This past Sunday afternoon, December 25, I attended the Beth Gavriel Chanukah Carnival at the behest of the organizers as part of the QBSP-Shmira detail. The main sanctuary had been converted into a makeshift gymnasium for the children to enjoy entertainment and food delights. Originally planned as a street fair, questionable weather conditions convinced the shul to host the event indoors.

The maximum capacity crowd enjoyed personal pizza pies baked in-house, along with crispy French fries, tasty cotton candy, and plenty of popcorn. A live deejay, bounce houses, a Chanukah stuntman, and a riveting bubble show kept attendees wanting more.

“We love to have the entire community together here at Beth Gavriel,” stated Rabbi Tomer Zino, newly appointed rabbi of the shul’s Netz Minyan, as he welcomed the crowd. “We are here on Chanukah when we take pride in our mitzvot, especially the three that the Greeks wanted to take away from us – brit milah, Shabbat, and Rosh Chodesh – because these are the mitzvot that make us happy.” Rabbi Zino then asked his mispallelim, “When are the Jewish people most successful?” to which he responded, “When we are happy!” The rabbi reminded the community, especially the attentive children, to celebrate Chanukah in joyous spirits, remember their neighborhood and how uniting as a community is priority, just as the shul accomplished at the Chanukah festival.

Rabbi Avraham Fridman, menahel of Yeshiva Sha’arei Zion, acknowledged his students – past, present, and future – and wished the audience a special chodesh tov as he handed the podium and warm Chanukah greetings to New York City Council Member Lynn Schulman, whose surprise appearance topped off the event festivities.

Schulman, an event co-sponsor, provided hundreds upon hundreds of spectacular toys, bringing joy to the children. This distribution was made possible with the help of the Queens Center Mall and the Kasirer lobbying group, and was planned in coordination with Pesach Osina, a longtime friend of Beth Gavriel who is now the Jewish liaison to New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. Schulman is the only Jewish member from Queens in the Council and her representation of our areas of Forest Hills, Rego Park, Kew Gardens, and parts of Richmond Hill is noteworthy. “This community is very important to me, and I came here to make all the kids happy,” said the Council Member, adding, “The first place I thought to bring them was here.” Schulman excitedly repeated this sentiment to me in a follow-up conversation, mentioning, “Nothing touches one’s heart like giving out toys to kids for the holidays.”

Much thanks is extended to Simcha Musheyev and family of Beth Gavriel, who has passionately taken on the plight of the community’s youth; Avraham Pinkhasov and family, Coordinator, QBSP-Shmira, and Jewish liaison to the 112th Precinct; David Mordukhaev and family of the Alliance for Bukharian Americans (ABA), who tirelessly advocates for his brethren of the Jewish community; as well as the Alishaev, Rubinov, and Koptiev families, as noted by Schulman.

By Shabsie Saphirstein