Here in Jamaica Estates, much of our daily spiritual and religious life revolves around our shul. It was a somber moment when the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates opted to shut its physical doors temporarily in the face of the COVID-19 health crisis. However, due to the tremendous efforts and talents of our leadership and our members, the community is not only surviving, but thriving.
Without missing a beat, President Sam Herskowitz, with the help of his team, is masterfully hosting and coordinating a myriad of thoughtful and informative Zoom programming. Our newly minted rav, Rabbi Dov Lerner, continues to warmly and dynamically lead the helm in these uncertain times. Along with the requisite daily communal Shacharis and Maariv, he simultaneously teaches and entertains with his weekly shiurim in parshah and sacred texts. We all welcome Shabbos together, inspired by the Rabbi’s divrei Torah and sparkling personality, and reconvene to bid Shabbos farewell with a communal Zoom Havdalah led by the Rabbi and Miriam from their home.
Every day, we get an email summarizing the many opportunities to interact and learn. Our beloved Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, and Karen graciously meet with us every Monday morning to schmooze and share divrei chizuk and comfort. It’s almost like getting a big hug to get us through the week. Many women from our community and former members who have made aliyah come together on Friday mornings for T’hilim and on Sunday mornings to learn Pirkei Avos. Additional
shiurim are available every day in Talmud, Tanach, and Halachah, given by our esteemed and learned members. The Thursday night Medical Update Zoom session is especially well attended. Our in-house doctors and friends, Drs. Gita and Jay Lisker and Dr. Chanie Traube, who are working on the frontlines of this pandemic, give of their time to apprise us of the situation as it changes and address our questions and concerns. Dr. Michelle Lowenwirt, in her capacity as a psychiatrist, also lends her advice in assuaging our anxiety and nurturing our mental health.
Finally, our tireless and dynamic Youth Director, Zach Herskowitz, has energetically and creatively kept our kids playing, laughing, singing, and dancing, coming up with new ways to reinvent our traditional celebrations. Prizes arrive in exciting packages, and Yom HaAtzmaut props were delivered to every home to enhance the spirit of our Zoom chagigah. We missed our traditional bonfire in Cunningham Park, but the Lag BaOmer Family Car Parade that included fire trucks, vintage cars, and Jumpin’ Joe the fire juggler was a huge success.
There are many more Sunday fun-days and learning opportunities in store, so feel free to Zoom in and get a taste of Jamaica Estates. We are “Jamaica Estates- tough,” and though we can’t wait for those doors to open, we now know our community is tied together by far more than just physical walls.
By Ora Canter