With gratitude to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, shuls are opening and minyanim are starting again! On Wednesday, Governor Cuomo announced that as of Thursday, May 21 religious gatherings may conduct services with restrictions. Primarily the restrictions include a limit of ten people, wearing of masks, and social distancing. The local rabbanim have been discussing the practicality and logistics of reopening.
In a letter to the community, the Vaad Harabonim of Queens stated that some shuls will reopen immediately as per the directions of Agudas Yisroel of America, while others may choose to wait two weeks as per guidelines of the Orthodox Union. Everyone should follow the decision of their rav.
It is also suggested that for their own safety, people over the age of 65 or those with other health conditions, should not come to shul at this time. Women and children under bar mitzvah age are not permitted to come to shul. Everyone must bring their own Siddur and Chumash, there should be no socializing or Kiddush after shul and no shalosh seudos on Shabbos between Minchah and Ma’ariv. These are all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Outdoor minyanim are also allowed with the same restrictions and in addition, to respectfully daven quietly so as not to disturb any neighbors.
I hope this is all in the right direction to finally getting back to our normal way of life and we should be ready for kabbalas HaTorah in unity and in good health.
I am writing this column on May 21 (early deadline to get the paper to our readers for yom tov) and Yom Yerushalayim is tomorrow. My granddaughter just sent me a short video of the approach to the Old City during the battle for Yerushalayim in the Six-Day War. My husband went to Israel for the first time before the Six-Day War, and he had to go up on Har Tziyon to look with binoculars at the Old City. We take it all for granted today to be able to travel to Israel and all over the country, until these past few months when travel has been restricted and everyone has been on lockdown.
The travel restrictions of the past few months reminded me of how Jews must have felt during the Holocaust when there was nowhere to go and no way to get out. We should never be “stuck” again without the freedom to travel to Eretz Yisroel.
Wishing you all a chag sameach and continued good health.
YCQ Names, Not Numbers© Oral History Documentary and Program
The Yeshiva of Central Queens gratefully acknowledges the Names, Not Numbers© Program that has taught students about the Holocaust through the accounts of eyewitnesses; provided them with interviewing, filming, and editing skills; and, most importantly, enabled meaningful relationships to be forged between the survivors and students.
Students in the eighth grade are chosen each year to participate in the Names, Not Numbers© project. They are placed into groups and each group is matched with a Holocaust survivor. Throughout the year, the students meet several times with their survivor, learning about their lives before the war, their struggle to survive during the war, how their lives changed after liberation, and about who they are today. Though the Holocaust happened over 80 years ago, the horrors faced continue to haunt the survivors and as each year passes our opportunities to learn from eyewitnesses lessens.
This year, students, faculty, administration, parents, and community members joined with the survivors for a Zoom program where a representative from each group spoke about the survivor they interviewed, the experience of what they learned, and the importance of passing on this knowledge to others. Following the program, guests were invited to view the oral history documentary presentation.
As the world learned about the atrocity of the Holocaust, they wondered how the survivors could move on, yet that is just what most did. They rebuilt families, obtained educations, gained employment, and many clung to their faith. Their healing began with retelling their tragedies through stories passed on to their children, written literature, and with the new age of technology, filmed documented histories.
Each day that passes, the vital importance of documenting these histories becomes more imperative. The students at YCQ worked with professionals, learning and discussing interviewing techniques, Holocaust education, journalism and filmmaking skills, as well as the personal histories of the survivors they interviewed. The skills will be used throughout their lives and the memories and connectedness to the survivors is something they can tell one day to their children and something they will never forget.
Debra Orenbuch, grandparent of several YCQ students, was interviewed by her grandson Siggy Orenbuch and his group. She told of her parents leaving her with a Polish woman because the people hiding her parents would not take children and she was not even two. The woman who took her in eventually left her on the steps of a nunnery. They began to raise her as a Christian and kept her safe throughout the war. Her parents survived as well and when they came to get her, the nuns at first would not give her back but in the end let her choose. She chose her parents.
Survivor Jehudah Lindenblatt, from Budapest, Hungary, grew up in an Orthodox home. When the Nazis came, he was given a yellow star to wear. His mom always defended her faith. She sold her wedding ring to buy a ham to feed her children, but she would not eat it. Though they had papers that said they were Christian, that did not always keep them safe. After the war, Jehudah went to Israel and then came to the U.S.
Bella Rubin was 13 and from a large close-knit family with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents all living nearby. Everything changed when the Germans came. They started rounding up Jews, cutting off their beards, hanging them, and shooting them. Her family ran to a small town; Bella said they thought they would be safer in a small town than in a big city. On their way to return home, their wagon driver saved their lives by warning them that Poles were pushing Jews into rivers, drowning them, and taking their belongings. They put on disguises and hid the younger children. In 1943, she was sent to the Neustadt labor camp and then Grunberg concentration camp. In 1944, she was liberated by the Russians. She and her parents and three siblings survived. She eventually ended up in Bergen Belsen DP camp where she met and married her husband, going first to Israel then to the U.S.
