Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Oct. 20

October 20, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rabbi Andrew Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim offers words of support and healing for the interfaith community.

Clergy, Elected Leaders Join Forces To Prevent Further Hate Crimes

One Suspect Now Under Arrest

“A hate crime against one group, one religion, one individual, is a hate crime against all of us. And that’s why we have to stand united.”

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These words, spoken by state Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 14, represented the spirit and message of a coalition of elected officials and clergy who gathered in support of a man who had been brutally assaulted the previous week. The group of rabbis, pastors and government leaders also stated that hate crimes will not be tolerated in a city that is acclaimed for its diversity.

Their press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall was to support Leonard Petlakh, executive director of the Kings Bay Y, who was physically attacked on Oct. 7 while attending the Nets-Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game at Barclays Center.

On Sunday, Oct. 19, the office of state Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz announced that one of the suspects in the attacks had been arrested in St. Louis and is now in Brooklyn, awaiting arraignment.

The victim, Leonard Petlakh, is widely known for his interfaith work in bridge-building between cultures. For several years, he and the Kings Bay Y — with branches throughout Brooklyn — have been instrumental in sponsoring Jewish-Muslim events with the Turkish Cultural Center, the Kings Bay Y, Congregation Beth Elohim, Congregation Mount Sinai and other faith and community organizations.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams called for the press conference a week after Petlakh had been physically assaulted at the Barclays Center by a protest group claiming to represent the rights of all Palestinians.

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Adams, who is also a former police officer, cited a surge in hate crimes.

Mentioning his office’s faith-based caucus, Adams said, “The sun has already set on these violent incidents. This is a new day in Brooklyn. There’s the saying that Brooklyn is the borough of churches. No! It is the borough of faith-based institutions — of all values and of all different beliefs. And we want to continue that unity as we move forward.”

Public Advocate Letitia James said, “Hate flourishes because good people remain silent. Hate will not consume us in this city. Love takes courage. Understanding takes compassion. Hatred is easy. Hatred is a cowardly act. New York City is famous throughout the world for its multiculturalism and its tolerance for people from all around the world … We cannot tolerate attacks on anyone. An attack on our values is an attack on all of us.”

Mohammad Razvi, executive director of the Council of Peoples Organization (COPO), spoke of the work that COPO has done since 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, through which Muslims were detained without explanation. Saying that he and Petlakh have known each other for years, Razvi pointed out, “Our prophet Mohammed has said, ‘The best one among you is the one who does not harm others, with your tongue and hands.’

He continued, “Islam teaches that when you hurt one human being, it’s as if you hurt the whole humanity. It’s appalling what’s going on — especially here in New York. We’re going to stand together to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

At the press conference, Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz had criticized the NYPD for not bolstering security before what he said was a planned attack.

Announcing the suspect’s arrest on Oct. 19, Cymbrowitz said, “I’m pleased that police arrested a suspect in the brutal attack on Leonard Petlakh, but I find it disturbing that they do not plan to charge him with a bias crime. Given the anti-Semitic nature of this attack, I urge authorities to reconsider this decision. I will be calling on the district attorney to treat this as a bias case and seek the harshest penalties that are allowed under the law. According to multiple accounts of the incident, the suspect did not work alone. He was part of a group of anti-Israel protestors whose intentions turned hateful and violent. I encourage law enforcement to pursue the accomplices who fled after the attack and bring them to justice as well.”

Cymbrowitz also said at the Oct. 14 press conference, “Leonard Petlakh has spent his entire career building bridges among people of different ethnic groups through dialogue and the shared goals of friendship and tolerance. Acts of violence must not be allowed to destroy the good work that Leonard and other leaders have done to bring diverse groups together. In order for this work to continue, we need good people to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Jewish violence should happen to occur … not just at Barclays, but anywhere in our city and beyond.”

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Brooklyn Heights Peace Walks Offer Time for Prayer, Solidarity

Members and friends of Brooklyn Heights’ three Catholic churches are also uniting to combat hatred and violence — in this case, the actions of the group calling itself ISIS — that has been killing Christians in the Middle East, particularly Lebanon and Syria.

