoom meeting is being organized for January 10 for Givat Shamir, geared towards over-50-year-old buyers. A presale group (before being offered to the general public) is being formed to purchase in this new project in Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph — which is known for its sizable Anglo community. (Note there are some areas in the project for younger families). It is five minutes from the center of town, all shopping, transportation, medical care, and the highways. The apartments will be built to a high standard with top finishes. The amenities in the building are part of what makes this place unique: swimming pool, gym, and shul. Details to follow.
Rabbi Judah Kerbel’s Shabbos Book Club. The Queens Jewish Center (MyQJC.org, office@MyQJC.org) invites the community to come together over Zoom to discuss the assigned books. Discussions will take place on motzaei Shabbos at 7:30 p.m. Dates and times subject to change. Schedule of book discussions:
- January 16 “The Gift of Rest” by Senator Joseph Lieberman
- February 13 “My Rebbe” by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz
- March 13 “Glikl: Memoirs” by Glikl bas Leibel, edited by Chava Turniansky
Zoom meeting ID: 937 1352 2296, password: 294175; or dial 646-558-8656.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.