Tag Archives: Rockwood Park Jewish Center

Rockwood Park Jewish Center hosts Holocaust Remembrance Day


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Rockwood Park Jewish Center

BY ANGELA MATUA

Stories were shared and prayers were offered to the victims of the Holocaust during a special service last week at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center in Howard Beach.

Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, honors both the more than 6 million people who died at the hands of Nazi Germany during World War II and those who survived the atrocity. The event, which was hosted at the synagogue on Thursday, April 16, honored four Holocaust survivors: Nathan Berkowitz, Martin Braun, Jack Gruer and Judy Berkowitz.

After a candle lighting service, the audience sang “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Rabbi Tzvi Berkowitz welcomed the crowd along with Bernard Fisch, president of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

Public officials including Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton, Fr. Francis Colamaria of St. Helen’s Church, state Senator Joseph Addabbo and Deputy Inspector Jeffrey Schiff, commanding officer of the 106th Precinct, made opening remarks.

Helen Greenblat, Rabbi Berkowitz’s cousin, told the story of her mother and father, who were both held in concentration camps to put a face to the numbers we so often hear.

“It’s something we can’t comprehend, but we can tell the stories and they can come to life and pay tribute by telling the stories,” Greenblat said.

Greenblat spoke about her parents before the war to emphasize that they lived a “normal” life, as well as the challenges they faced when starting over.

“They were absolutely heroic for starting all over again and continuing after what [they’d] been through, the losses they suffered, the misery they endured,” Greenblat said.

Her parents were both in their mid-teens when the war started and both lost family members as a result.

Greenblat’s father, Max Traeger, lived in Warsaw, Poland, and worked in his father’s shoe factory after dropping out of school in the fifth grade. According to Greenblat, the extreme anti-Semitism he faced in school caused him to leave.

Traeger and his family were forced into labor camps after Germany invaded Poland. Traeger, the lone survivor, lived in the camps for five years.

Ilona Lax, Greenblat’s mother, was forced out of her house in Czechoslovakia to a nearby ghetto along with her sister, two brothers and father. Soon after, they were put on cattle cars to be escorted to Auschwitz.  Upon arrival at the death camp, Lax’s father and brother were both killed.

Lax and her sister, Lily, were liberated from Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany, by British soldiers. To start a new life, they created a kosher kitchen and a synagogue. When Lax’s sister got engaged, she requested that her fiancé get her a white wedding gown.

“I couldn’t believe when I heard the story. They went through hell, they lost so many of their family members and she’s telling him she wants a white wedding gown,” Greenblat said.

Rations were implemented and instead of coffee and cigarettes, Lily Lax’s fiancé requested a white German parachute. The makeshift gown has been used by 17 brides, including Greenblat’s mother.

“That to me is a symbol of renewed life,” said Greenblat.

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West Hamilton Beach fire crew gets new ambulances to replace ones lost during Sandy


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Over a year after Sandy, two shiny new ambulances pulled up to the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department to replace the ones the storm took away.

“Things like this bring back a positive morale,” said State Senator Joseph Addabbo, who got a ride in one of the new rigs after they were delivered on Thursday.

“Anything we can do to get back to the point of how we were before Sandy, or better than we were before Sandy,” he said.

Before the superstorm, the crew moved one ambulance from the beach town, which is below sea level, to “higher ground” at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center on 84th Street. It survived, but sustained some damage. The other truck was unsalvageable.

After the floods ravaged West Hamilton Beach, the roughly 45-man department received ambulance donations from Long Island and has since been operating status-quo with two ambulances.

But now, more safety and security has been delivered with the brand new rigs, upping West Hamilton Beach’s ambulance count to four.

“This will be a help to the community like everything else,” said Jonah Cohen, the department’s fire chief.

Now, the emergency crew can work without worrying about a vehicle breaking down, Cohen said.

“They’re first responders who are in a unique, isolated area,” Addabbo said. “When there’s any kind of emergency, severe storm, everyone looks to them. I’m speechless by the work they do here.”

The fire department needs two ambulances to operate efficiently. They will primarily use the new vehicles, keep one for back-up and donate the last to another volunteer fire department.

