First Estate: April 11, 2012

April 11, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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City Tech Tradition Gives

Quick Taste of Passover

Rabbi Hoover’s Temple Has Longtime Bond with College

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The very first Passover, as recorded in Exodus, second book of the Torah, was prepared and eaten in much haste as the Israelites prepared to escape from Egypt.  Fast-forward was also the pace of a special Demonstration Seder, about a week before Passover, at New York City College of Technology.

City Tech’s Jewish Faculty & Staff Association hosts this annual event, which was held in the Grace Gallery of Namm Hall.  The guest leader, Rabbi Heidi Hoover, presented a concise and very humorous background on the story of Passover — from the preparation of the homes to the Crossing of the Red Sea.

Rabbi Hoover, spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek in Prospect Park South, leads her family’s and children’s seders, and was also writing a customized Haggadah for this year’s holiday.

Because of faculty teaching schedules and other time constraints at the college, Rabbi Hoover was limited to about a half-hour presentation of a ritual that normally lasts three times as long. She gave a quick but attention-grabbing overview of the significance of each food item on the Seder Plate: the greens, roasted egg, shank bone; and of course the ever-present Elijah cup.  

Before her presentation, proclamations of appreciation were presented to Rabbi Hoover, Dr. Russell Hotzler, president of New York City College of Technology; and City Tech Professor Albert Sherman.Dr. James Goldman, past vice-president of City Tech’s Faculty and Staff Association, presents an archival newspaper article to College President, Dr. Russell Hotzler.

James Goldman, Ph.D., a past vice president of City Tech’s Jewish Faculty & Staff Association, was emcee and host. He explained that the framed article presented to Dr. Hotzler is a page from Together, the official publication of The American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants.   The publication has a circulation of 85,000 worldwide. Individuals receive this publication, and archival copies are in the world museums that relate to Holocaust such as the National Museum in Washington, Museum of Jewish Heritage—a living Memorial to the Holocaust, and similar museums around the U.S. and the world. The framed article will be given to the college

Albert Sherman was commended for his work with the JFSA. He has been its president for 15 years. “Quite a remarkable achievement,” said Dr. Goldman during his introduction. “Without Albert, there would be no JFSA Seder. He does everything.” Dr. Goldman then presented Prof. Sherman with a “certificate of special recognition in appreciation for outstanding leadership.”


Dr. Goldman also commended the strong connection that the Jewish Faculty & Staff Association has enjoyed with Temple Beth Emeth. Rabbi Hoover’s predecessor, Rabbi William Kloner, was spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth for 36 years before a debilitating accident forced his retirement in 2010. His wife, Elizabeth Kloner, was a longtime member of the City Tech faculty. Rabbi Hoover, who has been the rabbinic intern since 2006, stepped in to fill the pastoral needs of that temple, and became Rabbi Kloner’s successor shortly after her ordination last year.

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Right to Worship Movement,

To Support Churches in Disrepair,

Plans Rally Across Brooklyn Bridge

Churches that are in need of repair and maintenance, and that have been worshiping in public school spaces, have been coming under fire for doing so. City Council Member Letitia James is coming to the defense of the churches.

Recently, BK Independent Television completed a report on churches in Brooklyn that are in disrepair and in need of work, including Brown Memorial Baptist Church in Clinton Hill. (The news segment erroneously places the church in Bedford-Stuyvesant).

Council Member James has joined her colleagues in fighting for religious organizations to retain the right to rent public school space from the Department of Education, and recently spoke on NY1’s Inside City Hall on the issue.

Her office is now inviting the community to a Prayer March and Concert supporting the Right to Worship cause. The event takes place on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 2:00 p.m.

The Right to Worship movement is a NYC based grassroots campaign composed of elected officials and clergy, united to defend dozens of small religious institutions serving underserved communities throughout the city. These religious groups have survived for years by renting empty space from public schools during non-school hours. December 2011 marked the end of a 16-year legal battle and allowed the Department of Education (DOE) to choose whether or not to ban houses of worship from school rentals. If the DOE bans the rentals, dozens of under-resourced churches are expected be left without meeting space.

Elected officials and advocates hope that their immense public display of unity on April 22 will move the administration and state legislators to disallow the ban. The gathering meeting will take place next to the Brooklyn Bridge at Cadman Plaza at 2 p.m., march across the bridge, and meet at City Hall Park for a Concert.”

