Faith In Brooklyn for October 9

October 9, 2013 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Israel Is Also Topic of New ‘iENGAGE’Video Series

The well-being and future of Israel is also the topic of iENGAGE: A Video Lecture series hosted at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.

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

“Engaging Israel: Foundations for a New Relationship” is a new educational series that the synagogue is presenting in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute. iENGAGE will offer an in-depth look at the moral, political and historical forces that have shaped Israel. Through screenings, readings and guided discussions, Rabbi Serge Lippe and Rabbi Molly Kane will lead participants through an exploration of issues and questions that have inspired, challenged and engaged American Jews: “Why does Israel matter? What values should a Jewish state embody? How should a Jewish state exercise military power ethically? How do we create and maintain a Jewish democracy?”

The series runs on specific Wednesdays and Sundays through next May: Wednesday sessions, which run from 7-9:30 p.m. are held: Oct. 16, Nov.13, Dec. 18, Jan. 8, Feb. 5, March 19, April 23, May 14 and June 11. Sunday sessions, which run from 1-3 p.m., are offered on Oct. 20, Nov.10, Jan. 12, Feb. 9, April 27 and May 18. The cost is $75 for members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and $125 for non-members. Registration deadline is Oct. 11 via email: [email protected] or phone: 718-522-2070. The synagogue is at 131 Remsen St. Visit for more information

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Interfaith Forum Will Focus On Value of Preserving Hope

The Kane Street Synagogue joins with the Interfaith Center of New York to sponsor an inter-religious panel discussion later this month. Prominent Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist teachers and community leaders will explore the spiritual outlooks and religious practices of their traditions as they work to preserve hope in an often overheated and violent world.

They will examine the questions: “How do our diverse religious traditions understand hope? What are the similarities and differences between a hope for redemption, enlightenment, divine justice or Tikkun Olam? In the face of individual and collective suffering, is an attitude of hope rational?”

The Rev. Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center, shared the motivation behind the dialogue: “Too often, these days, when Americans reflect on the role of faith in society, they think of violence, conflict and division. That’s why we are so excited to convene an interfaith conversation about hope. A deep sense of hope lies at the core of religious efforts to build a more inclusive society, and the conversation at Kane Street will help religious leader to share their perspective with other New Yorkers.”

Panelists, as of press time for this column, include the Rev. Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, and author of  Diary of a Manhattan Monk:, Dr. Sarah Sayeed, director of community partnerships at the Interfaith Center, and a board member of Women in Islam, Inc., the Rev. Stephen Muncie, rector of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights, an Episcopal parish; and Kane Street’s Rabbi Sam Weintraub, who before his appointment at the congregation, served as Interfaith Fellow at the American Jewish Committee. Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, director of education programs at the Interfaith Center, will moderate.

The panel discussion is part of the Kane Street Synagogue’s ongoing Tuesday evening “Open Beit Midrash,” community education initiative. It will take place at the Synagogue, 236 Kane Street, in Cobble Hill, and begins with a community dinner at 6:15 p.m. The panel discussion follows, from 7-8:30 p.m. and will include significant  time for questions and conversation. At 8:30, all are welcome for a performance of new Jewish spiritual music with Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble in the Synagogue sanctuary.

Nakagaki, D. Min., is a Buddhist priest, ordained in the 750-year-old Jodoshinshu tradition of Japanese Buddhism. He is also vice president of the Interfaith Center of New York.  He is the author of two books in Japanese:  No Worry, No Hurry, Eat Curry: A New York Buddhist Priest Walks in India (Gendai Shokan, 2003) and Diary of a Manhattan Monk (Gendai Shokan, 2010).

Sayeed conducts the Rabbi Marshall T. Meyer Retreats for Social Justice, a biannual conference that brings together New York’s diverse grassroots religious leaders with secular and city agencies. A long-time board member of Women in Islam, Inc., a social justice and human rights organization dedicated to the empowerment of women through knowledge and practice of Islam, she speaks regularly on Islam, Muslim women and interfaith relations.

Weintraub was ordained as a rabbi at JTS and has been spiritual leader of Kane Street Synagogue for 17 years. One of his favorite Biblical verses is “Hoi kol Tzamei L’chu LaMayim” “Let everyone who is thirsty (meaning searching) come for water (meaning Torah)!” (Isaiah 55:1)  His main interest is the relevance of Jewish text for modern ethical issues, and his published articles have focused on interfaith relations, environmental and economic ethics, intermarriage and the interplay of Judaism and globalism.