St. Charles Borromeo Church and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (both Latin/Roman Rite parishes) and Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral (Eastern Rite Catholic) will participate in a Joint Procession and Prayers event on Sunday, Oct. 26.

The procession will form at St. Charles Borromeo Church immediately following the 11:15 mass there. Carrying a monstrance that houses the Blessed Sacrament, the group will process, with NYPD’s support and traffic coordination, to Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral, according to announcements made at last week’s masses. Our Lady of Lebanon parishioners will join them as the procession continues on to Assumption Church on Cranberry Street in northern Brooklyn Heights.

The following Sunday, Episcopal parishes around Brooklyn will participate in another Prayer Walk.

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, is encouraging parishes throughout the diocese to organize prayer walks in anticipation of this year’s diocesan convention that has as its theme “Walk in Love, as Christ Loved Us.”

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church will hold its Neighborhood Prayer Walk at 1 p.m. on All Saints Sunday, Nov. 2.

An announcement from the church describes the Neighborhood Prayer Walk as “an easy, energizing and enlightening way to deepen church community, discover what God is up to in the neighborhood, and imagine afresh how you can embody the gospel in your parish.”

Leading the St. Ann’s Prayer Walk will be Associate Rector Deacon Kate Salisbury. The walk will include numerous points of historic and spiritual interest throughout Brooklyn Heights.

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Remsen Street Synagogues Rejoice in New Cycle of Learning Torah

Remsen Street became a block party on Thursday night, Oct. 16, as members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and Congregation B’nai Avraham spilled out onto the street to dance with Torah scrolls. They were celebrating Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah), which marks the cyclical tradition of reciting the closing verses of Deuteronomy — the fifth book of Moses — and then starting over with the opening verses of Genesis.

The New York Klezmer Ensemble accompanied the dancers at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. By contrast, at the Orthodox Congregation B’nai Avraham, the men and women danced separately, and sang without musical instruments. Either way, everyone rejoiced in the Torah.

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Robert Siebel Retires as Head of Catholic Charities-Brooklyn

Respected Leader Served Agency for 41 Years

Robert Siebel will be retiring as chief executive officer of Catholic Charities and related agencies, effective Nov. 1. Siebel has served in this capacity for more than 11 years, in a career spanning 41 years with the agency.

“I am deeply grateful for all that Catholic Charities has meant in my life; the work we have done together over the years has immeasurably deepened my appreciation of the human spirit and our tremendous collective capacity to do good,” Siebel said. “I look forward with excitement to the next chapter in CCBQ’s evolution.”

Siebel was appointed chief executive officer and executive director of Catholic Charities and affiliate agencies on Nov. 4, 2002. Under his leadership, Catholic Charities has grown to become one of the largest Catholic Charities organizations in the country and he is credited with expanding the agency’s ability to work and partner with thousands of families, individuals and neighborhoods throughout Brooklyn and Queens. The agency was successfully reaccredited by the Council of Accreditation for Services to Children and Families in 2014.

Siebel first joined Catholic Charities in 1973 as a mental health case aide with the Catholic Charities Flatlands Guidance Center, rising through the ranks and holding a variety of positions, including youth development coordinator, regional director for Northern Brooklyn, associate executive director and chief operating officer. He has also served on numerous boards.

Siebel helped develop numerous service models for the organization, including residential programs for persons struggling with mental illness, services to the homeless, and a nationally recognized training program for early childhood development workers called the Caritas Center.  Additionally, he served as chief architect of Catholic Charities’ extensive Sept. 11 disaster response efforts on behalf of affected individuals and families, including bereavement services, counseling, financial assistance, emergency day care and employment services; he served as a similar catalyst to the agency’s robust response to Superstorm Sandy.

“His work with Catholic Charities during the past 41 years has made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of families in need throughout Brooklyn and Queens,” said Msgr. Alfred LoPinto, vicar for human services for the Diocese of Brooklyn. “Robert has left an indelible imprint upon Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. We are grateful for his years of leadership and dedication.”

During this transition period, Msgr. LoPinto will be assuming the role of interim chief executive officer.  Siebel will assist Msgr. LoPinto in a consultative and supportive role through November 2015.


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