Past President of Queens Jewish Community Council, Community Board 9 member, and celebrated Jewish organization awardee

With heavy hearts, the Queens Jewish Link announces the p’tirah of Ms. Janice Fenster a”h, 77, this past Sunday evening, February 19. Jan was a lover of our publication and showed her appreciation as a consistent patron to our annual networking events. At every opportunity, Jan conveyed her appreciation for my writings and encouraged me to push forward in any way possible to advance the ideals cherished by the Queens frum community. While most readers were probably unaware of Jan’s selfless efforts to meet the needs of others within klal Yisrael, noting her accomplishments is a worthy posthumous tribute.

The list of organizations where she lent a hand is extraordinary, but her involvement with the Annual Queens Purim Parade on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills is my most fond memory of Ms. Fenster. It is my hope that this beloved parade can be resurrected as a community mainstay for the Queens Jewish community in her memory. Anyone interested in this endeavor is encouraged to reach out to the publication.

Jan was born and raised in the Bronx and attended a special Hebrew School for girls housed at the Mosholu Jewish Center. Through the outreach efforts of the mara d’asra, Rabbi Herschel Schacter, and his wife Pnina, Jan embraced Orthodox Judaism, and later graduated from Queens College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Jan used her education widely and was a proud retiree of the New York City Board of Education, where she taught early childhood education, elementary school special education, worked in the resource room as a high school special-ed teacher, and was a special-ed teacher trainer.

Jan’s commitment to community work was legendary, showcased by her affiliations with numerous organizations. While she was teaching, Jan served as Vice President of both the Association of Orthodox Jewish Teachers and the Jewish Teachers Association. She also was a member of the Advisory Board of the Queens College Black-Jewish People-to-People Project, and of the Jewish Heritage Week Advisory Committee of the Jewish Community Relations Council. Additionally, Jan was a member of the Steering Committee of the Queens Chapter of the Jewish Teacher’s Community Chest.

At the time of her passing, Jan was a member of Queens’ Community Board 9, representing Richmond Hill, and sat on the Advisory Board of Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives at Queensborough Community College. Moreover, Jan was honored to serve on the Jewish Advisory Board to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, and she held the Vice Presidential title for the Queens Jewish Historical Society. At the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), Jan was Secretary of the Long Island Zionist Region and served on the National Executive Committee.

Locally, Jan sat on the Board of the Ladies Auxiliary for Congregation Adath Yeshurun of Kew Gardens. Jan held life-member status at AMIT, Emunah, Hadassah, and ZOA, and was an active member of Americans for a Safe Israel and of Congregation Havurat Yisrael of Forest Hills. Of note was her service as a past President of the Queens Jewish Community Council (QJCC), where she also has served as Executive Vice President, Vice President, and Treasurer over the years.

Jan was proud of her familial relationship to the Young Israel movement, traced through her grandfather, Benjamin Ansh z”l, who was a dedicated member of the Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway, where for years Jan enjoyed davening on the Yamim Nora’im. Jan has also forged relationships with many Young Israel shuls in Queens, and she worked closely in various capacities with their rabbinical leadership, including Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld z”l, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, Rabbi Meir Bilitzky z”l, Rabbi Sholom Steinig, and Rabbi Shlomo Hochberg, with whom her friendship spanned three generations.

Ms. Fenster received honors from a number of prestigious Jewish institutions: Tzorchei Tzibur Award from the National Council of Young Israel, Long Island Zionist Foundation, Long Island Region of ZOA, Queens Division of the Jewish Teachers Community Chest, Queens Jewish Community Council, Young Israel of New Hyde Park, as well as awards from then New York City Council Member Melinda Katz, and then Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall.

K’vurah was held on Monday at the New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon with over 100 in attendance. May her memory be a blessing.

By Shabsie Saphirstein