FAITH: Synagogue celebrates its 130th year, honors Fire Commissioner Cassano

July 1, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Francesca Norsen Tate

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights honored Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano as part of the synagogue’s recent 130th anniversary celebration.

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“All people, it’s said, are created equal, but a few became firefighters, because they are more than equal, because of their superior strength,” said Rabbi Potasnik, the synagogue’s longtime spiritual leader.

“There is a great movie scene in the Bible, in a place called Beersheba. In it, Jacob has a dream of a ladder, planted on the ground with stairs to the heavens. The symbol represents, I think, the FDNY. The Bible says there were angels ascending and descending. FDNY we have seen angelic figures ascending and descending. And on 9/11, there were those who ascended. But sadly, there were some who didn’t descend.”

Potastik said that one of the finest tributes to the commissioner was taken from “Cat’s in the Cradle,” a song in Harry Chapin says, “I want to be just like you, Dad.”

“I have been to many ceremonies, where many of the young people who are being promoted will come over to the commissioner, will shake his hand, will look him in the eye, and think to themselves, ‘I want to be just like Commissioner Cassano’,” Potasnik recalled.

“Once again, visualize a ladder ascending to the heavens. At the top of the ladder you have Commissioner Cassano.”

Addressing Cassano, Potasnik said, “Commissioner, we look up to you. You have always taught us to keep looking at one another. Mazel tov.”

On behalf of the synagogue, Potasnik presented Commissioner Cassano with an apple from Tiffany’s, representing service to the city, and box of Godiva chocolates “because of the sweetness you embody.” Additionally, a leaf in Cassano’s honor will be placed on Mt. Sinai’s simcha tree.

Also honored at the 130th anniversary dinner were Alan Abramson and Cynthia Swartz; and Marlene and Barry Antebi.

Councilmember cheers decision allowing faith groups to use schools

Councilwoman Letitia James is applauding a victory for religious organizations that rent space for worship in city school buildings.

Earlier this year, James joined her colleagues in fighting for religious organizations to retain the right to rent public school space from the Department of Education, and spoke on NY1’s Inside City Hall on the issue. Last Thursday came the announcement that Federal Judge Loretta Preska has ruled that a city regulation barring religious organizations from using school property for worship services violates the First Amendment, thereby allowing religious organizations to stay.

Courthouse News reports Judge Preska ruled in a 59-page order, that the appeals court did not consider the Free Exercise Clause in their decision last year, further arguing ”[G]iven the uniquely expensive and crowded real estate market in which the Church resides, eviction from the Board’s schools would amount to a concrete loss of religious freedom.” Judge Peska granted the church a permanent injunction in the case.

Council Member James stated, “This is a major victory for local religious organizations in New York City!”

Both the Daily News and the Blaze published stories about Judge Preska’s decision; with several expressions of disappointment being published in The Blaze. These stories focused specifically on one Bronx faith community that was part of the struggle.

Earlier this spring, Brooklyn Eagle reporter Mary Frost covered a heavily-attended protes t— the second of two held this year — in Cadman Plaza Park of church-goers and their allies. Heavy rain did not diminish participation in this march. Several Brooklyn pastors and congregation leaders, including Carl Forrester, a member of The Brooklyn Tabernacle (TBT) on Fulton Mall, said it was important to him to show up in the rain. “I’m here to represent God and have a good time,” he said.

Rev. Gary Frost of Evergreen Baptist Church in Bushwick said that while his congregation has its own church, he came out to support churches that don’t.

Grace Church continues summer hymns

Grace Church’s popular August Hymn Sings return for the four Tuesdays of next month.

Paul Richard Olson, organist and choirmaster, will lead the Hymn Sings, starting August 7. Two special and well-loved guests will also be making presentations.

Lois Rosebrooks, historian at neighboring Plymouth Church will discuss hymn writers in Brooklyn and New York City. Jacque Jones, also of Plymouth Church and a published author of texts and poetry for hymns, will discuss current hymnody as well as her own work.

The hymn sings run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, August 7, 14, 21 and 28 in the air-conditioned choir room, recently named the Anne McKittrick Room for a beloved and longtime Grace Church organist and choir mistress. The church entrance to use is at 254 Hicks St., between Grace Court and Joralemon St.

Organists’ Guild honors Lois Rosebrooks

Lois Rosebrooks. Photo by Alan Barnett PhotographyPlymouth Church’s beloved historian Lois Rosebrooks has been named as the American Guild of Organists’ Brooklyn Chapter’s Person of the Year.

The Brooklyn Chapter presents this honor each spring “to thank and honor someone who is not an organist for the support he or she gives to our profession.”

Rosebrooks, who is Plymouth’s Director of History Ministry Services, has a deep passion for history. This spring she guided a group from the Brooklyn-AGO on a tour of the Green-Wood Cemetery, visiting gravesites of several famous organists and hymn writers. To her surprise, she was named Person of the Year at the chapter’s annual banquet last month.

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