The Torahs of the two Congregations being brought into the Sanctuary
Subsequently on June 10, 2007,
the Queensboro Hill Jewish Centre merged with the Flushing-Fresh Meadows Jewish Center
The Flushing Jewish Center was founded in 1932 under the name Kehilith Israel (Congregation of Israel) Community of Flushing an Orthodox Synagogue
by a small group of Jews under the leadership of Solomon and Clara Rabinowitz. A loft above a stationery store was rented
at 164th Street and Depot Lane, one block north of Northern Boulevard in the Broadway section of Flushing. Weekly Shabbat
services were held. Neighborhood store keepers were called upon to make Minyons. Twenty children were in the first Talmud Torah class. Incorporation as the Flushing Jewish Center,
Inc. followed in 1937.
Rabbi Morris Wintner was the Spiritual Leader until 1936. A Ladies Guild was organized, later
to be known as the Sisterhood. A Men's Club was active. Solomon Rabinowitz was the first President serving for a period of
five years and thereafter he and his wife, Clara, remained active in the affairs of the Congregation for the rest of their
lives. Sol as he was affectionally known died in 1991. Clara served as President of the
Sisterhood for several years. She died in 1994.
During the period 1936-1945 Rabbi I. Usher Kirschblum who later became the Rabbi of
the Kew Gardens Jewish Center served the Congregation as Rabbi and Principal of the Talmud Torah. His wife assisted him as
a teacher. The Congregation established itself as a Traditional
Synagogue. Three separate seating sections were maintained in the Sanctuary, one for men, one for women and another for those
men and women who desired to sit together. Growth of the membership led to a search for larger premises. An opportunity presented
itself in 1945 and the Congregation
purchased the property at 42-00 171 Street from the Griffin Estate. The parcel
contained a large mansion house with an adjoining house which had served as the servants' quarters. After renovating the mansion
to make it usable as a Synagogue and school, the Congregation occupied it in 1945. Rapid growth required the addition of a
building adjoining the house. In 1947 construction began on a building which was to house the Synagogue and other facilities. However only the basement
portion was completed and until 1958 it served as an all-purpose room and auditorium in which religious services and social
functions were held. Rabbi Herman Zwillenberg, a graduate of Yeshiva University and an ordained Orthodox Rabbi
served with distinction as the Congregation's Spiritual Leader from 1945-1958 overseeing the growth of the membership to 250
families with 150 children in the Talmud Torah.
With the Congregation's
facilities bursting at their seams, led by its then President David Berlin, a successful fund-raising effort led to the building
of the Main Chapel and Social Hall which was completed in 1958. The Hebrew Academy of North Queens (HANQ) held its first classes
at the Center.
In 1958 Rabbi Paul Hait an ordained Orthodox Rabbi and graduate of Yeshiva University and later to become
the Executive Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis became the Spiritual Leader of the Congregation serving as such
for nineteen years.
To ease the overcrowded and cramped school classrooms, the old Griffin mansion was
demolished in 1965 and a new School Building was erected in its place to become the Solomon and Clara Rabinowitz Religious
During these years the Congregation was very active in community affairs and was the
host and meeting place for many community organizations. It was a charter member of the Queens Jewish Community Council and
subsequently of the Flushing Jewish Community Council. It
participated in raising funds for the UJA-Federation, Israel Bonds, Yeshiva University
and the Women's League for Israel. It sponsored educational programs together with other
The Sisterhood sponsored many events and programs for the Center and throughout the years raised much needed
funds which it turned over to the Center.
The Men's Club and a Couples Group were active to
enhance the Social life of the membership. Bnai Brith and
Zionist Organization of America Chapters used the Center as their meeting place..
Because of demographic reasons, the membership began to decline in the 1970's.
In 1977 Rabbi Earl
Fishhaut, an Orthodox Rabbi and Graduate of Yeshiva University became the Rabbi of the Congregation serving it for twenty-six
years. Lack of children led to the closing of theTalmudTorah.
