Bayside rabbi honored at City Hall for work in community

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, of Bayside, speaks at the City Council's first meeting of 2011 in Manhattan last week. Photo courtesy of Rabbi Blesofsky
By Anna Gustafson

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) honored Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, who founded the Chabad of Northeast Queens in Bayside, at the Council’s first meeting of the year last week and asked the religious leader to perform the ceremonial invocation and prayer at the event.

Each year the Council speaker appoints one Council member to choose a religious leader to kick off the new year.

“His poignant words and commitment to faith were the perfect way for the Council to begin the year 2011,” Halloran said.

The rabbi said he was thrilled to be picked by Halloran to represent the community.

“It went phenomenally well,” Blesofsky said of the Jan. 5 event. “The councilman and I are good friends. He’s a great guy and representative of our community.”

Blesofsky grew up in Australia and moved to the United States in 1987 to study to become a rabbi. He was ordained as a rabbi in 1990 and moved to Bayside in 1991, when he founded the Chabad of Northeast Queens at 212-12 26th Ave.

“Rabbi Blesofsky has been a spiritual leader in northeast Queens for over two decades,” Halloran said. “I appreciate his leadership and guidance for thousands of my constituents, and I am proud to call him a friend.”

The Chabad of Northeast Queens has grown extensively over the years and now includes a Hebrew school, adult education classes and an early learning center.

There are about 150 students who attend the Chabad’s educational programs, including pre-kindergarten classes, an academy for arts and sciences and a Sunday school.

The Jewish group also runs a social outreach program that provides services to residents of all faiths, including a summer camp, a soup kitchen, a library, senior programs and family counseling.

“What began in a rental apartment in Bayside has blossomed into a full community service center with an early learning center and academy with 130 students,” Halloran said.

After performing the invocation, Blesofsky led a prayer for victims of the Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nation, a Puerto Rican terrorist organization that was connected to a string of bombings in the United States in the 1970s and ’80s, including a bomb that was detonated outside of the Police Department’s headquarters at One Police Plaza on New Year’s Eve in 1982.

Several bombing victims attended the Council’s first session, as did members of the NYPD and officers of the city Detectives Endowment Association.

One of the victims at the ceremony was Detective Anthony Senft, a College Point resident who was severely injured during the New Year’s Eve bombing in 1982.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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