On Sunday evening, September 12, Chazaq hosted a backyard parlor meeting in Kew Gardens Hills at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Laub.

Community members flocked to the event along with askanim, local rabbanim, and local politicians. Chazaq’s main mission, along with all the other amazing work they do, such as food pantries, shiurim, learning kollel, and much more, is to transfer Jewish public school children to yeshivah. They have already transferred over 1,000 students, which is an incredible, Herculean accomplishment; but the challenge is still there, with 10,00 Jewish kids still enrolled in public school in our borough of Queens. We can’t sit by and let this happen. Baruch Hashem, Chazaq is taking the initiative to help change this. Jewish education is the only way to fight assimilation and keep klal Yisrael strong. It’s our obligation to help with this sacred work in any way we can!

Rabbi Ilan Meirov, Director of Chazaq, spoke first. He thanked the Laub family for opening their home for the event and spoke about the beautiful l’sheim Shamayim mitzvos we have going on in our Queens community. Rabbi Ilan stressed, “There are a lot of kids on the street waiting for us to offer programs, a meal, a Shabbaton. Sometimes, they want to ask you but are too embarrassed.”

He shared two personal stories that illustrated the incredible ability we have to make a difference in a young person’s life. “There are hundreds of kids in Forest Hills, right here. Many kids are affected by lack of direction and grounding in Yiddishkeit. Our main mission is to help these kids – to give them a foundation. Let them know who they are and where they came from. Teach them about their beautiful heritage. We work with Nechomas Yisroel, Oorah, and Our Jewish Children (OJC), three organizations that help with tuition assistance for these students.”

The tuition help of Our Jewish Children (Queens-based organization that provides tuition help to transfer public school students to yeshivah) can be the deciding factor in whether parents transfer their children to yeshivah or not.

Next, the audience viewed a short video highlighting the accomplishments of the Chazaq afterschool programs for public school children. Chazaq’s accomplishments are incredible with three afterschool programs for public school students, J-Wave Teen Division, Public School Yeshiva Division with 670 students attending, food pantry, shiurim for all levels and ages, and more. With trips, Shabbatonim, etc., there is a lot of funding needed for these Chazaq programs.

Rabbi Ilan described the meticulous records being kept under the supervision of Rabbi Ephraim Rubinoff, who works tirelessly on behalf of these children and their families, with each case logged in detail, what was said, etc.

Next, Rabbi Noach Isaac Oelbaum, mara d’asra of Khal Nachlas Yitzchok, shared that every penny given to Chazaq goes to help students. They keep exact records with the names of students and parents, and all the work that goes into convincing the parents to transfer their children. “You have to realize how much effort goes into getting kids transferred to yeshivah. Rabbi Ephraim is doing a wonderful job.”

Rabbi Oelbaum taught that “if even one person is missing, then everybody loses. Losing one Yid is losing everyone. We see how important each Yid is.” The Zohar says that just as there are [approximately] 600,000 words in the Torah, each Yid has a letter in the Torah. You can write a beautiful Torah, but you need spaces. One letter can’t overlap another. The spaces are needed for the kashrus of the sefer Torah. “You have Yiddishe neshamos now who are spaces, and they need to be filled in. This is what Chazaq does! It turns them into letters.” Rav Oelbaum stressed, “Realize the importance of one Yid!”

He continued. On Shabbos we were not allowed to build the Beis HaMikdash. Hashem’s house doesn’t push away Shabbos; but if a Yid is in danger, this pushes away Shabbos, and you do what you can to save him. A Yid has more k’dushah than the Beis HaMikdash.

Rav Oelbaum shared a teaching of Rav Moshe Feinstein. Amaleik was an average person. Remembering Amaleik is symbolic of how vulnerable a human being is. We can sink to a low level. It can happen to anyone. “We need Torah, and we need to cling to talmidei chachamim. Without Torah, there is no telling how far a human being can fall. When a Yid falls, he falls even lower, because when a Yid defiles his neshamah, he can fall lower than a goy.”

He added that the Chofetz Chaim in his time stated that as long as Russian children were not learning Torah, it was not good news. “We have the opportunity to help Jewish children to learn Torah. It’s a z’chus to give. When we help bring back Jewish children, then measure for measure Hashem will let us be zocheh with our children.”

Following this, Councilman James Gennaro spoke briefly. “It saddens me to think of Jewish kids not able to go to yeshivah. I feel honored and blessed to be part of the spiritual force making sure this generation stays as frum as their parents. This is a holy gathering with a sacred mission!”

Mrs. Sorolle Idels, a participant in the event, noted, “Chazaq is an organization that highlights the essence of what we are all about, never leaving anyone behind. We are a people who looks out for each other. We take care of our own. Chazaq brings them in and makes them part of our family in a climate where the outside world is full of immorality.”

To donate to Chazaq, go to www.chazaq.org. To donate to Our Jewish Children, which helps defray the tuition cost and can be the deciding factor for families to transfer their children to yeshivah, go to www.ourjewishchildren.com.

By Susie Garber