As I entered the YCQ courtyard, I was captivated by the sea of blue and white balloons that has defined the Yeshiva since its inception: their strong sense of Zionism, love for Eretz Yisrael, and the upcoming holiday of Yom HaAtzmaut.
“The mission stays the same. The same thing that the Yeshiva was dedicated to 50 years ago, it is dedicated to today,” said Dr. Joel Wein, President of YCQ. “The students are committed Jews, knowledgeable in Torah, knowledgeable in secular studies, who express deep commitment to their communities, am Yisrael, and Medinat Yisrael.”
Enjoying a sunny sky and a light breeze, close to 100 people participated in the YCQ Class of 1972 50th Anniversary Reunion, where members of the YCQ graduating class reconnected, reminisced, and reveled in the company of their former classmates. In addition to the former students and their spouses who attended the event at YCQ, many members of the class of 1972 attended via Zoom, from as far away as Europe and Israel.
“It is just marvelous seeing everyone after 50 years,” remarked Fran Greenberg of Kew Gardens Hills. Sheera Sobin, a member of the Young Israel of West Hempstead, whose father Dr. Simon Lopata was an active member of the Yeshiva’s Board of Education, felt similarly. “I was excited to meet old friends. As I gather my belongings to return home, I confess this was lots of fun.” For Susan Leviton, a Young Israel of Jamaica Estates member, the word that was chosen to describe the day was “thrilling.”
Howie Goldschmit of Teaneck and Modiin noted that his parents Eric and Helen live just six blocks from the Yeshiva. “In the midst of the 1960s upheaval, YCQ kept us engaged in American society.” Dr. Jordan Fersel of West Orange holds a special place for Kew Gardens Hills. His father Dr. Howard was a noted dentist in the area. “We grew up in a carefree time when a rebbe, Rabbi Shimonovitz, would ask me to get him a coffee with half sugar and half milk and add, ‘Don’t forget the coffee.’ These were our foundations.”
Following a buffet lunch and meet-and-greet, the attendees viewed three videos. The first included original class photos and reminiscence of classmates’ fond memories of teachers, friends, and funny anecdotes. The second video honored the memory of six classmates: Mark Davidman, Jeffrey Faktor, Bonnye Kaufman, Ellen Miller, Rena Spigelman, and Brent Treiger, of blessed memory. The third video featured an address given by English Class Valedictorian Mrs. Tamar (Feder) Kramer, who spoke at the 1972 class graduation.
Mrs. Kramer made aliyah, raised her family, and now enjoys time with her grandchildren living in Eretz Yisrael. She spoke of the education and values she took on at YCQ, and how the small details that influenced her childhood inform the life she lives today. She reported that 15 percent of the YCQ Class of 1972 has made aliyah, and she looks forward to more classmates joining her there in their retirement.
Lydia Mark Isak of Teaneck loved learning Hebrew at YCQ and speaks the language fluently today. “It was the base for my Ivrit.” Adina (Schmidman) Fredman taught 15 years at SAR in Scarsdale and now teaches at Maharat in Riverdale and is due to be ordained this June. “A love for Zionism was implanted in each of us at YCQ before we understood its significance.” Eva Bellin recalled Mrs. Druian the Hebrew teacher. “We were forced to speak only in Hebrew, and this was something I kept for the rest of my life and applied to my professional career as a Brandeis professor.” Dr. Barry Holzer, a Young Israel of Woodmere member, expressed, “We learned a lot from our time in YCQ and we merited to have many family members and friends pass through its doors in the years since.” Arlene Kazlow Feldman of West Hempstead was proud to announce that her connection with YCQ was ongoing, with her grandson, Menashe Mordechai Basalely, set to graduate the Yeshiva next year.
Principal Rabbi Mark Landsman remarked, “It was gratifying to see so many YCQ alumni joining together after so many years, with unlimited gratitude to our Yeshiva for instilling within them the necessary skills to succeed in life, as well as the spiritual inspiration to be Torah-observant, Religious Zionist Jews.” Ava Reich, an occupational therapist in Rego Park, has had the opportunity to return to YCQ both at its former home where the class of ’72 was educated, now part of York College, and the current campus, where she evaluated students. “It always brought up good memories.”
Graduates dot the map, like Stew Feuerstein of New Rochelle and Jeremy Cohen, who grew up in the neighborhood and now resides in La Jolla, CA. “YCQ was an oasis of innocence and warmth in a world that we did not fully understand,” said Cohen, who was pleased to report that some of his children made aliyah.
Said Laura (Krim) Turk, “This day is very exciting. When we heard about the reunion, we were thrilled, and as it got closer, we got more excited. It’s special to see everyone that I haven’t seen in a very long time, and it’s really a trip down memory lane.”
Andy Kase of Barnegat, New Jersey, and Leland, North Carolina, is a retired insurance agent who could not be more thankful to the committee for the “phenomenal job.” Michael Schussheim, Reunion Committee Member, called the event a labor of love. “I’m always very proud to say that I’m a graduate of the Yeshiva of Central Queens. This reunion is so special. I’m grateful that I played a role in making it happen.” Lori (Ann) Weinberg of East Brunswick observed that the reunion was a “wonderful idea that allowed the class to renew friendships.”
Adam Reich of Monsey took the crowd on a tour of their elementary school days and kept everyone entertained as they went through the “sands of time,” highlighting historic and comical events.
Some traveled from afar, like Robert Balgley, a North Miami Beach optometrist, or from nearby, like Aaron Brandwein of Belle Harbor. David Chesir, whose parents were both active in all facets of the school, remembers YCQ as a “linchpin” of his life that taught Zionism, Modern Orthodoxy, and Judaism at its best.
“One memory that really stands out to me was the dancing that we did on Fifth Avenue at the Salute to Israel Parade,” Cheryl (Greenberg) Miodownik recalled. “Our costumes were amazing, and I remember dancing with my classmates under the direction of our instructor Mrs. Maloff. This is a perfect occasion – thank you to the reunion committee and to YCQ.”
The Yeshiva of Central Queens thanks the Class of 1972 50th Anniversary Reunion Committee Members for their hard work and dedication to making this event a success: Mr. Stewart Feuerstein, Dr. Beth (Zweibon) Hait, Dr. Barry Holzer, Mr. Michael Schussheim, Mrs. Ava (Rich) Wand, and Mrs. Gayle (Laufer) Yashar. The committee members are very grateful to Mrs. Randi (Beeber) Luxenberg, Co-Chair of the YCQ Alumni Association, and Mrs. Reize Sipzner, Officer of YCQ, for their advice and guidance as involved YCQ community members. The Reunion was made possible by YCQ faculty members Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, Executive Director; Rabbi Mark Landsman, Principal; Mr. Ben Wexler, IT Director; Mr. Sam Osborne, Technical Support Specialist; Mr. Aaron Kessler, Building Manager; Mrs. Jen Jaffe, Director of Compliance; Mrs. Devora Baer, Director of Grants; Mr. Yaakov Kakuriev, Chef; and Mrs. Maxine Lipshitz, School Photographer and Videographer.
By Shabsie Saphirstein
and Pam Goldman