However, the School Building became the home of the Yeshiva
Institute, a Day School which
was the learning institution for over 300 children and presently is located at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center.
In 1996, the Flushing Jewish Center endured
a disastrous fire which destroyed its Main Chapel and Social Hall. Despite the fact that only 50 families remained in the membership, they were determined
rebuild the Center. With the proceeds of the insurance, the generosity of many people
and businesses with their donations, the help of neighboring Congregations and the QJCC
and FJCC, a grant of the UJA- Federation and the tireless efforts of the membership, the rebuilding was completed in 1998 at a cost of One Million Dollars.
Congregation membership continued to decline, daily services were reduced and finally discontinued due to lack of minyons.
When the Shabbat morning service barely had a minyon, the Congregation investigated the possibility of a consolidation
(merger) with a nearby Synagogue. Negotiations with Fresh Meadows Jewish Center followed and in 2002 entered
into a Plan of Consolidation with Fresh Meadows Jewish Center in which the two Congregations agreed to become the Flushing-Fresh
Meadows Jewish Center and obtained approval for the Consolidation from the Supreme Court-Queens County in 2003.
Jewish Center began life in 1949 when a local resident, Leonard Levy, went door to door looking for Mezuzas on the
door and the inquiring of the resident if he would be interested in being part of a new Synagogue forming in the area. Early
meetings in the homes of Thelma and Leonard Levy and Ruth and Harry Krieger resulted in Isadore Schwartz being elected the
first Center President. A sisterhood was formed and at a meeting in the home of Sara and Sam Rosof and
with 20 women attending, Sara Rosof was elected its first President. That year the first High Holiday Services were held in
a rented store on Horace Harding Blvd and 183 St. In 1950 High Holiday Services were held in a larger store. Hebrew School
classes were begun and held in the basement of Ruth and Isadore Schwartz. Victor Kops was the first Principal. As local interest
grew and as more and more Jews with young families came into the neighborhood it was recognized that more permanent quarters
would be necessary. At that time the Long Island Expressway was not completed in the Fresh Meadows area ( Horace Harding Expressway
was the main East-West throughway) and the State had condemned many homes along the route of the LIE making a parcel of
land available. The early FMJC leaders seized the opportunity and obtained the land upon which our current buildings
stand. Fund raising activities for the first phase of a building program was held in a tent on 193 St. and Peck Ave. The
first construction was an all purpose building; Sanctuary, social hall and Office in what is now our ballroom with Hebrew
school in the basement was completed in 1951. The present Bessie and Harry Feinerman School building to house the increasing
student body was completed in 1959. At about this time a Gas Station offered to buy the part of the land not being used by
the Center. Fortunately our leaders had other plans. Our beautiful Anna and Louis Zweig Sanctuary, completed in 1966, proudly
stands on that land. The new Jewish Center’s first Rabbi was Rabbi David Gordon who served the Congregation until 1980
when he retired to Florida. He was replaced by Rabbi David Fine a young man who came with his wife, Helene and three young
children. He left in 1985 to become the Rabbi of a Shul in Chappaqua, NY. Rabbi Pilavin was with us a short while to be replaced
by Rabbi Waidenbaum who is now the Rabbi of Rego Park JC. We then obtained the services of Rabbi Dr. Gerald
Meister who was with us until 1999. After he left the duties of Rabbi and Cantor were put in the capable hands of our long
time Cantor, Chaim Silberman. After the merger in 2003, Rabbi Gerald Solomon was appointed our Spiritual Leader. In July of
2004. Cantor Silberman retired to Israel in 1966 and a search led to the appointment of Cantor Mordechai Dier who was with
us until 2011. He was replaced by our current Cantor, Aaron Katz.
of memory…. Rabbi David Gordon, our first Rabbi; Cantor Morris Romalis z’l, who led Services and was the beloved
teacher of our Bar and Bat Mitzvah boys and girls; Our wonderful Sisterhood choir led by Jerry Goldstein; and who can forget
the plays and musicals performed by our wonderful young people?; Hebrew School graduations; High Holiday Services with Sanctuary
seats filled with people to the back and the overflow at Services in the Gym. Lou Berland brought his Starlight Caterers to
us in 1959, beautified the ballroom, constructed the “Smorgasbord” room and made fabulous parties which brought
us a most welcome income.