Muncie began to serve as the 14th rector of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights in 2004.  After studies at Antioch College, Miami University and the Vanderbilt University Divinity School, he was ordained in the Diocese of Southern Ohio in 1982. Active in diocesan and national church ministries, Muncie currently serves as legislative secretary for the House of Bishops.

Kane Street Synagogue, the oldest continually functioning synagogue in Brooklyn, is a charter member of the United Synagogue of  Conservative Judaism, which celebrates this month its centennial anniversary, The Interfaith Center of New York is a secular non-profit organization, founded in 1997, that works with  hundreds of grassroots religious leaders from over 15 different faith traditions to foster mutual respect and understanding  and joint commitment to social justice.    

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New Study Examines Rabbis’ Willingness To Express Their Views about Israel

One of the religious leaders and scholars participating in this year’s Kane Street Synagogue Beit Midrash is the co-author of a new report on the willingness of rabbinical leaders to discuss the complex situation in the Holy Land.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs this week, on Oct. 8, released a new study, Reluctant or Repressed? Aversion to Expressing Views on Israel Among American Rabbis. Brooklyn resident Rabbi Jason Gitlin is co-author with fellow Brooklynite Steven M. Cohen, Research Professor of Jewish Social Policy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. Cohen is a Brooklyn native and an alumnus of Erasmus Hall High School.

Gitlin, project manager of the Jewish Theological Seminary’s experiential education initiative ReFrame, will present a talk next March on “Ecology and The Three Festivals: A Pilgrimage to Our Place in the World.” The talk will focus on Judaism’s roots in the seasons and agriculture, and expressed in practices and holidays, including the Shalosh Regalim, the three Pilgrimage Festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. He taught the Foundations of Jewish Life course at the Open Beit Midrash last year and served as Kane Street’s Congregational Engagement Associate. Ordained from JTS, he previously worked at UJA-Federation of New York and as a journalist and holds an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from NYU.

Their report, Reluctant or Repressed? Aversion to Expressing Views on Israel Among American Rabbis, is the first large-scale survey of American rabbis’ connection to Israel and their challenges in expressing their views.

“American rabbis have a great deal of involvement and engagement with Israel. Over 90 percent, studied there and an equal number said they were very attached. Talking about Israel is not just a part of the job for rabbis, it is a characteristic,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “However, though they care deeply about the Middle East and the Jewish state, there is a fear on both sides of the political spectrum – particularly among younger rabbis – that expressing their personal opinions may create a problematic and difficult situation in their synagogues and organizations. Gutow introduced the report on press conference call along with the co-authors of the report as well as JCPA Senior Vice President Martin Raffel and JCPA Vice President and General Counsel Ethan Felson.

Rabbi Gutow added, “Three years ago, we launched our national civility campaign to encourage and foster respectful discourse in response to increasingly divisive conversations on Israel in Jewish communities across the country. This study shows that even rabbis are not exempt.”

“The diversity of views among American Jews and the increasingly tenuous position of congregational rabbis in a period of demographic decline among non-Orthodox Jews point to new levels of insecurity among rabbis in presenting their true views of Israel,” Cohen said. “Younger people are both more distant from Israel and more critical of its current leadership’s policies; the political economies of Conservative and Reform congregations are shaky; and younger rabbis, while still deeply committed to Israel, are even more dovish on Israel than their older colleagues. If anything, rabbis in coming years will be more likely to experience the cross-pressures and challenges related to speaking about Israel in their communities and other places of rabbinic work.”  

“We just concluded the Jewish tradition’s season of teshuvah, a process in which we work to repent and return to our most true selves,” Gitlin said. “If we want rabbis to live up to this value, our communities must continue to find ways to empower those who are reluctant to express themselves openly about Israel whether because of age or political belief. Rabbis, as the survey reflects, are simply too informed and passionate about Israel to not have their honest voices guiding Jewish Americans’ engagement with Israel.”

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Some highlights from the JCPA report:

  • “This report presents the findings from the first large-scale survey of American rabbis’ challenges in expressing their views on Israel. As we shall see, they report very strong attachment to Israel. However, they mesh that attachment with varying degrees of concern about Israeli policies, as well as a significant reluctance to publicly share their true opinions. Nearly half of the rabbis in this survey hold views on Israel that they won’t share publicly, many for fear of endangering their reputation and their careers.”

