The co-naming of a block of 150th Street between Jewel Avenue and 70th Road last Sunday in honor of Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld zt”l is the latest example of an honor bestowed by the City Council to an individual who contributed towards the development and character of a neighborhood. The unveiling of the sign brings to mind other local Jewish leaders who appear on the map of The World’s Borough. This list strictly covers street signs, leaving out the parks, schools, and other points of the local map with Jewish names.
Rabbi Sholem B. Kowalsky Way
Rabbi Sholem B. Kowalsky Way is at the corner of Jewel Avenue and 170th Street, in front of the Young Israel of Hillcrest. The sign was installed in 2011, honoring the former rav of this shul. Rabbi Kowalsky was born in Otwock, Poland, and was fortunate enough to immigrate before the outbreak of the Holocaust. In 1942, he founded the Yeshiva of Newark and in 1959, he moved to Queens, where he served as Rabbi at the Young Israel of Hillcrest. He served as a vice president at the Rabbinical Council of America, advocated for Soviet Jews, and was an advisor to the Chief Rabbinate of Jerusalem. He later made aliyah to Jerusalem, where he died in 2007.
Ilyau Aronov Way
Ilyau Aronov Way, at the corner of 172nd Street and 73rd Avenue, honors the founder of the Beit Eliyahu Fresh Meadows Bukharian Synagogue. It was dedicated in 2019. The Tashkent-born builder died in 2007, a year after the site of this synagogue was purchased, and today it also carries his name.
Rabbi Solomon Goldman Way
Rabbi Solomon Goldman Way, at the corner of Utopia Parkway and 65th Avenue, faces the Utopia Jewish Center, where its namesake served as the Rabbi for 35 years after his appointment in 1964. Alongside his pulpit work, he was also a chaplain at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility and Brookdale Hospital. Before Fresh Meadows, he lived in East New York, which was once a solidly Jewish neighborhood. He died in 2006, and the street sign was unveiled three years later.
Rabbi H. Joel Laks Way
Rabbi H. Joel Laks Way, at the corner of Parsons Boulevard and 78th Road, faces Congregation Torath Emeth, where the namesake served as the Rav for more than 50 years. His shul was one of the first Orthodox k’hilos in the neighborhood. Although its membership isn’t as sizable as it used to be, the bustling Yeshiva Ketana of Queens, next door, stands on the lot that was once part of the shul. He died in 2011, and the street was co-named for him two years later.
Rabbi Avraham Schechter Way
Rabbi Avraham Schechter Way is at the T-shaped intersection of 147th Street and 72nd Drive, facing what was the Rabbi Teitz Shul, which is now Hashivaynu. The honoree was born in East New York, but as that neighborhood deteriorated, he moved to Kew Gardens Hills in 1961. He was very civically involved, as the zoning committee chair of Community Board 8, the founder and chairman of the Jewish Action Committee and United Yeshiva, and a member of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, the Queens General Assembly, the JFK Democratic Club and the Queens Valley Homeowners Association. He died in 2006, and the sign was installed three years later.
Holocaust Memorial Corners
Holocaust Memorial Corners, at 67th Avenue and 108th Street, are the result of a campaign by Congregation Machane Chodosh to honor the founders of this unique k’hilah. Rabbi Manfred Gans zt”l was the pillar of this shul, successfully relocating it from Crown Heights to Forest Hills in the 1970s. Nearly a thousand people were in attendance at the dedication of these corners in 1999.
Rabbi Dr. Asher Murciano Way
Rabbi Dr. Asher Murciano Way is two blocks to the south of Machane Chodosh, honoring the longtime Rav of the Sephardic Jewish Center. Born in Morocco, he first stood at the pulpit of this shul when it was in the Bronx. Like his German-born neighbor, he relocated it to Forest Hills, serving as its Rav for 67 years. He died in 2020. At the time, he was survived by his wife, three children, 11 grandchildren, and 34 great-grandchildren.
Assemblyman Ralph Goldstein Avenue
Assemblyman Ralph Goldstein Avenue is the co-name for the one-block Colonial Avenue that faces the Forest Hills Co-op Houses. He was elected in 1976 and served for a decade, during which he authored the Lemon Law concerning the rights of used car buyers. He died in 1986.
Saul Weprin Street
Saul Weprin Street is the longest honor given to a local leader, with signs on 188th Street carrying his name between Hollis and Fresh Meadows. Born in Brooklyn to parents from Ukraine, he was an attorney with a passion for civic affairs. His start in politics began as a co-op president in Hollis, followed by his election to the State Assembly in 1971. Two decades later, he became the Speaker of the Assembly, but died three years later. Two of his three sons followed him to elected office. David Weprin of Holliswood is a former Councilman, now representing his father’s Assembly district. Mark Weprin also served in the Assembly and City Council before returning to private practice.
Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser Square
Rabbi Ben Zion Bokser Square, at the corner of Queens Boulevard and 69th Road, faces the Forest Hills Jewish Center, a once-sizable Conservative temple that will soon be demolished in favor of upscale apartments. But during Bokser’s tenure, it was one of the largest congregations in the borough. A proponent of liberal policies, he supported low-income public housing in Forest Hills, and he opposed the death penalty. His career included pivotal moments that defined the rift between Orthodoxy and Conservative Judaism. Although he was in the minority view in the Conservative movement, opposing driving to shul on Shabbos, he permitted a kohen to marry a divorcee.
Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz Way
Rabbi Israel Mowshowitz Way is the south side of Union Turnpike between Kent Avenue and Chevy Chase Street, facing the Hillcrest Jewish Center. Mowshowitz led this sizable Conservative synagogue from 1949 to 1983. Like Rabbi Bokser, he was a graduate of Yeshiva University who served a Conservative congregation. He marched with Martin Luther King Jr, and also advocated for Jews in the Soviet Union, Romania, Poland, and Iran. He was friends with Gov. Mario Cuomo, who lived nearby, in Jamaica Estates.
Beyond these, there are many other examples in Queens that honor local religious leaders, civic activists, and veterans who left their impact on the city and the local Jewish community. When I am not writing for the Queens Jewish Link, you can find other examples of my knowledge in local history and trivia at www.Forgotten-NY.com.
By Sergey Kadinsky