The Queens Jewish Link, represented by co-publisher Yaakov Serle and me, were amongst a contingent that solemnly surveyed the devastating damage at Bais Yosef D’Ulem in Kew Gardens Hills this past Tuesday afternoon, August 9, in the aftermath of the blaze that destroyed both the shul and home of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Yaakov Yitzchak Friedman. The group met in the main beis midrash amidst the ruins. There was a sense of urgency, as those present watched a cohesive reconstruction effort already well underway. The officials discussed the heartbreaking loss and the extensive efforts involved in bringing the facility back to full function. One attendee noted, “Normally, I would fear standing amongst dangling electrical wires, but amongst colleagues and friends, I am quite comfortable.”
The rebuilding is headed by community members Ari Elbogen and his associate Yaakov Stern, who were both in attendance, providing context and details of the extent of the repairs required. On behalf of the shul were noted members Mr. Eli Glaser and Mr. Bernie Shafran.
All facets of the political spectrum were also present, starting with Congress Member Grace Meng, Rabbi Daniel Pollack (her Jewish liaison), and Kyle Salcido, her constituent caseworker. Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal publicly commented on Meng’s concern for the Jewish community. “Whether it be a simchah or a tragedy, when the Jewish community calls, Grace has always shown up.”
Also on hand were incoming State Senator Leroy Comrie and his Chief of Staff Derrick Davis; Council Member James F. Gennaro and his Jewish liaison Adam Suionov; District Leader Shimi Pelman; Alan Weinberg, Community Coordinator for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; and Ido Shargal, Queens Borough Director of the Community Affairs Unit on behalf of New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Those gathered joined the Rav and Rebbetzin in taking solace that no injuries resulted from the fire, and that the sacred Torah scroll escaped without harm. One official shaken by the wreckage presented the Rav with a personal check to assist in the recovery. While no commitments were expected or offered, the elected officials unanimously stated their willingness to help get the shul back into daily operation.
By Shabsie Saphirstein