The Three Weeks is the time period during which we mourn the churban of the [First and Second] Beis HaMikdash as well as the countless atrocities that klal Yisrael has endured over the centuries at the hands of those who hate us and want to annihilate us. We know on an intellectual level that life without the Beis HaMikdash is not as it should be. We also understand that there was much pain and suffering during the Spanish Inquisition, pogroms, blood libels, the G’zeiros Tach v’Tat, and the Crusades. But many of us are most able to relate on an emotional level to the more recent events that hit closer to home. There is an abundance of museums, books, videos, testimonies, and programs designed to ensure that the Holocaust will never be forgotten. Despite the fact that the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling, our generation continues to be impacted by their experiences and inspired by their spirit and m’sirus nefesh. It is especially poignant when there is a personal story within one’s family.

Elizabeth Crowley was born and raised in Queens, where she attended St. Agnes High School. Her religious education was an important foundation in her life. Both of her parents served on the City Council. Her cousin, Joe Crowley, served as a US Congressman from New York for many years. She earned a BA in Restoration and Preservation from SUNY’s Fashion Institute of Technology and an MS in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute’s Graduate School of Architecture. Crowley did historic preservation work, and was a proud union member of District Council 9 (International Union of Painters and Allied Trade). She worked on various major landmarks in New York City, including Radio City Music Hall and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. As a union member, she was an early advocate for better wages and benefits. Crowley also worked in education.

This year’s Independence Day marks the 245th year of the United States, a country that has been attracting more immigrants than any other throughout its existence. The freedom of religion and economic opportunities made this nation the leading diaspora country for the Jewish people. Our expression of gratitude for this country is limited this year not only by the coronavirus pandemic that restricts our presence at public celebrations, but also this year’s Fourth of July occurring on Shabbos.

Many of the elderly from our community have been secluded in local nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Generally, patients participated in daily activities all geared to keep their moods upbeat and their smiles forever widening. The onset of the virus left many unanswered questions, many that persist today. A devastating coronavirus outbreak at a Washington State nursing home in the beginning of our nation’s struggles shed light on the need to ensure the safety at institutions that house our vulnerable aging population, considering their close living quarters.

Donovan Richards was born and raised in Southeast Queens. He received an associate’s degree in Aviation Management from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and went from there to the Academy of Aviation. In March of 2003, after the fatal shooting of his childhood friend in front of his home, Donovan committed to be involved in politics. In 2011, Richards became chief of staff for NYC Councilman James Sanders, Jr., and when Sanders was elected to the New York State Senate, Richards won a 2013 special election to the NYC Council to succeed him, serving a district that includes South Jamaica and Far Rockaway, an office he still holds. During his first term, he secured more than $1.5 billion to help fill the enormous sewer infrastructure problem of flooding in Southeast Queens. In the second half of his term, Richards was at the center of Mayor de Blasio’s push for affordable housing across the city. Donovan has had the benefit of a religious education, at a Christian Academy, a time that he says he will never forget, and this guides his concern with the work he does with the yeshivah school system.