Hashevaynu Opens Its Doors For Mass Vaccination Drive

The road to recovery for Kew Gardens Hills took a welcome turn this past Monday evening in the Simchah Room of the former home of Khal Aderes Eliyahu – Rabbi Teitz’s shul. The story to my Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) is credited to Rabbi Yehuda Zakutinsky and his Rebbetzin Adina of Hashevaynu, as well as Zev Nirenberg, a registered pharmacist and resident of Kew Gardens Hills. Hashevaynu lived true to its mission of making “all Jews who pass through its doors feel like cherished members of the family who know that their problems are our problems and their joys are our joys.”

Sometimes, Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio manage to agree on plans of action, and sometimes these plans are feasible to enact. The State and City agreed that houses of worship would be a smart option to act as pop up vaccination sites. “Uncle Sam,” as Nirenberg noted, enabled pharmacies to partner with shuls like Hashevaynu to offer inoculations in a wider setting. Such a reach both encourages others to take the jab and makes the process to receive the dose that much easier. For Nirenberg, this was his second such event in Kew Gardens Hills, this time occurring on the eve of the Governor announcing an expansion of vaccine availably to those as young as 50.

A survey was shared within the community that garnered roughly 150 potential patients. In all, just over 100 turned up for their injection. “Baruch Hashem, we are able to help the community, as we begin to bring a renewed sense of hope with a vision for the community to return to normal,” said Nirenberg. The event was staffed in part by Hatzolah of Queens volunteers whose dedication always knows no bounds. Yehuda Weinberg, one such dedicated member, made the shidduch between the shul and Nirenberg for this program. He echoed Nirenberg’s sentiment, “I am truly happy to do my part in helping my community return to a sense of normalcy, even in this small way.”

For my part as a volunteer, I did my best to keep the line moving well and ensured that the inoculation booths were stocked. For one, Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, executive director of the Yeshiva of Central Queens, was happy to see a familiar face in me as he prepared for his appointment.

Several couples also attended the event, one being Akiva and Chanita Teitz of Astor Brokerage. For them, the venue has special meaning, as Reb Akiva assisted in the physical building of the facility. “I knew I was building a makom Torah, but I never envisioned rolling up my sleeves for this kind of activity,” he explained.

The final shot given at the shul was to Yehuda Zlotnick, a prodigy of yeshivos, learning in Chofetz Chaim of Boca Raton, and a member locally of Congregation Ahavas Yisroel. “I appreciate everyone who helped to make this program successful, and for giving me the opportunity to be protected,” said Zlotnick. The smile across his face said it all.

Another Hatzolah volunteer was Chanoch Aminsky. He and his family are members at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates and he proudly attends Khal Bais Yitzchok, the “Jamaica Estates Shtiebel.” “I thank Yehuda Weinberg for informing me of this programming and giving me the chance to partake in the great mitzvah of servicing our neighborhoods and helping society return to calm.”

The event also offered the Moderna vaccine upon request, giving all the opportunity to have the safety measure of their choice. With just a few vaccine doses remaining, a few calls were made and one willing candidate emerged – Eli Davis, an NYU dental student and talmid of Yeshivas Chofetz Chaim, Kew Gardens Hills. Davis met Nirenberg in his home to receive his shot. “I feel fortune and delighted to receive this dose and thank those who helped to get me here.”

As with any program, it is a community effort that makes clarity and efficiency prevail. The Zakutinskys welcome the prospect to host another such program should the occasion arise.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein