By Chanita Teitz
When I tell my grandchildren stories, I usually start with “Once upon a time.” One of my granddaughters stopped me once and said, “Bubbie, once upon a time is for make-believe stories. Tell us a true story.” I explained that this was just my way of starting but I would tell a true story.
This made me think when I talked to my granddaughter, who returned last week from seminary, about her school’s Poland trip. I explained to her that to connect to past events that we did not experience personally, we have to put ourselves into the story. We have to imagine being there.
I remember the scene in Schindler’s List of the little girl walking in the street in her red coat. The movie was black-and-white except for the red coat in order to draw the viewer into the story and focus on the little girl.
Later, we saw the red coat again in a pile of clothing. It was obvious to the viewer that this was the little girl’s coat because the movie had earlier brought us into the story. I remembered her and I cried when I saw the coat. I hoped that she was still alive but I mourned for her just in case. I was drawn into the story.
So it is with the Pesach story of the Jews’ slavery and ultimate exodus from Egypt. We are commanded to feel as if we were there and we were slaves. We should feel their pain and struggle and ultimate freedom. In order to do this mitzvah, to feel as if we were redeemed from slavery, we have to put ourselves into the story.
Jewish history is full of real stories, true stories—not make-believe. Some are happy stories, but an overwhelming number of them are stories of torture, murder, persecution, and attempts at our annihilation—difficult stories to connect to. Because the Holocaust was not that long ago, it is easier to connect since many of us know survivors or we know of family members who did not survive.
For events that happened two to three thousand years ago, it is harder to connect. We have to make a greater effort to put ourselves into the story.
This reminds me of the story of Napoleon Bonaparte who was shocked at seeing Jews crying over the Beis HaMikdash 2,000 years after its destruction.
As we get to the Seder and retell the story to our children and grandchildren, let us put ourselves into the story so it becomes vivid to us and to them.
My best wishes to all my readers for a chag kasher v’sameach!
Shevach Ushers In Nissan With Chesed
On Tuesday morning of Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Shevach High School was flying high. The heads of Shevach’s chesed program, Leah Shapiro, Tzipporah Shonfeld, Shani Sommers, Chavi Steinberg, and Batsheva Twersky, under the direction of assistant principal Rebbetzin Chani Grunblatt, put together a fun and uplifting event. After davening, to start off the exciting program, the entire school was treated to iced coffee and brownie bars. As much as everyone enjoyed these treats, the next treat, which was spiritual sustenance, was enjoyed even more.
Rabbi Bentzion Chait, director of the National Torah Initiative of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim, delivered a truly inspirational speech on the power of chesed, keeping the student body riveted to their seats. One of the many points Rabbi Chait spoke about was finding sources of inspiration to do chesed within our own community, and how one act of chesed can lead to many others. He gave many stories illustrating this point, including one about a Shevach alumna who lives in Portland, Oregon, and moved her family of six out of her home into a basement for quite a few months, in order to accommodate a larger family that had nowhere to live after their house was destroyed in a fire. When asked what inspired her to do this tremendous act of chesed, the alumna said she was inspired by a Kew Gardens Hills family that opened up their home for many months to a family they did not even know that needed to be in New York for medical treatment. Mi k’amcha Yisrael!
After the speech, the Shevach students enjoyed a Chinese auction featuring wonderful prizes donated by businesses in the community. Each girl was awarded tickets based on the number of chesed hours she did throughout the year. All the girls enjoyed this pre-Pesach program that highlighted the hard work they put into their individual chasadim. We are confident they will constantly grow in their performance of chesed, and thus continue to be a source of pride and nachas to the entire Queens community.
Chazaq: A Week
A Lifetime Of Memories
While the Queens-based Chazaq organization is known for providing an array of programs for people of all ages and backgrounds throughout the calendar year, it seems like the end of Adar/March had some extra zest and excitement. Aside from providing several riveting classes and shiurim that inspired hundreds all over the tri-state area, this past motzaei Shabbos (March 25) they hosted one of the most important events in their 10-plus years of existence, where a special melaveh malkah took place at the Yunatanov residence in Forest Hills, benefiting Chazaq’s vital afterschool programs for public-school children.
The event was graced with the presence of prominent local rabbanim such as Rav Noach Isaac Oelboum, shlita, mara d’asra of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok in Kew Gardens Hills. In addition, Rav Dovid Yosef, shlita, renowned posek from Eretz Yisrael, rosh kollel of Yechave Da’as, and a son of the late Sephardic gadol Rav Ovadia Yosef, zt’l, made a special appearance and delivered a stirring appeal to support Chazaq’s efforts.
Rav Yosef stated that he recognizes the tremendous impact that Chazaq director Rabbi Ilan Meirov and his entire staff have had on hundreds of public-school children, primarily from the Bukharian community in Queens. But the rav stressed that much more needs to be done in order to gather the thousands of other Jewish children who do not receive a Jewish education. He added that although he lives in Eretz Yisrael and has nothing to do with the Queens community, he nevertheless feels that he has the responsibility of getting involved since this is a matter of utmost importance.
The melaveh malkah was also graced by several prominent askanim and leaders in the Jewish world, most notably Mr. Ruvein Wolf, who bemoaned the fact that not enough is being done on behalf of Bukharian Jewry in the New York area, especially since thousands of them are in public schools in “our very own backyards.” He too praised the great work of Chazaq and encouraged everyone to get involved in their avodas ha’kodesh.
Thanks to the devotion of members of the Queens, Brooklyn, Monsey, and Lakewood communities, enough funds were raised that evening to afford Chazaq the necessary means to attract and inspire hundreds of new public-school students with their programs, with the hope of helping them register in yeshivas in the future.
Several days after the melaveh malkah, Chazaq held a special community-wide event at the Beth Gavriel Community Center featuring the aforementioned Rav Dovid Yosef, along with Rav Yitzchak Yisraeli, the newly elected chief rabbi and av beit din of the Bukharian Rabbanut in America, and Rav Yissochar Dov Taub, son of the Kalever Rebbe, shlita. While Rav Yisraeli and Rav Yosef focused on the dangers of unfiltered internet access and the destruction it causes to many families, Rav Taub discussed the importance of providing a Jewish education for children. In response to Rav Taub’s plea that everyone influence their family and friends to send their children to yeshivas, Rav Yosef announced that he would personally daven at his father’s kever for anyone who influences a friend, neighbor, or relative to transfer their children from public school to yeshiva. Names can be transmitted to the Chazaq office at email@example.com, and assistance in any aspect of the transition process can be provided by Chazaq by calling 718-285-9132.
In addition to the above, Chazaq also hosted a joint shiur with Rav Yitzchak Yisraeli and Rav Shlomo Amar, the chief rabbi of Yerushalayim, on Thursday evening, March 23. They also held a women’s event in Lakewood featuring Dr. David Lieberman, and a special lecture for men and women by Rabbi Paysach Krohn in West Hempstead.
For more information about Chazaq or to support their great work, please visit www.Chazaq.org.
Megillat Shir HaShirim: The Eternal Bond between Hashem and Am Yisrael. Dr. Michelle Levine will speak on Shabbos HaGadol at 4:45 p.m. at Congregation Ohel Yitzchok, Rabbi Arieli’s shul.
Yom HaShoah program. Sunday, April 23, 7:30 p.m. at Young Israel of New Hyde Park, in tribute to Elie Wiesel.
Orthopedics and Musculoskeletal Care: Staying Active Through the Years. Thursday, April 25, 7:30 p.m. Cong. Etz Chaim of KGH hosts the next program in Navigating the Medical System.
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.