Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Nov. 26

November 26, 2014 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Judith Clurman. Photo credit: Frank Wang
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Prominent Conductor from Brooklyn Releases New Album on Jewish Song

Acclaimed choral conductor Judith Clurman has released a new compact disc, “Cherished Moments: Songs of the Jewish Spirit,” on Sono Luminus (DSL-92182). Clurman, whose Brooklyn roots have stayed with her, now lives here in the borough with her husband, Cantor Bruce Ruben.

“Cherished Moments” features Essential Voices USA, with Clurman conducting, along with soloists Ron Raines, Bruce Ruben and Michael Slattery.

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This new CD combines the expertise born of Clurman’s 30 years as a prominent conductor with memories of her own childhood in synagogue and an intimate knowledge of this poignant repertoire to create a unique recording. The recording introduces exciting arrangements of traditional songs that represent the Jewish holidays and life cycle events — from the centerpiece “Songs of Freedom: A Celebration of Chanukah,” a cycle for chorus, soloists and orchestra that premiered at Carnegie Hall, to the 19th-century lyrical classicism of Louis Lewandowski and Emanuel Kirschner, to works by folk artist Debbie Friedman, cantor-composer Bruce Ruben and Canadian composer Ben Steinberg.

The recording also features important new works, among them a minimalist setting of “Set Me as a Seal” by Nico Muhly, Larry Hochman’s “Shomeir Yisrael” and Paul Schoenfield’s “Al Hanisim,” all written for Clurman. The recording features the singers of Essential Voices USA and renowned guest instrumentalists, including composers Hochman and Schoenfield accompanying their own works.

Clurman’s Essential Voices USA (EVUSA) is widely regarded as one of New York’s preeminent choral ensembles. It is composed of a highly talented roster of both seasoned professionals and auditioned volunteers. Within this group, Clurman has created a dynamic choral model in which the size of the ensemble is dictated by the unique needs of each project. EVUSA performs regularly on the Carnegie Hall subscription series with the New York Pops and at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music. For more information, visit


The Artists

Conductor Judith Clurman has conducted and collaborated with world-renowned orchestras, dance companies and music festivals. She served as director of choral activities at the Juilliard School from 1989-2007, as co-director for Harvard University’s Leonard Bernstein: Boston to Broadway Festival, as a faculty member and vocal specialist for the National Endowment for the Arts/Columbia University Institute of Classical Music and as a visiting artist/conductor at Cambridge University, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Zimriya in Israel and the Janacek Academy in the Czech Republic.

Her work as the associate music director of “Sesame Street,” with the Muppets, cast members and guest artists earned her a 2009 Emmy nomination for outstanding achievement in music direction and composition. Her recording of music by Tania León, with the Son Sonora Voices, was nominated for a Grammy award. Clurman served as founding conductor of the New York Concert Singers and Project Youth Chorus and as music director of Prism Concerts and the 92nd Street Y’s Music of the Spirit program. She currently conducts Essential Voices USA, serves as chorus master for the Omaha Symphony Sacred Voices concerts and collaborates with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall.

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A native of Texas, Ron Raines attended Oklahoma City University and The Juilliard School. He has had an illustrious international career that spans the worlds of musical theater, opera, cabaret, classical music and television. He most recently appeared as Ben in the critically acclaimed revival of “Follies” at the Kennedy Center, Broadway and Los Angeles, for which he received a Tony nomination for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. He was a three-time Emmy and Soap Opera Digest award nominee for his role as the villain Alan Spaulding on CBS’s longest-running daytime drama, “Guiding Light.” He has appeared on four PBS “Great Performances” and on numerous cast albums. He has also made two solo recordings. His voice is heard on the “Sono Luminus Celebrating the American Spirit” CD with Essential Voices USA.

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Bruce Ruben is the cantor at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and the director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. From 1982 to 2006, he served as the cantor of Temple Shaaray Tefila in New York City. He has taught special classes on liturgical music at the University of Cambridge and the Juilliard School. He studied at Indiana University, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and the City University of New York, where he received his Ph.D. in history.