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Author with Specialty in Genesis

Speaks at Shabbaton

Congregation B’nai Avraham, a Modern Orthodox synagogue in Brooklyn Heights, has an  innovative approach to Shabbat that combines the traditional functions of the synagogue—gathering, study and prayer—with discussion and dinner. B’nai Avraham invites the community to experience this Shabbaton as the best of Jewish cultural, scientific, and literary life!

The next program is “The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious,” with Dr. Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg as guest speaker.

Dr. Zornberg grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, where her father, Dayyan Dr. Wolf Gottlieb, was Head of the Rabbinical Court. Dr. Aviva holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Cambridge, and has lectured widely. Her first book, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire, won the National Jewish Book Award for non-fiction. She holds a Visiting Lectureship at The London School of Jewish Studies and has appeared on Bill Moyers’ PBS program, “Genesis: a Living Conversation.”

The Shabbaton begins at 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 21, with lunch at 12:30. There will be a presentation at 1 p.m., afternoon services at 7 p.m., and a Q&A session.

For more information and reservations to this event, send an email [email protected], or call 718-596-4840 ext.18. Admission for synagogue members is $25, non-members: $30, and children (under 12) $10.

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Easter Celebrated a Week Apart

In Western and Orthodox Traditions

 Western rite Christians, including Roman (Latin) and Maronite  Rite Catholics, have just begun celebrating the Easter season, with the Feast of the Resurrection this past Sunday. This foundational feast of the Christian faith this year falls a week later in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Therefore, Orthodox Christians are now observing their Great and Holy Week, which commemorates the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Western Christianity determines the date of Easter as being the Sunday immediately after the first full moon of the vernal equinox. That means if the full moon fell on the last day of winter, the next one won’t be until late April, thus a late Easter.

But according to Orthodox tradition, a complicated set of reasons exist as to why Western-rite and Orthodox Christians mark Easter on different days.  One of these was the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by some of the church bodies, and its rejection in favor of the older, Julian calendar by others. The Gregorian calendar sought to “correct” a 13-day difference by adding a leap year, so that the date of the vernal equinox would be standard (March 21 vs. April 3.)

Another reason, according to websites for various Orthodox Church bodies and the National Council of Churches, states that the Jewish Passover, also determined by a lunar calendar, must have already taken place before the start of Great and Holy Week. They cannot be observed in tandem.  In years when Passover falls in late April/early May, then Orthodox Easter falls later.

An important exception to this custom can be found in the Holy Land (Israel), such as in Nazareth, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Taybeh, where adherents to the Roman, Lutheran, Anglican and the Orthodox branches all tend to adhere to the Orthodox calendar. Many families have intermarried, and these faith communities are close-knit in a time when the Christian population in the Holy Land is decreasing. This editor has witnessed first-hand many joint Holy Week observances in parts of the West Bank.

This year, Passover began on April 6 and will conclude at sundown on April 14. And Eastern Orthodox Christians will celebrate the Resurrection on April 15.

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Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom hosts a High Tea, with a twist. Participants may bring one’s own china cup and/or wear a hat to be eligible for prizes.

The High Tea takes place on Sunday, April 22 at 3 p.m. Reservations are required by April 15. Admission is $18 for Temple members, and $22 for guests. Those interested may call 718-436-5082 or check for details on this and other temple activities.

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NY Times Spotlights Brooklyn Oratory

As Church Without Local Borders

The Brooklyn Oratory in MetroTech was the subject of a New York Times article, “A Parish Without Borders,” last Friday, April 6.

The article, by Emily Brennan, focused on the Oratory as a non-geographical, “intentional,” church that has worked to become a faith family.

The full name of this community is the Brooklyn Oratory at St. Boniface Church. The Oratory’s founder was St. Philip Neri, a 16th century priest who is considered to be the “patron saint of joy,” according to history documents on the Oratory’s website. The Brooklyn Oratory has made St. Boniface Church its spiritual home since 1990.

