Rav Yitzchak Yisraeli, Rav Ilan Meirov, Rav David Yosef and Rav Ahron Walkin at the Big Chazaq Event Credit: Gabe Solomon


We came back late motzaei Shabbos from Lakewood where we spent a beautiful Shabbos with family and friends at our great-nephew’s bar mitzvah. We’ve been to Lakewood before, but this was our first time in Westgate for Shabbos. As soon as we drove in on Friday, Akiva and I had the same reaction — it looks like a bungalow colony.

The homes are mostly attached with a few semi-detached ones. We stayed in a semi which had a center hall. The homes are built for large, frum families so they have at least 4 bedrooms and large eat in kitchens. Some houses had fully built up third floors. There were houses with dens, decks, and backyards, while others had community drives.

The community is perfect for families with young children who are free to play outside, riding bikes and scooters and being watched by an older sister or brother; very reminiscent of Israel where kids have a lot of freedom.

We also saw several for sale signs and open house signs. And the prices are in the $400,000 range! Kew Gardens Hills hasn’t seen prices like that since after the 2008 market crash. Why am I telling you all of this? It’s not that I’m suggesting that you all sell your homes and move to Lakewood, but it is interesting to see what other neighborhoods have to offer.

Kew Gardens Hills has a lot to offer and that is why it continues to be a popular neighborhood. No one starves in Kew Gardens Hills with its array of restaurants, pizza shops, and supermarkets. We also have many shuls, schools, and yeshivot. Our community is an active one with a lot of people doing a lot of chesed.

And, we have lists of qualified buyers who are searching for the right house at the right price. If you are thinking of selling I can help you get your house ready. We have many professionals that we have used who can do repairs, refinish your floors, help declutter, and get your house ready to show its best qualities. Now, during the relaxed pace of summer, it may be time to get things going.

Sixth Annual Chazaq Event Inspires Overflowing Crowd In Queens!

At the sixth annual Chazaq Big Event on July 15, an estimated 2,000 people from all walks of life streamed into Elite Palace in Woodside all night long and were treated to a truly inspirational evening.

Chazaq is a Queens-based organization dedicated to building a stronger future for its community through a variety of outreach programs including dynamic lectures and presentations, Torah libraries, chavruta programs, publications, and more. Chazaq places much emphasis on inspiring Jewish students who attend public schools by providing exciting and educational afterschool programs in numerous locations.

Under the leadership of Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Chazaq has a dedicated staff along with a board of directors that encourage us to strengthen ourselves while looking for ways to inspire others.

Sunday’s mega-event opened with Tehillim recited by Rav Ahron Walkin, shlita, rosh yeshiva of Chazaq’s Bais Nosson Meir. Chazaq operations manager R’ Yaniv Meirov then shared great updates of Chazaq’s work, especially within their outreach work with Jewish public school students, having officially transferred an astounding 400 students to yeshiva in less than two years’ time, leading to a thunderous applause by the audience. Then Chazaq rolled out the red carpet for Charlie Harary, the first of the four featured speakers, who has been a repeat speaker at Chazaq events, each time revealing a bit more on his life and how it connects to the empowerment theme.

“We were in our eyes as grasshoppers, and so we were in theirs” describing the sin of the spies in the Sinai desert. As a teenager, Harary played in his school’s basketball team and did not regard himself as the star player. But his coach sensed potential in him, ordering Harary to take the last shot of a big game. “The coach is wrong, you’re totally going to miss,” Harary thought to himself at the time. He passed the ball to an unsuspecting teammate and the game was lost.

“It’s ok to feel nervous but have the decency to believe in me because I see something in you that you did not see in yourself,” his coach told him after the game. At age 65 with 40 years of experience in the game, the coach reminded Harary to have confidence.

“All of us have challenges. The purpose is to grow through our challenges,” said Harary. “Who told you that you can’t? Why are we punishing ourselves?”

Rabbi Eli Mansour touched on the matter of the two and a half tribes that sought land across the Jordan River, as it relates to building a makom Torah. Having seen Chazaq grow over the past 12 years, he described its work as building a makom Torah in Queens. “Chazaq brought hundreds of students from public schools to yeshivot… It is a buoy in turbulent waters.”

Rabbi Y.Y. Jacobson began his speech with a Talmudic line, citing Taanis 29b as the explanatory source for Tishah B’Av. “The spies inculcated them with dread and fear. They were terrified by the message of the spies. G-d was teaching the Jews about the consequences of learned hopelessness.”

“Whether you believe that you can or whether you believe that you can’t, you’re right,” said Rabbi Jacobson. Relying on some of his well-known humor, he taught the audience a few Yiddishisms, and a couple of anecdotes. A man who accidentally was locked inside a frozen meat train car was found at the destination to be suffering of hypothermia. But the refrigeration was not turned on, he simply believed that it was.

Another story was the origin of actor Zero Mostel’s name. Born Samuel Joel Mostel, he was told in his youth that he would amount to a zero. But instead he pursued his ambition to act and adopted the nickname as a reminder of how far he had risen from those days when he was called a zero.

After a brief vocal performance by Israeli chazan Yosef Chaim HaCohen, R’ Yaniv Meirov joined him in welcoming Rav David Yosef, son of Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt’l, to Queens. He was accompanied by Bukharian Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yisraeli and Chazaq Director Rav Ilan Meirov. Warming up the stage for the special guest, Rabbi Yisraeli spoke first. “I’ve been working with the Buhkarian community for 20 years. Nowadays we have 40 or 50 synagogues in Queens and they’re all full. We opened a kollel of Even HaEzer to learn dayanut in Queens. Five years later, we are established and building future leaders.” Like the guest speaker, he was a longtime talmid of Maran Ovadia Yosef.

Rabbi David Yosef fittingly concluded the evening by bringing the conversation back to the upcoming Tishah B’Av. “We have to cry when we recite Eichah, but unfortunately most people don’t cry.”

“Imagine the Moshiach arriving now” he asked the audience how they would respond. “Moshiach, now? But we just got a new home!!?”

Because of that we are sitting on Tishah B’Av and not crying. It is an exile of Shechinah, exile of kedushah.”

An example of sinat chinam that led to the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash was in Betar, Rabbi Yosef noted. The city was a religious one, but its people regarded Jerusalem as competition. “When Jerusalem was destroyed, Betar celebrated.” Fifty years later, that city was also in ruins at the hands of the Romans.

In the materialistic world that we live in, Rabbi Yosef urged the audience to remember the spiritual reality around us that was lost and yearn for its restoration. He proudly stated that he is part of Chazaq’s revolution in inspiring hundreds of public school students and urged everyone else to join Chazaq’s work as well.

It was a poignant conclusion to an incredible evening, especially meaningful as we enter the solemn day of Tishah B’Av. Thanks to Chazaq, we will continue to be inspired to build a stronger future for ourselves, our families, and the community at large.

Upcoming Events

  • Queens Hatzolah Premier Men’s Event, July 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the Queens Museum. Featuring Ohad, Yedidim Choir, and the Aaron Teitelbaum Orchestra. Grand BBQ, raffles, wine tasting, and more. RSVP 917-717-2131 or QueensHatzolah.org/BBQ.
  • Young Israel of KGH presents Rabbi Dr. Aaron Rakeffet speaking on Fate and Destiny: From Churban to Binyan – Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik on Personal and National Redemption, Sunday, July 29 at 8:30 p.m. For men and women.
  • Bonei Olam of Queens BBQ on August 1. For more information call 212-252-1212 ext. 229 or e-mail ycs@boneiolam.org.

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. 


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