“To get two rigs that could help in a life-endangering situation, this is a life-changer,” Addabbo said.

 

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Howard Beach synagogue suing caterer over alleged wild parties


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

One Howard Beach synagogue is suing its longtime associate after discovering the group allegedly hosted wild parties after hours on the grounds.

Crown Royale Caterers has been licensed since 2005 to have various religious celebrations at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center. The group, run by brothers Joshua and Myron Gurelle, is supposed to cater events such as bar mitzvahs and weddings and inform the synagogue when it does so.

But Rockwood Park’s lawyer, Gary Rosen, said the caterer has consistently failed to keep the synagogue informed. They also allegedly throw loud parties and he claims the partygoers hang out inside and outside the 84th Street site until all hours of the night.

Rosen said he discovered party plans on social media that indicated Crown Royale was hosting raucous parties — and charging attendees — at the synagogue without officials’ knowledge. He also alleges he heard complaints from the surrounding residents.

“It’s a terrible thing,” he said. “They’re trying to make money and have no concern for the synagogue or the community.”

Now, the synagogue is requesting the caterers terminate their lease.

Crown Royale did not return calls for comment as of press time.

 

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Howard Beach seniors have reason to smile again


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Terence M. Cullen

Sharon Goldfarb was sitting with some fellow members of the Howard Beach Senior Center on a recent morning, discussing the condition of their homes and how the recovery process was going.

Their temporary center reopened December 3 at Father Dooley Hall at St. Helen’s School in Lindenwood. Its original location was just across the street in the lower level of the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

When the area started to flood during Sandy, however, much of the center was damaged, along with scores of files and other items. Goldfarb said as regular center members start coming to the temporary facility, life starts to return to normal and they can begin moving forward. “The people are feeling much better,” she said. “Slowly but surely it’s doing better.”

“We’re doing baby steps,” said Judy Ascherman, the center’s assistant director. “We’re working on improving.”

The State Department of the Aging said seniors could not return to the center in its current condition, Ascherman said.

But that hasn’t stopped the staff from getting things back up and running. Monsignor Alfred LoPinto told the staff they could use the school’s gymnasium as long as needed.

The staff members, elected officials and leaders at St. Helen’s worked together to return at least some services to the area’s seniors.

Members and non-members alike can use the new facility, open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Anyone more than 60 years old can enjoy lunch once again, Ascherman said.

“We’re not limiting it to members,” she said. “Because there are people in the community who need us.”

The number of people coming in has not been as high as usual, something Ascherman expects to pick up as the center is able to function completely again.

On Tuesday, December 11, the center’s Chanukah/Christmas party, scheduled before the storm hit, featured dancing and a DJ. The party, among other small things, has been just one way Ascherman said will help get the seniors back on their feet and have something to smile about.

“We need to be happy about something,” she said.

Dolores Tavernese said now that the center has been open for more than a week, and recovery slowly picks up, more people will start coming back.

“They’re just coming out of it,” she said.

Lindenwood Alliance tackles DOT, DOE issues


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The March meeting of the Lindenwood Alliance featured a special dedication to Thomas Pascale, captain of the 106th Precinct.

“From the beginning, he has been supportive of our civic community,” said Lindenwood Alliance co-founder and president, Christina Gold. “He’s someone in a position of leadership who has been in support of this group. He has come to the majority of our meetings, which usually the captains do not. We wanted to show our appreciation for him.”

Gold said one of the group’s main purposes is to connect residents with their local officials and police departments.

Several traffic issues, including a particularly unsafe intersection located at the corner of 88th Street and 153rd Avenue, were addressed during the meeting on Monday, March 12 at the Rockwood Park Jewish Center.

According to Gold, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is revisiting the situation and plans to address the area she says is “dangerous for pedestrians.”

Parents of students who attend P.S. 232 in Lindenwood were present at the meeting as well to express their ill feelings towards an alleged decision to remove the special education program from the school. According to Gold, the parents were informed by faculty and staff that P.S. 232’s classes for learning disabled children would be phased out. Gold said she plans to meet with the school’s principal to discuss the situation further and hopes to bring staff from District 27 to a future meeting.