Photo Credit: COJO Flatbush

Klal Yisrael and the Flatbush community mourn the loss of Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus. A visionary who pioneered programs for at-risk youth, affordable housing, job training and placement, and a Camp Scholarship Fund for underprivileged children, Rabbi Pikus served as director of the Shorefront and Coney Island JCC from 1973 to 1989, at which point he brought to COJO Flatbush his drive and determination to help those in need.

From the moment he arrived at COJO until the day he retired 25 years later, Rabbi Pikus served as an inspiration to the Board of Directors, the administrators, and the staff, thanks to the example he set and the lessons he taught about the importance of serving others. He was known as the conscience of the community – because no matter how busy he already was, he would eagerly take on added challenges and responsibilities if it meant making a difference for those who could use a helping hand.


“I worked with Rabbi Pikus for decades,” said COJO Flatbush President Moshe Zakheim, “and I never ceased to be inspired by his sheer zeal to do for others – to lift them up when times were tough, to help them in difficult circumstances, to help them in every way he could. It’s an outlook on life we strive to emulate at COJO Flatbush in all we do.”

In 2005, then-Congressman Edolphus Towns (D-NY) stood on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and read into the Congressional Record a memorable tribute to Rabbi Pikus and COJO:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of a distinguished organization, the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush. It is an honor to represent the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush in the House of Representatives and it behooves us to pay tribute to their selfless endeavors of more than a quarter century…. Over the course of its many years of dedication to the Brooklyn community the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush has truly emerged as a premier organization committed to assisting those who have nowhere else to turn.

“Under the leadership of their Executive Director, Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus, the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush has established itself as Brooklyn’s central address for social services, immigration services, and many forms of crucial emergency assistance…. Additionally, they are renowned for providing vital outreach to the elderly and homebound with particular attention and sensitivity to Holocaust survivors. They have also developed a scholarship fund to send from children from disadvantaged families to summer camp.

“Mr. Speaker, I believe that it is incumbent on this body to recognize the achievements of the Council of Jewish Organizations of Flatbush. Their uncompromising commitment to Jewish ideals and ethics is an inspiration for us all.”

Rabbi Pikus continued to build on the solid foundation described by Congressman Towns, and when he stepped down as Executive Director nine years later, recognition of – and appreciation for – the accomplishments of COJO Flatbush had spread well beyond the neighborhoods served by the agency and even beyond the laudatory words inscribed in the Congressional Record.

At the heart of that renown, Rabbi Yechezkel Pikus was a quiet, humble man, a man who –wherever he was and whatever he was doing – always had a sefer, a Jewish religious book, at hand to peruse at the first opportunity.

“I knew I had some big shoes to fill when I came here,” said COJO Flatbush CEO Louis Welz. “From the moment Rabbi Pikus retired, people never stopped coming by our offices asking for him, asking about him, asking us to convey their lasting gratitude for what he’d done for them. He was a Giant of chesed in every sense of the word.”

Asked what he thought his legacy would be, Rabbi Pikus once said he hoped he would be remembered as a friend and an advocate of the disabled, the elderly, and those in need of financial assistance; as someone who did his best to improve the quality of life for Brooklyn residents.

May his family be comforted and his memory remain a blessing forever.

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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.