Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah of Philadelphia, shlita, visited CHAZAQ headquarters in Kew Gardens Hills .
The private meeting included Harav Yitzchak Yisraeli, the Chief Rabbi of the Bukharian community; Harav Noach Isaac Oelbaum, shlita, Rav, Khal Nachlas Yitzchok; Harav Doniel Lander, Rosh Yeshivah of Ohr Hachaim; Harav Mordechai Finkelman, Mashgiach Ruchni of Ohr Hachaim; Harav Aharon Walkin, Rosh Yeshivah of CHAZAQ’s beis medrash, and several staff and board members from CHAZAQ.
The meeting focused on the challenges facing the Bukharian community with the main focus on the approximately 10,000 traditional Bukharian children who attend public school in the Queens community. While the parents are not anti-religious and keep many Jewish customs, they fail to realize the threat that the American public school system poses to their child’s Judaism.
Besides the violence and substance abuse that many students unfortunately become accustomed to, it has also led to widespread intermarriage and hundreds have lost their Jewish identity over the years.
Rabbi Ilan Meirov, director of CHAZAQ, described the many programs that CHAZAQ offers to strengthen the community at large. They include Sunday and after-school programs, teen sessions for boys and girls, a complete beis medrash program, a kollel to bring the spirit of Torah to the community, a women’s division, various publications, the renowned lectures for adults numerous times a week, and the PSTY (Public School to Yeshiva) division. The PSTY is their most crucial program and was the main topic of the meeting.
Reb Ephraim Rubinov, who was originally a successful computer technician and dropped his career to dedicate himself to the community, showed the Rabbanim all the work that has been done, and can be done with the proper resources. He is currently running a task force of several recruiters who contact parents, discuss the physical and spiritual dangers of public school, help identify the appropriate religious school, and help them transition into the schools.
He has designed a computer program that stores the data base of thousands of children, the status of each active case, every interaction of his team and the prospective yeshivah student, and the follow-up of all children who have already made the transition.
Reb Ephraim himself is responsible for gathering all the documents needed to verify the lineage of each child. This can include birth certificates, marriage licenses, and kesubos. With Hashem’s help CHAZAQ has already transferred over 550 children to yeshivos in just over two years. A truly remarkable accomplishment.
Rav Kamenetsky was inspired by the work of CHAZAQ and repeatedly stated that he didn’t know one organization could touch so many thousands of Jews in so many different ways. He encouraged everyone to become a partner in CHAZAQ’s work as they have “accomplished so much and are truly saving lives.”
The Rav concluded his visit by blessing CHAZAQ’s work and he then stopped by Yeshiva Ohr Hachaim in KGH to deliver a short yet powerful shmuess to hundreds of students.
The yeshivah, together with its high school affiliate, Yesodei Yeshurun, holds a special part in CHAZAQ’s success as both Rabbi Ilan Meirov and his brother Rabbi Yaniv Meirov are graduates of the yeshivah, with the latter starting the organization when he was a 15-year-old boy in tenth grade.
For more information about CHAZAQ please email info@CHAZAQ.org.