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Rabbi with a plan saves his congregation – QNS.com

Rabbi with a plan saves his congregation

For more than 40 years, Rabbi Moshe Kwalbrun has been with the Bell Park Jewish Center, which is now completing a plan that has enabled it to remain open while many other synagogues have been forced to close or merge.
A graduate of Yeshiva University and St. John’s University, Kwalbrun first worked as an assistant Rabbi at the Hillcrest Jewish Center before coming to the Bell Park Jewish Center, which is located in Queens Village on Hillside Avenue.
“This is basically my first and only congregation,” Kwalbrun said.
First formed in 1951, Kwalbrun said that the Bell Park Jewish Center “worships in the traditional manner.” He explained that because of attrition and changing neighborhood demographics, membership has decreased.
The synagogue has also tailored its programming to meet the needs of its members. It has maintained morning, Sabbath and holiday services. Volunteers Matty Zarett and Lillian Friedenreich offer adult education classes on biblical subjects when snowbird congregants have returned. Also, Fred Wolf leads a Thursday club that includes entertainment and lectures.
“Because of financial considerations and not wishing to abandon the number of congregants still residing in the community, we came up, with God’s help and the diligent efforts of the president and officers of our congregation, a way to remain a viable synagogue within the community,” Kwalbrun said. “Many options were explored, some less feasible than others, and ultimately arrived at what suits us as the best way of continuing to serve our members.”
Rather than having to merge with other synagogues or completely close its doors, the Bell Park Jewish Center instead sold its building to Pillar Investors. Kwalbrun said that because of their “sense of religious sensitivity,” they have provided a complete sanctuary upstairs so that the Jewish Center can continue to operate.
“What we truly did was we reorganized a [synagogue] that was a massive structure that was not in full usage,” said David Esfhani of Pillar Investors.
The synagogue area is now leased and a school has come in as a tenant. Although it is in the same location, everything is new and there is even a Shabbos elevator that keeps with orthodox standards. Psfhani described the situation as being a fresh start for the synagogue.
“The synagogue, whose longstanding president is Mr. Daniel Friedenreich, employs a cantor and a Torah reader. We are fortunate in having a loyal and committed group who has dedicated themselves to making certain that we are able to maintain a quorum for religious services,” Kwalbrun said. “There are no words that can possibly express our gratitude for their involvement.”
Saying that they are delighted to be able to stay in their location, Kwalbrun added that the Bell Park Jewish Center can be a model for other religious institutions looking for a way to remain open within merging. He also welcomed people “seeking a meaningful spiritual home to come and join us, which we hope will fill their needs for God and soul.”
“I don’t love my Judaism because I’m a rabbi,” Kwalbrun said. “I became a rabbi because I wanted to share my love for Judaism and the principals by which we live according to the Torah with others. I still derive tremendous satisfaction from being able to sermonize from the pulpit and teach courses.
For more information on the Bell Park Jewish Center, call 718-464-9144.

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