A Kew Gardens couple was honored at an annual dinner in celebration of accomplishments done for their Jewish community.
“It’s really just terrific, we never expected it,” said Jerry Gaeta. “We’re very happy and it’s just such a thrill.”
Gaeta and his wife, Robin Rosensweig-Gaeta, were commended at the National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education’s 69th Annual Dinner on November 22 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City.
“With the state of religion these days, it is very important to have a place to go to study and to pray and to be with people that have the same views, hear discussions and lectures, and just be one,” said Gaeta.
Gaeta, who has been the president of congregations for the past three years, said that the reason he and his wife decided to get involved with their Shul, Anshe Shalom Chabad JCC in Kew Gardens, was because they did not want to see such a great place fall.
“The membership was really dwindling,” said Gaeta. “We had an older congregation that was dying off and people started moving away. We didn’t want this to be like another synagogue that was sold or turned into other things. We wanted to keep it Jewish and keep it there.”
Gaeta and his wife, who was president for five years, spent two years trying to revitalize their Shul, saying that they “gave up everything.” Rosensweig-Gaeta added that it was both “a real challenge” and a “labor of love.”
“We made the decision that we were not going to close the synagogue,” said Rosensweig-Gaeta. “We were going to keep it Jewish and keep it a religious institution. Some congregants wanted to sell but we said ‘no’ and were really that determined.”
Gaeta, who is also the synagogue’s contractor, added that the reason why the process was so difficult was because they were originally conservative. He said the process was “very daunting” and “took a lot of work” but was happy with the end result.
“Membership has tripled since then and we have so many people for the services, about 50 to 60 people,” Gaeta said. He also said that Anshe Shalom now has daily services, classes every night, and is even open seven-days-a-week. A Friday night dinner is even held once a month and is open to the community.
When asked if he wanted to thank anyone in particular for all the success, Gaeta credited the Chabad organization.
“They are the way to go,” Gaeta said. “Their whole mission is to get unaffiliated Jews together – the ones that don’t fit the mold of Orthodox or Conservative – and bring them back to Judaism, accepting them as they are with no conditions. That’s really the future of Judaism that we believe – to bring everyone back.”
Rosensweig-Gaeta concluded that she is still amazed by the outcome.
“When I think back, I wonder how we did what we did and it’s just amazing,” she said. She added that she sees a bright future for Anshe Shalom Chabad JCC, saying that they plan on being active with it long into the future.