On Sunday, February 5, the Young Israel of Hillcrest and its sisterhood, led by Rebbetzin Rebecca Schnall, presented a tasteful Tu BiSh’vat gathering for women. A fruit carving demonstration and workshop, featuring Esther Zafrani of Glorious Creations Desserts was enjoyed by 65 women at the shul, plus another 35 virtually, capacity for the program. Clad with a knife to carve, some toothpicks and cloves, and a handful of apples, the woman created beautiful designs to enhance their holiday experience. Esther also transformed a whole watermelon into a rose before their very eyes. This was glorious to watch as the class was fun, creative, uplifting, and even therapeutic. Attendees found that Zafrani was able to simplify the most complex processes into bite-size steps, making it easy for all to catch on. Of course, all attendees enjoyed a delicious fruit platter in honor of the chag.

Shortly after 2 p.m. this past Wednesday afternoon, the vicinity of Hashevaynu in Kew Gardens Hills was thrown into chaos as 18 Orthodox Jewish children ranging from 16 months to 5 years were caught in the midst of a housefire that began in the basement where their daycare operated. Within 45 minutes, the fire was under control at the duplex at 147-07 72nd Drive. It was all-hands-on-deck for Hatzolah of Queens and Great Neck, who worked together with the FDNY to treat the injured.

The stretch of 71st Avenue between 137th and 141st Streets has hosted an array of honorable programming covering a swath of services available to the Jewish community. Yeshiva Beth Abraham Slonim of Jerusalem has perpetuity held a significance for me, my Kew Gardens Hills neighbors, and the Queens Jewish community as a whole. It was 40 years ago to the day that the Slonimer Rebbe began a partnership with Reb Aaron and Ratzy Kopelowitz, who they have annually opened their door to the yeshivah for an annual fundraiser that has continually grown with unremitting interest.

Thelma “Toby” Geschwind a”h, Toiba Hena bas Moshe haLevi (u’Braina Rivkah), was a woman of valor – a true eishes chayil – who lived a life of dreams realized. Known for her bountiful acts of chesed in Jamaica Estates, and later in West Hempstead, Toby and her unselfish heart of gold were an exemplary role model for others, putting her family needs first, then those of her friends, all preceding her own. The essence of Toby’s life was defined by the translation of her Hebrew name Tovah, good. She persevered from a burdensome early life, losing three brothers at a young age and her mother when she was just 13, becoming the maternal figure to her seven-year-old brother and to her two older brothers. She was brought up by her aunt Anne a”h, establishing a bond with cousins Tena and Debra, whom she always considered her sisters.

As Mike Pompeo’s team contemplates a presidential run, Israel took center stage for our esteemed former Secretary of State, who chose to launch his memoir, Never Give an Inch, with the Jewish community he holds near and dear. Last Tuesday evening, the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) hosted a book-signing at Lower Manhattan’s Wall Street Grill with an array of pro-Israel activists.

The passing of Rabbi Joseph Katz z”l (HaRav Yosef ben HaRav Yisrael Alter HaKohen) last week left the greater Five Towns community in mourning. His funeral at Boulevard Riverside Chapels on Thursday, January 19, united the family and friends of the true kohen tzedek. Rabbi Katz exuded kiddush Hashem in all aspects of life. After the Holocaust, a young Katz immigrated to the US from Cuba, where he was known as Jose. He later received a yeshivah education at Yeshiva Torah Vodaath, starting at age 11, and picking up Daf Yomi early on. Divrei hesped were delivered by the Bostoner Rebbe, Rabbi Pinchas Weinberger, Rabbi Yaakov Bender, Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Rabbi Yaakov Reisman, and a few sons. Together with his wife, Nechama, he taught shalom, achdus, and chesed, which have thankfully spread throughout the Jewish world. K’vurah took place in Eretz HaChaim Cemetery, Beit Shemesh. He is mourned by his wife Nechama, his sister Leah Censor of Kew Gardens Hills, and his sons Zvi, Uri, Shlomo, Alter, Eli, Pini, and Nosson. Ultimately, no chesed was greater than welcoming Ben Chafetz z”l into his home as a ben bayis.