Letter: In Memory Of Raymond Plakstis Jr.

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The Light That Shined In Great Neck

By Alfred Dilamani

It was summer, in the late ’80s or early ’90s, and the Persian Jewish community were newcomers in Great Neck. The Mashadi Jewish community leaders were busy getting the final permits to complete the synagogue on 54 Steamboat Rd. The High Holidays were coming up, and the few hundred Mashadi families that had moved from Queens to Great Neck needed a place to pray.

With the permission of the Village of Great Neck officials, we received a permit to erect a large temporary tent in the parking lot of our synagogue, but only for the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

As chairman of the Mashadi Public Affairs Committee, I became concerned about congregants with kids walking in and out of the parking lot entrance at night after the services were over, where there were no lights in place yet.

Seeing that Ray (of blessed memory) had the portable street tower lights in his gas station on Steamboat Road, I decided to ask if he would rent them to us for the eves of the High Holidays.

Ray did not know me, and I remember meeting him for the first time there, in his gas station. I introduced myself and informed him that I wanted to rent the units for a handful of nights and light up the entrance to 54 Steamboat Rd. for the nights of the High Holidays.

Without hesitation, he agreed to assist us and would not want to get paid. I insisted on paying for the tower lights, but he refused to receive a single dime. Can you imagine the feeling of wonder and how pleasantly shocked I felt when he agreed to lend the tower lights to us without payment? I simply could not believe my ears about what Ray had offered me.

Sure enough, by three o’clock in the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, the tower lights were shining on the exits of 54 Steamboat Rd. Afterward, Ray, at his own will, offered to continue to place these tower lights by our synagogue driveways year after year. After we built our second facility at 130 Steamboat Rd., without even asking him, the tower lights were shining on the exits of both facilities during the nights of the High Holidays. This tradition has not stopped to this day, and Ray never accepted anything
in return.

A few years ago, when I heard that Ray had chosen to run for trustee for the Village of Great Neck, I felt it was our time to thank him. For a few weeks before the election, I spread the news about how Ray had been assisting us for a few decades—and at no charge. When the election results were published, I am pleased to say that Ray received 1,020 votes, just 20 votes less than the elected mayor had received. That night, seeing that all those votes were cast and many of them were from the Persian community, I felt tremendous happiness, because our community had an opportunity to finally say, “Thank you, Ray.”

Ray, we will greatly miss the light that you shined on us in Great Neck. Your friend, Alfred.

Alfred Dilamani is founder of the Mashadi Public Affairs Committee.

Read more about Ray here.

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