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Michael Slattery made his New York Philharmonic debut this past year. His career highlights include the title role in Bernstein’s “Candide” at Royal Festival Hall in London; “The Very Best of Lerner & Loewe” with the New York Pops at Carnegie Hall; the title role in Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo” at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris; Peter Sellars’ “Tristan Project” with Esa-Pekka Salonen; and Philip Glass’ “Akhnaten” with John Adams – both with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Upcoming projects include Britten’s “Curlew River;” Roland Auzet’s “Steve V,” the world premiere of Steve Jobs’ digital opera, with Opéra de Lyon; and Britten’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” with the Festival Aix-en-Provence.

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Arranger/orchestrator Larry Hochman received the Tony award in 2011 for his orchestrations for the Broadway hit musical “The Book of Mormon.” He has also received Tony nominations for best orchestrations of Monty Python’s “Spamalot” (also Drama Desk nomination), “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Scottsboro Boys” and “A Class Act.” He has written orchestrations for “The Addams Family” and “Jane Eyre,” as well as additional orchestrations for many other Broadway shows, including “Shrek,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life” and “King David” (Alan Menken and Tim Rice). He is the composer for Nickelodeon’s hit series “The Wonder Pets,” for which he has received four Emmy awards. Hochman has arranged the recordings and concerts for Sir Paul McCartney, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Marvin Hamlisch and others. His original music and arrangements are on the “Sono Luminus Celebrating the American Spirit” CD with Essential Voices USA.

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Chabad Movement Gathers in NYC as Outreach Expands Worldwide

Opening Event Honors Memory of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson

The international Chabad-Lubavitch movement was set to converge on New York last weekend for a conference and what has been dubbed “NYC’S Largest Dinner.”

An estimated 5,200 Chabad-Lubavitch Chassidic rabbinic emissaries and communal leaders from more than 80 countries — hailing from as far away as Bangkok and the Congo (and as close as Brooklyn) — gathered for the 31st annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries. This year’s conference carried an added significance, as millions around the world mark 20 years since the passing of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.

Chabad-Lubavitch has gained a reputation for its unique fusion of global activism and intellectual pursuit and is now considered to be one of the most successful spiritual movements of all time. Its vast success is credited to its cadre of dedicated rabbinical emissaries whose families are willing to pick up and move literally anywhere in the world to bring their fellow Jews closer to Judaism.

While the Chabad-Lubavitch movement has seen rapid growth and its impact continues to grow through its 3,500 institutions, there are still vast amounts of Jews who know nothing of their heritage and are not engaged with the wider Jewish community. At the conference, leaders were expected to announce initiatives aimed at reviving Jewish awareness and practice around the world.

The weekend conference was scheduled to begin with a visit on Friday, before Shabbat, to the resting place of Rabbi Schneerson at Old Montefiore Cemetery. Movement leaders continue to regard the Rebbe, as he is affectionately known, as their spiritual guide. The Rebbe’s gravesite is considered a place of deep spiritual sanctity. Even throughout the year, hundreds of thousands people, including non-Lubavitchers, Jews and non-Jews, frequent his resting place, seeking blessing, guidance and spiritual inspiration.

Following the observance of Shabbat, the gathering was scheduled to converge in front of Chabad-Lubavitch Worldwide headquarters in Crown Heights for a “class picture.” That evening, they were to sit down to arguably the largest dinner in the metropolitan area, hosted at South Brooklyn Marine Terminal.

The gathering had a global justice element, as rabbis from the war zone in Eastern Ukraine met about assisting their communities and how others around the world can help. Another rabbi who saved hundreds in a Nepalese blizzard was scheduled to be recognized. And the Chabad community in Mumbai, India is celebrating the reopening of the center after the 26/11 terror attacks that killed the rabbi and his wife there in 2008.

Chabad-Lubavitch has established a new presence in Mississippi and is now found in 49 U.S. states.

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The Need for Compassion Expressed Through Music

Empire City Men’s Chorus Sings at St. Paul’s-Carroll Gardens

St. Paul’s Church in Carroll Gardens ties in Advent, light and the expectation of the Saviour as the themes of its next concert, “A Stable Lamp Is Lighted,” to be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, beginning at 8 p.m.

Empire City Men’s Chorus welcomes the audience on a musical journey celebrating hope, human kindness and remembrance of those in need. Chorus members are hopeful that this concert can be “like a lantern that welcomes a weary traveler out of the dark, cold night.”

Empire City Men’s Chorus recognizes that each person searches for a place of respite in a tumultuous world, whether it is the longing of missing loved ones who are overseas fighting, or children who have lost their parents and their home, or the deep grief over a dying spouse. The ensemble aims to offer healing through music.

