BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
The Bay Terrace community joined Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky from Chabad of Northeast Queens for a socially distant Hanukkah celebration and lighting of a giant menorah on the upper level of the Bay Terrace Shopping Center on Sunday, Dec. 14.
Before the celebrations began, Rabbi Blesofsky reminded everyone to adhere to the COVID-19 protocol of maintaining a social distance and wearing a face mask. The rabbi had been apprehensive about holding the annual event, which is in its 26th year, because of the pandemic. But then he thought of the miracle of Hanukkah and what it represents, which is overcoming darkness.
“When we are challenged, exactly at that time, we overpower with extra light,” Blesofsky said. “So instead of canceling, we have to shower the community with more love, more light and more warmth.”
He added that he was excited to see that more people had turned out than expected.
“We have to realize that there is an inner strength that each one of us possesses that is way stronger than any adversity that we might encounter,” the rabbi said. “When we realize that we all have a soul, that there is a part of us that is godly and supernatural, we can overcome everything, and that is especially powerful this year.”
Steve Schwartz, whose father Lenny Schwartz passed away from COVID-19 in June and for whom the the menorah lighting was dedicated to, had encouraged Rabbi Blesofsky to hold the ceremony despite the difficult circumstances.
“There was no ands, ifs or buts. Of course, we’re going to do it. And of course, we are going to come,” Schwartz said. “And look at this crowd coming out here tonight. I’m so honored to be part of this neighborhood. I’ve lived here for 30 years myself. I love Bayside.”
After the greeting of the elected officials, including New York City Council member Paul Vallone, state Senator John Liu and state Assembly member Ed Braunstein, Rabbi Blesofsky climbed into a cherry picker to light the menorah. The lighting ceremony was followed by comedy juggler Ned Gelfars who delighted the kids juggling fire torches and the adults with his jokes. While Gelfars ensured that everyone maintained a safe distance during his juggling acts, attendees enjoyed the traditional Hanukkah doughnut and apple cider.
Longtime Bay Terrace resident Joan Begun, who has lived in the neighborhood for almost 53 years – and the lucky raffle winner of one of the $50 gift certificates – has attended the Hanukkah celebration since its inception.
“It’s a wonderful thing that he brought all those people out,” Begun said. “It’s been a terrible year for everybody; it’s an extraordinary year.”