Malka Schick was interviewed by her grandson Ezra Schick and his group. She was born in Italy and was a baby during the Holocaust. Her family went over the Alps and while women and children were hidden by Italian families, the men joined the partisans with documents from Italy saying they were Italian, not Jews. Her father was killed in a Fascist patrol while coming over the mountain. Of a group of 1,000, 350 were deported to Auschwitz and only 9 survived. There is a monument thanking the Italians and each year a group crosses the mountain in the memory of the Jews who did not survive.
Rachel Epstein, born in San Quentin, France, had a large extended family before the war and lived with her brother and parents who had a children’s clothing store. Her parents were arrested because they were Russian Jews. She and her brother were French citizens, so they did not arrest them. Christian neighbors, Suzanne and Henri Ribouleau, took them in and hid them at great risk to themselves and their sons throughout the war. Rachel and her brother Leon were the only two Jews from Compiegne who survived. She lost 30 family members in Auschwitz. They were sent to live with a surviving aunt and uncle. They did not know them, but the courts made them go with them. An aunt in America took Rachel but could not take her brother. It took 13 years before she could bring her brother and his family to America.
Mrs. Tova Rosenberg, creator of the Names, Not Numbers© project, has made it her passion to document these stories. In its 16th year, with over 2,500 survivors being interviewed and over 6,000 students participating, the message that she continues to get across, is “how important it is that, we learn, remember, and use these tools to combat anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and intolerance.” Through her work with this project, she is creating personal connections between students and survivors, while keeping “the heart and spirit of individual eyewitnesses” alive. Through her program, Names, Not Numbers©, a lesson is being taught and will continue to be taught, that it is our turn now “to live, to remember and to tell the world.”
YCQ Author Visit and Yom Yerushalayim
On Thursday, May 21, the YCQ Parent Teacher Organization sponsored a meet-the-author day with author and illustrator Kathleen Bart. She met with students in the second, third, and fourth grades for special readings from a few of her books and activities. With the second grade, she read and discussed “A Tale of Two Teddies.” Students learned the history of the Teddy bear, they saw samples of original toy bears, and how they morphed from wood to metal and eventually the soft cuddly cute bears we know and love today. Ms. Bart discussed the debate over whether America or Germany created the first Teddy bear and how the Teddy bear was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. She is also the illustrator of her books and designer of the Ralph Lauren Polo bear. After the discussion, she guided the students in sketching their own teddy bears that looked just like their librarian Mrs. Etta on a trip to Hawaii.
With the third and fourth grade, Ms. Bart took the students on a journey to learn about other cultures through her book Global Gourmet. They learned about geography and types of dress and different foods eaten in different countries around the world. The students had begun discussing what it is like to write and illustrate books and about different cultures during their Zoom library sessions. Meeting a real author and illustrator increased their knowledge and brought their understanding to a more personal level.
On Friday morning, May 22, over 500 students, staff, and families gathered for an emotional Yom Yerushalayim program followed by a school wide Hallel. The program taught about the incredible miracle where a tiny little country with 1/6 the number of soldiers and 1/3 the number of tanks and aircraft, fought against 13 heavily armed countries and in only six days won back Yerushalayim. The participants watched live footage of the Six-Day War and saw photos of soldiers celebrating the miraculous victory from Hashem. They then joined YCQ rabbeim, Rabbi Hamel, Rabbi Ribalt, and Rabbi Nat, who led a meaningful and emotional Hallel.
Inspiration Continues at Shevach During the Pandemic
Shevach High School has been moving forward consistently with remote learning and even enrichment during these trying times. Under the leadership of Shevach principal Rebbetzin Rochelle Hirtz and her dedicated staff, the students were logging on to their classes, with almost perfect attendance, immediately after schools closed in the New York area. Teachers went beyond their responsibilities to reach each student at the right time and guarantee that her learning would go on uninterrupted.
In continuation of an ongoing popular program coordinated by associate principal, Mrs. Miriam Krohn, every Friday morning prior to their regular classes, the students hear words of inspiration gleaned from the talent of the Jewish community. On May 8, the students were fortunate to hear Mrs. Faige Kramer, chair of the math department at Bais Yaakov of Baltimore, who spoke from the heart about the ability to see that Hashem is with us throughout these turbulent times. He opens the door for us, as it were, to come closer to Him. We have to come out stronger on the other side, she said. There is more time to daven, more time for Tehillim, and for other forms of growth that we can sign on to with the extra time we have.
On May 15, Mrs. Chaviva Pfeiffer, a favorite teacher and mechaneches at Bais Yaakov of Queens, spoke about the berachah and simcha that we are each meant to have. Sometimes we get that now, and sometimes later, but Hashem has a plan of when to give it to each one of us, in the right time. As much as we think we are in control, in essence we are all in His hands throughout our lives. She infused her talk with anecdotes and stories that brought home the points she made.
It is everyone’s hope that by September all will be back in the Shevach building to take on the new year. In the meantime, as this school year draws to a close, the students of Shevach High School can celebrate a year of growth, in the real classrooms and the virtual ones. The resilience of students and staff has proven to be a great asset in these unusual circumstances.
Shiur via Zoom with Professor Nechama Price, Wednesday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. Presented by Congregation Etz Chaim of Kew Gardens Hills, Professor Price will speak on “Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: Arranged Marriages by Chazal.” Please call 917-748-1443 for further details.
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.