Pope Gregory XIII designated St. Philip Neri’s community as an official congregation in 1575. Permanence and stability are cornerstones of the Oratory communities, which can also be found around Europe, Mexico, South America, and the United States. The priests and lay (non-ordained) brother who operate the Oratory are members of a religious order, the Congregation of the Oratory, whose members adhere to stability and charity, but who don’t take vows. Unlike diocesan parishes, where priests are typically re-assigned every nine to 12 years (and sometimes more often with the shortage of priests), the priests of this order are permanently stationed at the same Oratory.

In her article, Brennan points out that the Brooklyn Oratory is committed to offering an inclusive and pastoral approach to the Catholic faith, such as Father Mark Lane’s agreeing to baptize the infant child of a lesbian couple, focusing on the sacramental nature of this request.

The article also tackled the debate surrounding church-shopping that has become so prevalent among Catholics, who seek out parishes that will meet their spiritual needs and accept their family situation, even if they have to worship outside the neighborhood.  New York’s Archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, is reported as condoning the practice, based on a reality that it’s happening. Holding the opposite viewpoint is Monsignor Kieran Harrington, a spokesperson for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, who does not like the practice of Catholics leaving the geographical boundaries of their parishes.

For the most points, blog comments on this story were supportive of the Oratory’s approach, with many Oratory members or their friends weighing in with remarks. One blogger pointed out that while Msgr. Harrington’s reason for staying at one’s neighborhood parish is analogous to “you can’t choose your family,” one does indeed choose whether to be close with one’s family, and one does choose friends who become like family.

Absent from the story was any mention of the recent closing and merging of parishes and their parochial schools has meant that Catholics have had to seek out new church homes.

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The Bethlehem Choir Photo courtesy of

Bethlehem Choir Enlivens

Galatians through Music

The “Fruits of the Spirit,” as described in the Epistle to the Galatians, is the theme of a choir presentation at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.

Under the direction of Choirmaster and Organist, Stephen Wilson, the 18-member Bethlehem Choir will perform “The Fruits of the Spirit through Word and Music,” musical selections based on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, and will feature traditional and well-loved hymns, along with narration.

Galatians 5:22 presents a simple statement of the nine visible attributes of a good life and serves as the inspiration for the presentation.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

In recent years, Bethlehem’s Choir has grown in both size and scope.  Besides providing choral accompaniment at Sunday services, the choir now performs special musical presentations several times during the year. Stephen Wilson has served as organist and choir director at various churches in the northeast for more than 30 years.  He has been choirmaster and organist with Bethlehem since 1997.  Mr. Wilson will be playing Bethlehem’s renowned 533-pipe Kilgen organ.  This presentation will be part of the 10:30 worship service on Sunday, April 29.  Refreshments will follow the service.  

Bethlehem Lutheran Church is at the corner of 4th & Ovington Avenues in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  More information is available at

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Catholic Charities, University Alumni

Team Up to Build Garden for Seniors

Catholic Charities of Brooklyn joins forces with The University of Scranton Alumni to kick of National Volunteer Week.

During National Volunteer Week, which runs April 15-20, the groups will build a “tranquility garden” on the doorsteps of 3677 Nostrand Avenue, a NYC Housing Authority property, and home to the Catholic Charities’ Sheepshead-Nostrand Senior Center.

The Home Depot is donating supplies for this project. Organizers hope this garden will transform and brighten up the entrance for many residents of the community, including seniors who receive much-needed assistance at the Senior Center.

Volunteers are one of the most important resources to a nonprofit organization. The University of Scranton Alumni volunteers will not only donate their time and energy to create a meaningful experience for themselves, they will also contribute to the beautification of the Sheepshead Bay community.

The Sheepshead-Nostrand Senior Center provides an array of services to Brooklyn’s seniors. Services include an on-site nurse for blood pressure screenings and medication review. Social services are also provided, including: advocacy, entitlement assistance, information, referrals, and case management. Recreational and educational activities, workshops, and classes are also offered. Volunteers accompany seniors to their appointments, provide telephone reassurance, and visit homebound seniors.


Trivia Night with Theology on Tap

The  St. Charles Borromeo Church’s Theology On Tap series next features Catholic Trivia Night.

Participants typically gather at Eamonn’s on Montague St., as they will on Tuesday, April 17. Trivia questions are expected to involve little theology, history, movies, pop culture and of course some saints! All ages are welcome. For start time or more information, call the parish rectory at 718-625-1177.

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