Chabad of Rego Park brought a community seder to Far Rockaway for residents in the area, including families affected by the Superstorm Sandy.
“We want to give them something to celebrate, give them more reasons to be a part of something larger,” Rabbi Eli Blokh said before the Passover dinner. “Bringing a seder here will hopefully let people know, boy or girl, whatever their age or wherever they are ,that there are people who care for them.”
Blokh, who hosts four other seders throughout Queens, said he has been planning to bring a community seder to the Far Rockaway area for a few years now.
“I have always had my eye on Far Rockaway because many of us forget that this is in fact part of Queens as well,” he said. “When the storm happened, it gave me the push I needed to make this happen.”
The event was hosted in the Jewish Association Serving the Aging building at 155 Beach 19th Street. JASA Director of Community Based Projects Elaine Rockoff said she was more than thrilled to have the rabbi host a seder at the Far Rockaway facility.
“You know, this area was hit very hard,” she said. “There were many people with no power, no heat and there were many who struggled and continue to struggle. JASA was here for them every step of the way and we are thrilled to serve the seniors and other community members especially following the storm.”
As a request, JASA asked that Blokh allow for the seder to be read both in English and Russian. Chabad of Rego Park, which works specifically with Russian Jewish Americans, normally recites readings in traditional Russian.
“JASA is about helping all seniors,” Rockoff said. “Whether you’re Asian or Jewish or whatever it may be, we want all of our seniors to feel comfortable and cared for.”
The Passover seder is a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of one of the most important Jewish holidays. It is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of family, involving the retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
“This holiday is all about freedom from not just physical oppression but from spiritual oppression, and for the people in this area, who have suffered so much, we need to remember the importance of being connected to the community and celebrate in the best way possible.”
Rockoff said that about 30 community members had RSVP’d for the seder, many of whom have lost homes, cars and other possessions. As the dinner is considered a holy event, reporters and photographers were asked not to attend.
“I just want to stress how important it is that they know there are people who care and that they are able to have a good holiday,” Blokh said. “All of the organizing done by JASA, the Kings Bay Y and by Chabad of Rego Park has just gone above and beyond and is hopefully going to give them hope, give them strength and show them that they matter.”
Blokh also said he hopes to continue to hold more celebrations at the JASA building in Far Rockaway.
“We certainly hope to come here again,” he said. “After all, we have nothing but many holidays in the Jewish faith.”