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December 18, 2014 / 26 Kislev, 5775
 
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A Place Called Crown Heights

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I pass by the house several times a week and whenever I do, a warm feeling enfolds me. It’s a simple two-story brick home, but to me this home symbolizes a very special time period that changed my life forever.

So we will now go back on a time machine, back to the past and to the young 10-year-old I was when this story unfolds. My father, a”h, our shul’s secretary, came home with some interesting news that sent me into a tizzy.

The shamus of our shul, Rabbi Moshe Margolin, a”h, (he was also an officer of Ezras Torah in New York City) had submitted his resignation to the shul’s board. He had assisted our rav, Rabbi Aaron R. Charney, a”h, for several years but was moving to, in Daddy’s words, “A place called Crown Heights, probably to ensure the likelihood of proper shidduchim for his children.”

This explanation made absolutely no sense to me.

First, the oldest child was only 13, so why should that be any consideration at this point in time? Second, and more importantly to me, what was I going to do when my best friend, Leah, was moving away to this faraway place called Crown Heights?

I was inconsolable!

To my dear mother’s credit, she arranged for me to spend Acharon Shel Pesach with the Margolins in Crown Heights.

The Jewish flight from Crown Heights, which occurred in the mid-1960s, had not yet begun. Thus, there was standing room only on Eastern Parkway on a Yom Tov afternoon, as all manner of Jews sat and chatted on the benches dotting the parkway.

I had never visited a frum neighborhood before. In Bayonne, New Jersey, where I grew up, although there was a kosher butcher shop, the “kosher” bakery was open on Shabbos. In the supermarket, Mommy would scrutinize every label marking the different foods. Oftentimes one could hear the clickety-clack of her typewriter as she inquired about the reliability of the various hechsherim that were posted on the different items. But no kosher grocery store existed.

Imagine my excitement to find numerous kosher shops throughout the neighborhood. And the sound of Yiddish could be heard throughout the shechunah.

Additionally, Reb Ben Zion Shenker, the ba’al menagen, was the Margolins’ upstairs neighbor.

Many frum Jewish kinderlach played outdoors on the lovely Yom Tov afternoons. All this made it very hard for me to return home to Bayonne and continue to spend more lonely Shabbosos there.

I vowed that when I would grow up, I would speak Yiddish to my kinderlach and I would move to “a place called Crown Heights.”

Mommy wisely said nothing, assuming in her innocence that I would snap out of my irrational reverie before too long. But she was wrong.

Those early childhood impressions stayed with me forever and I now live “in a place called Crown Heights.” In fact, I live around the corner from a certain nondescript two-family house where I experienced a wonderful Yom Tov that changed my life forever.

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“Daddy,” I exclaimed, “Is this how you daven?” Daddy’s response was a hearty laugh. I felt so proud of myself.

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I vowed that when I would grow up, I would speak Yiddish to my kinderlach and I would move to “a place called Crown Heights.”

He exhorted all of us to continue to reach out to one another each and every day because that is what our tafkid (life’s goal) should be. And because that is what Hashem requires of us.

Parents possess divine inspiration (ruach haKodesh) when naming their children. In instances wherein a child is named after a departed loved one, we take great care in our choice – in the belief that the best character traits of the person we are honoring will be reflected in our precious progeny’s actions.

My home is furnished simply. One notes the customary family photos and bric-a-brac that makes a house a home, but certain items are my priceless treasures.

The zaidie sat at the head of the dining room table. I was a small child and unaware that my friend Esther’s grandfather was the revered rosh yeshiva at Yeshiva University, Rav Moshe Aaron Poleyeff, zt”l.

It took a few months, but I finally summoned up what little koach I had to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, for “Sunday Dollars.” I wanted to take my new baby to the Rebbe. Although he was about three months old at the time, I had not been strong enough until now to attempt a trip to 770 Eastern Parkway.

With so much to do before our recent trip, I was walking on a cloud.

It must have been evident to one and all, since my feet barely touched the ground.

Who would have believed that I would arrive at this special time – so grateful am I to HaKadosh Baruch Hu?

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