Warm food, tasty cocktails, smiles, and hearty laughs set the mood this past Thursday evening, March 10, at the ballroom of Beit Eliyahu in Fresh Meadows for the 14th annual Chaverim of Queens Appreciation Dinner, paying tribute to its dedicated responders.

“From our founding class of Chaverim members, one responder is with us tonight, Tuvi Hirsch Q-16,” explained Avi Cyperstein, Chaverim of Queens co-founder, who finds inspiration from this venerable dedication. “Tuvi is the longest standing active member in the organization who still takes calls on the regular.”

“Those that are involved in helping the community from the goodness of their heart for no pay, G-d returns the favor with success and health,” said Cyperstein. “Many of you go well beyond the call of duty taking on tasks that many would not do for pay, for free, for strangers, and for neighbors.”

Simon Sebag, Jewish liaison to New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, was on hand to award the top ten responders over the past year an honorary certificate for their service. Moshe Teicher, Benji Kattan, Avishai Shachar, Mordechai Lapp, Shui Alter, Dovid Bakst, Eliyahu Love, Daniel Arshadnia, Meir Nordlicht, and Yisroel Mermelstein comprise this exemplary list in order of highest response numbers.

“Sometimes it is not about the equipment that we use during a call, rather it is about the will and drive of a devoted member to be there for his fellow neighbor,” offered Daniel Arshadnia, a Kew Gardens Hills resident and member of Cong. Magen David who responded to well over a hundred calls. One incident that stood out for this responder was an elderly gentleman who simply could not reach his car keys after they fell under his seat near 70th Road and Main Street. “Helping this man culminated all the work of Chaverim and how we appear to assist anyone in their time of crisis. Giving back to the community is such a simple task.”

Often, Chaverim volunteer respond to car lockout where a motorist locks their keys in their vehicle. Occasionally, these calls have the added pressure of a child also being locked inside. While the intensity of such a call is palpable, for Meir Nordlicht a seven-year responder from Kew Gardens, this kind of response is typical. “We got the vehicle on 123rd Street opened in under a minute. There are no words to describe the joy the mother felt and her appreciation for our timely response.”

Chaverim of Queens also services the Great Neck region. David Levy is one such volunteer from the North Shore peninsula. “I was once dispatched to the side of the Long Island Expressway, where a doctor was stranded on the way to work with a flat tire. To get this doctor back on his way to his patients was truly a remarkable experience.” Levy said that his favorite part of the organization is responding to obscure calls that present a challenge, and often car lockouts fall under these precepts. “I came to a call by LaGuardia Airport and found an engineer and contractor at a loss for opening a car. I got a special sense of satisfaction from getting that motorist on his way.”

Cyperstein also acknowledged another Chaverim milestone, with the inauguration of the first second-generation member, Yitzi Kaplowitz (Q-301), whose father Jonathan is a formative member.

Avishai Shachar took to the podium to award Cyperstein a surprise award for his “sustained dedication to service and to the city of New York.”

Thank yous were dished out by Cyperstein to his coordinators Shui Alter, Eli Kriendler, and Moshe Vatch; as well as to dispatchers, volunteers, and the wives and parents of these able-bodied men who leave home to answer the call of stranded motorists and residents.

Representatives were on hand from the local 102nd and 107th police precincts for the festivities. Honored attendees included Deputy Inspector Kevin Chan, Commanding Officer of the 107, Rabbi Hayim Schwartz of RSA, Rabbi Tzvi (Harry) Berkowitz, Chief Chaplain at the NYS Fraternal Order of Police and founder and director of Universal Jewish Police Association, Rabbi Aryeh Sokoloff of the Kew Gardens Synagogue, Izzy Peskowitz of Chazaq, and Aaron Cyperstein, President of Chaverim of Queens.

When first responder organizations host events, many question how ongoing calls get proper attention. Acknowledgement was given to Sruli (CH-86) of the Crown Heights Chaverim for his availability and response to a number of calls. Often Chaverim of Queens volunteers take on similar roles throughout New York State when the need arises.

In a special announcement, volunteers were awarded complimentary exclusive nonfungible tokens (NFTs) by Nonfungible Judaica (NFJ) for their continued devotion to the community.

 By Shabsie Saphirstein,
member Chaverim of Queens