Queens, NY – The Ohr Natan shul on Queens Boulevard this past Tisha B’Av looked like any other shul around d the world on Tisha B’Av, but for the 250 Jews who participated it was also marred by the threatened demise of their beloved shul. Developers who have bought the building are planning to raise the building where the shul is located in 2017.
Led by the shul’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Nahum Kaziev, the Bucharian Jews heard lectures on the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, which also included magnificent video presentations in both English and Russian. Some of the videos dealt with churban Europe. In another inspiring event at Ohr Natan, more than 800 Bucharian Jews greeted Rav Moshe Taub, the Kaliver Rebbe. They stood on line to receive a bracha from the famed Rebbe.
But uppermost in the minds of the Bucharian Jews was the threat of losing their beautiful shul. Founded in 1986, Ohr Natan invested more than $2.1 to renovate the old Trylon Theater on Queens Blvd as well as $1.2 million in rent as one of the major shuls and community centers for the area’s large Bucharian Jewish population. Rabbi Kaziev pointed out that the Bucharian Jews were already denied any access to their ancient heritage as a result of living under Communism for 70 years, are being actively recruited by missionaries and now face the ultimate rejection as the shul and center they have adopted sends them packing.
In addition to its fully functioning shul with tefillois and shiurim, Ohr Natan offers a full program of after school programs, adult education (including ESL), food distribution and many events. Since 1991, it publishes Druzhba, a monthly magazine with a circulation of 80,000 people throughout the five boroughs, the largest publications read by immigrants of the former Soviet Union.
Rabbi Kaziev issued an urgent plea to save the shul and the “neshomos of 1000 Jews who will may potentially be lost to our people forever as the danger of assimilation threatens to take its toll on this group of Jews.”