  • “While American Jewish leaders today remain passionately attached to Israel, they divide on many moral and security issues facing the state. Like Israelis, Jewish leaders – including rabbis – hold contrasting views on the value and ideal direction of the peace process, the true intentions of both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the advisability of settlement expansion and related matters. Rabbis with policy stances at variance with other Jewish leaders, their congregants or the Israeli government can find such situations especially vexing and problematic.”

  • “With respect to Israel’s policies toward its conflict with the Palestinians, the results point to what must be viewed as a fairly dovish posture on the part of most of these rabbis. Their varied and complex positions might well align most of them with the left-of-center and leftist Zionist political parties and personalities in Israel. For example, we may look at the results for a bellwether question—whether Israel should undertake a freeze on expanding settlements on the West Bank, a position rejected by the current government. Among the rabbis, the number of unqualified endorsers of this position exceeded unqualified rejectors by a six-to-one margin (62 percent agreed ‘to a great extent,’ and only 10 percent agreed to a settlement freeze ‘not at all’).”

  • “As many as 43 percent of the more recently ordained (2000 or later) score high on the fearful index as compared with just 26 percent of those ordained earlier (1999 or earlier). One reason for this gap, of course, is that more junior rabbis occupy lower status position, are objectively more at risk and subjectively feel more vulnerable. Another, as we demonstrate presently, is that those with more dovish views tend to feel more fearful of expressing their views on the conflict. Indeed, more dovish rabbis express higher levels of concern with openly airing their views on Israel than the relatively more hawkish rabbis.”

A full copy of the report can be found online.

JCPA, the public affairs arm of the organized Jewish community, serves as the national coordinating and advisory body for the 14 national and 125 local agencies comprising the field of Jewish community relations.

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Cooking Class Series Bridges Jewish Heritage and Foods

How many people know that beets are described in the Talmud as bringing extra delight to the Sabbath?

This slice of culinary knowledge is part of a Cooking Class series that explores the nexus of food and Judaism. Nani Beraha will lead this series at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue starting on Oct. 26.

Each class has a Judaic theme and will include a brief cooking lesson. Classes can be taken together as a series (for a discounted price) or participants may choose to just take one or two. This series, open to members and non-members alike, and is a wonderful experience to meet others, a fun couple’s activity or a wonderful parent/teen adventure.

The inaugural class will explore “Routes and Roots: Our Jewish Heritage Through Root Vegetables.” The best of autumn may not be the apples on trees, but right in the ground. Root vegetables, so popular at NYC farmers markets, can also become the center of delicious dishes that paint a vivid picture of Judaism throughout the diaspora. Participants will explore Jewish roots through Jewish routes—from Middle East, to Italy and Europe—with vegetables like beets, which the Talmud says make Shabbat more delightful.

The six classes in the series are held: Oct. 26, Nov. 24, Jan. 26, Feb. 27, March 30 and May 1. Note that not all dates fall on the same day of the week: there are some Sunday and Thursday times. The Oct. 26 class runs from 5-7 p.m. Prior registration is required so food supplies can be purchased. To read more about each class and the cost please visit:

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Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom (1515-46th Street in Borough Park) invites all to participate in a workshop “How to Relax and Relieve Your Stress” this coming Sunday, Oct. 13. Breakfast is included at this free program starting at 10:15 A.M. For additional information call the temple office at 718-436-5082
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Community Celebrates Investiture Of New Rector at St. Ann’s Church

Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, was a banner day for St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church. The Rev. John E. Denaro, Priest-in-Charge since the spring of 2011, was instituted as the parish’s new Rector by Bishop Lawrence Provenzano of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island at an Evensong service. The liturgy, at which Bishop Provenzano officiated, prominently featured music sung by the St. Ann’s choir and guest singers from nearby sister parishes.

Clergy colleagues, parishioners, and members of the wider community offered prayers for the new rector and people of St. Ann & the Holy Trinity, along with expressions of gratitude for the revitalization of the parish and the renewed mission that Fr. Denaro has helped to initiate. They also celebrated Fr. Denaro’s bond with a religiously diverse but close Borough of Brooklyn. The Rev. Peter Elvin and Mrs. Diana Elvin of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown, Massachusetts, delivered a fun and poignant joint sermon. A member of the vestry read a proclamation from Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz declaring Oct. 5, 2013, “The Rev. John Edward Denaro Evensong Celebration of New Ministry Day.”

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