Yeshivat Ohr Haiim has been a fixture in the Queens Jewish yeshiva system for 35 thriving years. The yeshiva stands true to its moto of providing a “premiere torah education in the true Sephardic tradition.” This past Sunday evening, August 25th, the community at large joined for the grand opening of the state-of-the-art yeshiva facility. The gathering was graced by past and present faculty and student body all aiming to deliver every Jewish child the Jewish teachings they deserve.
Located at 86-06 135th Street in the Richmond Hill section of Queens just off Kew Gardens Road and Hillside Avenue sits a religious and secular academic learning center for over 350 Jewish children during school sessions.
In the mid 1980’s Yeshivat Ohr Haiim began its journey just a few minutes walk from its present home at what is now known as Anshe Shalom Chabad Jewish Community Centerand Stars of Israel. It was not until the end of 1988 that a dedicated group of Chassidic activists and lay leaders from the Borough Parksection of Brooklyn helped to procure the current land parcel for just $400,000. Then began the construction of the current structure. Later, the yard adjacent to the building was additionally acquired to allow for the children to enjoy the refreshing outdoors. The play area is set to be rebuilt this year. The social and emotional needs of the pupils is of utmost importance. It was also announced that the New York State Department of Education will be extending the hour allotment for the school’s resource center allowing those services to be more obtainable. Additionally, the State’s Title One program is available to those requiring further reading and math assistance and speech or language therapists are also accessible to the youngsters.
Rabbi Mordechai Kashani, menahel of Yeshivat Ohr Haiim from its inception addressed the crowd with tremendous thanks to the organizers and staff. He noted that the foundation of the Jewish nation is immersing oneself in learning the intricacies of the torah and giving over a Jewish education. Hashem is the Borei Olam – the Creator of the world we dwell in today and responsible for establishing the Jewish people. As the Creator, He gave the torah to His chosen nation as a blueprint for life. As active members of the community, we are obligated to follow in the ways of our forefathers and foremothers – live by the direction of the torah’s principles and be willing to give up all we have in order to lead our lives in the manner of truth that Hashem devised.
Avraham Avinu’s life was filled with trials and tribulations that became his unique character trait. He lived as a simple man in a tent. Tent in Hebrew is read as “ohel;” the Jewish home where wisdom is bestowed upon the youth. In his household, Avraham taught the ideologies of tikkun haolam to his children. They were to associate themselves within the community in ways that would better the world and continue building the tent of torah. In today’s world, our culture and environment emphasize many dangers in life that conflict with the ideals of our ancestors.
We must remember that we are not defined by these standards in society and we must hold on tightly to our fundamental values as we are all Hashem’s beautiful children, distinct from other nations of the world, and it is He who is firing the shots.
Rabbi Yaniv Meirov, CEO of the CHAZAQ Organization, mentioned that Yeshivat Ohr Haiim is a prideful institution for our community that many are proud to support.
Rabbi Naftali Rosenbaum, an esteemed grandson of the Admor HaRav Moshe Taub shlit”a, the current Kalever Rebbe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, heads Hatzolas Doros Buchara, the CHAZAQ Organization’s sister counterpart. Together they saw an everpresent need to fill the classrooms of Yeshivat Ohr Haiim and have accepted this daunting task. PSTY, the public school to yeshiva division of the CHAZAQ Organization, has been commissioned to ensure a fantastic start to the 2019-2020 school year.
HaRav Yigal Haimoff, rabbi of Congregation Ohel Simcha in Kew Gardens Hills took time out of his busy schedule to join this Open House event. He remarked on his close connection to Rabbi Kashani and is moved by his consistent devotion to every student in his care. The Rav pledged to take upon the role of a shamash and guide the yeshiva in areas of chinuch reiterating a common sentiment for the evening that just as every child is a product of Hashem, we will never give up on anyone.
Just three short years ago, Rabbi Ephraim Rubinov joined the Chazaq Team and launched the project known as PSTY, where all work to ensure that no Jewish child is left behind. To date, over 720 youngsters have be transferred into yeshivot suitable for their learning levels. Rabbi Rubinov, a former successful computer technician who now leads Chazaq’s PSTY division, expounded on the concept of mesirus nefesh, self-sacrifice, present in each of our lives. Hashem often bestows upon us greatness and good fortune when we forgo something of worth. First, we must exhibit dedication and prove the lengths we will reach. This is where Yeshivat Ohr Haiim steps in – to nurture and guide your child along the right tracks. Many families in our neighborhoods speak of a misconception that one cannot excel if they attend a yeshiva. This is the opposite of reality. Typically, one excels one-third from their growth in yeshiva, a third from their family values and a final third from society’s dictums. At Yeshivat Ohr Haiim, the school not only takes upon their role of educating but also those of the parents allowing mothers and fathers to spend their days at work eased of the burdens of the house.
Make it your business to alert your friends and neighbors of the benefits to send their own children to yeshiva.
Various community leaders attended the festivities lending their support to safeguard the Jewish children of our neighborhoods are accorded a stellar learning experience.
The publisher of the Bukharian Jewish Link and the Queens Jewish Link, Mr. Yaakov Serle expressed his enthusiasm for the remodeled yeshiva’s efforts. Local rabbinic figures stood in solidarity as well. Currently, Rabbi Avraham Nissanian inspires internationally through his organization Eshel Avraham. The rabbi publicized that he stands proud as a former parent and educator of Yeshivat Ohr Haiim where Judaism is literally brought to the students by an administration that ensures no student is left behind and all lost souls are shown the path of Hashem.
The event also incorporated the attendance of a special alumnus Mr. Jonathan Shalom, Esq., who is the managing attorney and founding partner at Shalom Law, PLLC. Although it has been 15 years since his eight-year tenure at Yeshivat Ohr Haiim, Mr. Shalom commented on the indelible foundation of torah values it left. Mr. Shalom continued onto Ezra Academy High School where he continues as a legal coach and mentor. A banner for his law firm has recently been affixed on its very exterior.
He graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. John’s University, College of Professional Studies as well as receiving his Juris Doctors from St. John’s University School of Law. The CHAZAQ parsha sheets have long been dear to Mr. Shalom and when he came across an advert for tonight’s celebration, he reached out to CHAZAQ’s Director, Rav Ilan Meirov, to express how proud he is to see this partnership blossom. Years ago, the Sephardic Persian community called Yeshivat Ohr Haiim home and today it is no surprise to see the Sephardic Bukharian community thriving in its midst. A conventional misconception in our community lingers: how far can your child go attending yeshiva? Mr. Shalom is a vocal advocate and prime demonstration that this school maintains a foundation allowing your child to become a pharmacist, real estate investor or developer, or an attorney just as his friends have done successfully.
By Shabsie Saphirstein
Credit: photo by Saul Joseph