When I was a rav in London, one of the highlights of the year was a visit from Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, zt”l. I had regularly attended Rav Scheinberg’s shiurim when I was learning in Eretz Yisrael, and his radiant smile and constant simchas hachayim were a source of great chizzuk for me. Wherever he went, he infused those who met him with his warmth and sincerity.
Rav Scheinberg would usually speak to our kehillah, often stressing the same message. Quoting the well-known dictum “Kol haschalos kashos, all beginnings are difficult,” he would ask: Why is it difficult? After all, the start of a new project generates fresh energy and interest. Rav Scheinberg explained that it’s true that we tend to be excited about a new undertaking; the challenge, however, is to retain that excitement and continue working with the same zeal even when the freshness wears off.
Rav Scheinberg did not just speak about this idea, he embodied it. After speaking in our shul, he would visit the mesivta where I taught, Menorah Grammar. Although he did not have the strength to stand, he always gave a brachah to the more than 200 boys waiting in line to see him. What struck me was that he would kiss each boy’s hand, and the last boy on line was received with the same warmth, love and interest as the first.
This Sunday, the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center will reach a long-awaited milestone. After many years of planning, the groundbreaking for our building in Boro Park will finally take place. With many rabbanim and political figures in attendance, this event will herald the opening of our main facility next year, iy”H.
One of the reasons for the delay is that we are not building a facility from the ground up; rather, the existing structure of the Agudas Yisrael of Boro Park is being modified to our specifications. Currently, the Agudah shul is a two-story building with an unfinished basement. The basement will be turned into a concourse with several amenities, and two stories will be added to the building. The current roof will have to be removed, and steel supports will be added throughout the structure.
The shul’s main beis midrash and women’s section will remain. The upper stories will house our exhibit galleries, library, audio-video studios and other spaces. As you can imagine, this dual arrangement allows for many possibilities in one building, but it creates a host of other issues that must be addressed. One concern is that our facility is required to meet national museum guidelines, which include strict security and climate control specifications.
During the current construction phase, KFHEC remains committed to its core mission of preserving the legacy of observant Jewry during the Holocaust. Two weeks ago, we hosted a brunch for the group of survivors and their families who participated in the KFHEC delegation to Auschwitz in January. KFHEC founder and president Elly Kleinman addressed the group, saying, “Whatever we do, we will not forget that our primary responsibility is to you—the generation of survivors, who gave everything you had to keep Yiddishkeit alive.”
Over the next few months, the corner of 50th Street and 16th Avenue will be alive with the hustle and bustle of construction equipment as our new home takes shape. B’ezras Hashem, the doors of KFHEC will soon be open to the public. It is certainly an exciting time, and we are sure that many of you will be following our progress. But as Rav Scheinberg would say, we must remember that the drive and motivation to complete this project should carry us forward well after the fanfare of the opening ceremony fades.
We are confident that there will be continued interest in what we do because it is not our story—it is the story of klal Yisrael in galus, and we will continue to tell it until Mashiach himself arrives to comfort us.