Friday Night Services followed by Oneg Shabbatot.
Our newsletter “The Beacon” was started by Dr. Bert Faerber in 1966 and continues to this day
as “The Bulletin”. We remember Men’s Club, Sisterhood, Bazaars, Purim Carnival, UJA dinners, Israeli Bond
Hill Jewish Center officially was born in 1951 but its pregnancy started much earlier after WW2 ended and returning
veterans and their families needed housing that was being provided in the Queensboro Hill area. It was not long before that
the many Jewish families who had moved here began to feel the need to meet and identify with one another. Meetings in people’s
houses, and then a candy store on 184th Street and the Science Building of Queens College. The first High Holiday
Services of the nascent Congregation was held at the Hillel Foundation of Queens College. In 1952 the Congregation moved to
its first home, a storefront on Horace Harding Blvd. When space was needed for larger functions like Officer Installations
and Purim Masquerades, they were held at our Sister Congregations Flushing JC and Fresh Meadows JC.It was also in 1952 that
some 150 families committed themselves to the dream of a larger home for the growing Congregation by becoming founders of
In 1953 a land search started by Al Babushkin resulted in the
purchase of the land that QBHJC was built on. That year High Holiday Services were held in a tent on this site. One of the
founding members, Herman Spinner, acted as the Cantor and Sidney Storch conducted Services and acted as Bal Koray until his
death in 1990.
In later years other Cantors would be appointed to serve
the Congregation. We call to mind Cantor Morris Robb, Cantor Berger, Cantor Balaban and Cantor Kahan.
In 1954 a young Rabbi Albert Thaler was hired to be their Spiritual Leader. It was an inspired
choice and for the next 26 years he and the Center grew together in age, wisdom and accomplishments.
The Temple building was built in stages. In 1956 the section housing the Ballroom was constructed. In 1959 the school
wing was added and in 1966 the beautiful Sanctuary and Office wing was completed.
The Hebrew School grew and at times had as many as 600 children on its
roster. Adult education flourished. Love for Eretz Israel was expressed by participation in Israeli Day parades, UJA and Israeli
Bond functions trips to Israel, etc. Fondly remembered was our Sabbath Institute that
became a Kallah. Eventually over 100 families went yearly to Hotel Gibbers in the Catskills to spend Shabbat together, studying
an experiencing the joy of Jewish Fellowship.
After Rabbi Thaler left
to take over the pulpit of Temple Gates of Prayer he was succeeded by Rabbi Aharon Shapiro, Rabbi Barbalot and then by Rabbi
Phillip Rabinowitz, who commuted from Philadelphia each week-end to lead the Congregation.
was the golden age of the Conservative Synagogues of North Queens. Our children grew up, married, started families and moved
away. The demographics of the neighborhood changed as neighborhoods seem to do and the membership of the various Jewish Centers
dwindled. Finances were naturally adversely affected and it was seen that something had to change.
Fortunately we had leaders with the vision to see what had to be done. Anita Bernstien President
of FMJC and Byron Dresner, President of FJC with the interest of insuring the survival of both Congregations started investigating
the possibility of consolidating the two Congregations.
To their credit
they were able to lead the two Congregations through the complicated negotiations to a successful conclusion that resulted
in the Flushing-Fresh Meadows Jewish Center. In 2007 QHJC, facing the same desperate situation joined the Merger.
While it was very difficult for Flushing Jewish Center and Queensboro Hill JC to leave their
“homes”, ultimately Congregations are not just bricks and mortar but are the Flesh and Blood of people who have
the Sprit to continue a 5774 year old tradition. And that is what continues to live on in the Congregation of FFMJC..