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Straus Center Headlines Solidarity Shabbat in Queens

Straus Center

From November 3rd-4th, 2023, the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought held its annual shabbaton at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, a warm and vibrant community in Queens, NY. Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, Director of the Straus Center, also served as scholar-in-residence at the synagogue, where he delivered a total of four lectures to the community as part of a solidarity Shabbat standing with Israel.

Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner, the synagogue’s spiritual leader as well as a faculty member at the Straus Center, organized the shabbaton and introduced the students, staff, and faculty of the Straus Center to the local community. Straus Scholars Yaakov Willner, Josh Shapiro, and Noam Mayerfeld led various parts of the prayer services with soulful singing. During the Friday night communal meal, Straus Scholar Tamara Yeshurun addressed the community by sharing a brief Torah thought on the symbolism of the shalshelet, a rare cantillation mark that only appears three times in the book of Genesis. Ms. Yeshurun identified a common theme of these biblical episodes and connected the moral failings of Lot to the anti-Israel college protests.

Following dinner, Rabbi Soloveichik lectured on the curious history of Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. During the Shabbat morning services, Rabbi Soloveichik delivered a derashah (sermon) on the differences between gentile and Jewish monarchy and the symbolism of the shofar at the liberation of the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem. And after morning prayers, Rabbi Soloveichik lectured on “Three Soldiers at the Wall: Understanding the Most Famous Photograph in Jewish History.”

At lunch, Straus Scholar Tziporah Pinczower led a seminar as part of the Straus Center’s new educational initiative “Two Texts, Three Questions.” In this year-long program organized by Straus Center Rabbinic Intern Yehuda Goldberg, Straus Scholars select two texts, one each related to Torah and Western thought, and ask three questions about those sources. Ms. Pinczower presented her selections, connecting a piece by Rabbeinu Nissim of Gerona (a medieval Jewish thinker) in Derashot Haran with an essay by Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist Papers. The Shabbat program concluded with words of inspiration from Rabbi Soloveichik reflecting on the similarities and differences between the Yom Kippur War and our current moment.