This past May, the OU Department of Community Engagement warmly welcomed Congregation Beth Gavriel/Bukharian Jewish Center of Forest Hills, New York as a new OU member shul. Beth Gavriel is comprised of over 1,000 families, making it the largest Bukharian shul in New York, possibly even in the country.
“On behalf of our beloved synagogue Beth Gavriel and the entire Bukharian Jewish community, we are extremely excited about joining a renowned organization such as the OU,” says Ilya Koptiev, president of Beth Gavriel. “We look forward to building a strong relationship and working together in the foreseeable future.”
The “seeds” were planted through parenting programs and the SPIRIT program (Stimulating Program Initiative for Retirees that Inspires Thought) that were held for the past two years in various shuls in Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest and Jamaica Estates. The events were coordinated by Rebbetzin Judi Steinig, Associate Director, OU Community Services and long-time resident of Queens.
“They were impressed by the experience and relayed their interest in our programming to their shul’s leadership,” says Yehuda Friedman, Associate Director of Synagogue Services and Regional Director for Synagogues, Long Island and Queens. “Not long after, we met with the leadership of Beth Gavriel to discuss what other programs and services the OU had to offer. Representatives from Chazaq, an organization dedicated to building a stronger Jewish future that works closely with many Bukharian shuls, also attended the meeting.”
One of the most attractive elements of OU membership to Congregation Beth Gavriel is the OU’s vast shul network, which connects shuls across the US.
“The network is an amazing resource,” says Friedman. “It’s important for a shul to know that it is not alone in its mission, that it is a part of this great collective. Joining our network is a major benefit for the shul and the network as a whole.”