The Jewish community of Queens celebrated Lag Ba’Omer with palpable energy. I was privileged to attend a number of festivities alongside City Council Candidate Avi Cyperstein. Our evening of merriment began along 70th Avenue in Forest Hills just off Austin Street, where we thanked Queens Borough Safety Patrol-Shmira for ensuring safety at a bonfire being set up for neighborhood residents to enjoy. We then traveled to Anshe Shalom Chabad JCC, under the direction of Rabbi Mordechai Zev Hecht, where we participated in a joyous and well-attended barbeque under the guidance of master chef Liron Iskhakbayev. It was truly an incredible sight to see so many from all walks of Jewish life united under the light of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.
Next, we visited Rabbi Eli and Shulamis Blokh’s Chabad of Rego Park, where we found a lively group enjoying delicious delights. I had quickly become keenly aware of this Chabad’s outreach for neighborhood food insecurity. Met Council had recently delivered a large order and I learned of the shul’s efforts to feed those in need.
Our next stop was at MJO Shaar HaShamayim Synagogue where we found the synagogue leader Rabbi Matatia Chetrit engaged in a Moroccan tradition of selling honors and repeating inspirational stories in the name of the RASHBI.
At Ohr Natan’s Youth Minyan in Rego Park, we found Rabbi Nachum Kaziev’s son, Natan, and Rabbi Yitzchak Aminov, amongst other leaders and an incredible staff, hard at work leading an impressive program with song and an unbelievable show of camaraderie from all in attendance, ranging in age from high school boys to adults.
We concluded the evening at the TOV shul in Kew Gardens Hills, where children were out and about enjoying the festive atmosphere.
Writer’s note: The tragic events from Mt. Meron in Israel had only come to light as we were concluding our evening. Most, if not all, of the celebrators, were unaware of the devastation that had befallen the Jewish nation.
By Shabsie Saphirstein