Photo Credit: COJO Flatbush

There’s no better way to describe it: If you could somehow line up all the smiles seen on the faces of the nearly 10,000 children and adults at the Annual COJO Flatbush Chol HaMoed Pesach Family Fun Extravaganza, they would easily extend end-to-end on East 17th Street from Avenue M to Avenue L and back again – not once but many times over.

L-R: State Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, City Council Member Kalman Yeger, Flatbush CEO Louis Welz, Flatbush Social Services Director Shulamis Shapiro.

The Extravaganza – sponsored again this year by Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, COJO Flatbush, and Mount Sinai Brooklyn – was held on Monday April 10, a beautiful sunny, breezy spring day. Anticipation had been building steadily during the weeks leading up to the event and sharply accelerated that morning, with an impressive line of attendees of all ages and backgrounds – ranging from preschoolers to teenagers, along with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives – already in place well before the start of the festivities.


As soon as those on line moved closer to the registration station, their eyes were treated to a transformed cityscape. It was as if someone threw a switch and – presto! – a nondescript block instantly came alive with the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned country carnival. A partial list of the many rides and attractions would include bumper cars and Bungee jumping and a Choo Choo train and a Round Up Spinner and a Great Slide and a Meltdown and a Dizzy X; stilt walkers and Moonwalks and other inflatables of various shapes and sizes; rock-climbing walls – one of them provided and operated by the NYPD, which also brought in its famed Game Truck, a traveling arcade that allows cops and kids to connect while playing games; a monkey show and a petting zoo and horse and pony rides; the FDNY’s acclaimed Smoke House – a mobile learning center where young people are taught fire safety techniques while navigating a simulated indoor fire; magicians, musicians, singers, interactive performances, and a live concert by Yitzy Bald and the New York Boys Choir; and – because what would a carnival be without them? – balloons and cotton candy and fruit and drinks. And, yes, every bit of the jam-packed five-hour Extravaganza was gloriously free, and it all took place against a constant soundtrack of lively Jewish music.


Worthy of mention is that guests queuing for rides could view, on strategically placed screens, ongoing concerts and shows while they waited on their lines. So there was no reason for anyone to miss out on any of the fun, no matter where they were on the Extravaganza grounds.

“This is so great,” shouted Rafi, a third-grader who took thirty seconds to speak his mind between hearty chomps of cotton candy. “I can’t believe so many people are here. I didn’t think there were so many people in Brooklyn!”


“Really wonderful,” declared Chava, a mom of six who confided that this year in particular had been a rough one, financially, for her family. “Do you realize how much something like this would have cost a large family like mine? I can’t say enough good things about those responsible for giving a gift like this to the community.”


Chava probably wasn’t aware that standing a few feet away were the three individuals whose work was so pivotal in making it all happen: Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein, following the visionary path established by State Senator Simcha Felder and doing whatever he could to secure funding and help ensure the event’s success; COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz; and COJO Flatbush Director of Social Services Shulamis Shapiro.

“Simon Sez”: Never too young to play.


“Simon Sez”: No age limit on fun and games.

“The Extravaganza is a natural part of our commitment to communal service,” said Shapiro. “An event like this brings the families of our community so much happiness – without any worries about the cost of an afternoon filled with entertainment, and with the convenience of being smack in the middle of their own neighborhood, sparing them a long Chol HaMoed schlep.”

Added Welz, “It gave us a tremendous amount of pleasure, especially in these economic times, to know that parents wouldn’t need to dig even deeper into their pockets or add to their credit card debt in order to give their families a joyful and memorable experience.”

Asked to elaborate on the role played by Assemblyman Eichenstein, Welz grew noticeably emotional. “Simcha Eichenstein can move mountains if doing so will make things better for an individual or a family or the community at large. It’s a tremendous comfort for an agency like COJO Flatbush to know someone like Simcha is always there to listen, to advise, and to assist.

“I’ve said to him privately and am glad to repeat it here: Thank you, Simcha, for bringing genuine simcha – genuine happiness – to so many people.”

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Jason Maoz served as Senior Editor of The Jewish Press from 2001-2018. Presently he is Communications Coordinator at COJO Flatbush.