plan to cope with an annual Orthodox Jewish pilgrimage to a Queens neighborhood made for one of the smoothest years ever, organizers and residents said.
About 15,000 Lubavitch Jews gathered in Cambria Heights last weekend to pay tribute at the gravesite of their late Grand Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, on the anniversary of his death.
Residents have long complained that the visitors can be rude at times, and often leave leftover food and other garbage strewn on nearby streets. This year’s event had the potential to be especially contentious, as Ohel Chabad Lubavitch, the synagogue where it is traditionally held, is seeking a controversial plan to expand.
An added complication: this year the anniversary fell on the Sabbath, meaning the ultra-Orthodox followers could not drive or ride the subway Saturday, forcing some to camp overnight.
But organizers say that this year, they cut down on the littering, parking congestion and overall impact the pilgrims had on the community.
“I think that things went smoothly,” said the Rabbi Abba Refson, the synagogue’s leader. “We had our maintenance personnel combing the entire neighborhood, keeping it clean.”
Up to 1,500 worshippers were expected to arrive on Thursday and stay until Sunday. The synagogue had arranged for extra security and trash receptacles for the anniversary. A meal tent was set up on a nearby playground and visitors slept in tents put up on the Montefiore Cemetery parking lot.The synagogue ran bus service for followers living in Brooklyn, and parking boundaries were clearly marked. CONTINUE READING...