Gotham Performing Arts presents the Empire City Men’s Chorus December 2014 concert series, with Interim Artistic Director Vince Peterson and Principal Accompanist Alden Gatt on piano. Chorus members sing pieces a cappella, with piano accompaniment, and also with audience. Musical highlights include Debussy’s “Noel for Homeless Children,” Tindley’s “The Storm is Passing Over,” Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque,” standards like Loesser’s “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

The Empire City Men’s Chorus, founded in 1993 and based in New York City, is renowned for its eclectic, multilingual repertoire of predominantly classical music. The chorus consistently presents concerts that boast a variety of well-known composers, as well as newly commissioned works by exciting, young composers. The chorus believes that choral music can be a compelling, artistic response to pressing issues within our communities.

General admission tickets are $30; $20 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at VIP tickets are $75 (single) and $125 (couple) and include front row table seating, select wine and hors d’oeuvres. Saint Paul’s Church is at 199 Carroll St., in Carroll Gardens.

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Oratory’s Vespers Series Focuses on Isaiah 40

The Brooklyn Oratory’s annual Advent Vespers 2014 also focuses on caregiving.

Each Advent, the Brooklyn Oratory brings in clergy and lay leaders from the community and other faith-based and social service organizations to speak at the Vespers (evening sung prayer service) series. Advent is the four-week period of time in the Christian liturgical calendar that leads to Christmas, but that also anticipates the consummation of the Kingdom of God.

This year’s theme is the Scripture passage from Isaiah 40:11, which reads, “Like a shepherd, he feeds his flock: in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom and leading the ewes with care.”  

The services begin at 4 p.m. in the Oratory Church, at Duffield Street, just north of Willoughby Street, in MetroTech.

This year’s presenters are: Pam Keating, Oratory member, community writer, etymologist (first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 30); the Rev. Nadine Hundertmark, interim pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn Heights (Advent 2, Dec. 7); Roger Knight of the Oratory community and board member, Nazareth Housing (Advent 3, Dec. 14); and Richard Adams of the Oratory community, “outside the walls,” computer design consultant (Advent 4, Dec. 21).

Sunday, Nov. 30 also marks the annual AIDS Vespers and there will be a reception in Newman Hall immediately thereafter.

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Faith-Based Outreach

Giving Drives for Coats, Meals Continue through Holidays

Catholic Charities Distributes Turkeys to Families of Brooklyn, Queens

St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church has expanded its fall outreach focus.

The parish supports the New York Cares Coat Drive, which continues through Sunday, Nov. 30. Donations of warm coats, in good condition, can be placed in containers in the narthex (church entrance) and parish hall anytime the church is open, including Sunday mornings and Tuesdays through Thursdays. Call the church for the weekday times at 718-875-6960.

Moreover, parishioners donated nonperishable items for a Thanksgiving delivery to Christian Help in Park Slope (CHiPS). The CHiPS program includes a soup kitchen, which serves a meal to up to 250 women and men daily. St. Ann’s donation will be used for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner and future meals for neighbors in need.

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The staff members and volunteers of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ) distributed 250 Thanksgiving meals to families and individuals last week at its two main community centers in downtown Brooklyn and Astoria.

Through funds donated by the TJX Foundation, which operates T.J. Maxx stores, and through a partnership with Fairway Markets, CCBQ was able to provide 200 12-14-pound turkeys. The turkeys were distributed evenly to Catholic Charities’ community centers in Brooklyn and Queens for families and individuals to pick up. The additional 50 turkeys were donated by the Knights of Columbus of the Immaculate Conception parish in Astoria, N.Y.

The turkey dinner fixings, provided by the Catholic Charities Food Pantry Network, included fresh potatoes, instant stuffing, gravy, corn muffin mix and cranberry sauce.

Volunteers included individuals, students from St. Francis College and clients from Catholic Charities Long Island City Day Habilitation Program. The volunteers, as well as CCBQ staff from the community centers, were on hand to help package the turkey meals and distribute them.

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens was chosen by the TJX Foundation as the “Charity of Choice” for the newly opened T.J. Maxx store in Glendale, N.Y. At the ribbon-cutting, CCBQ was handed a check for $5,000 to purchase these Thanksgiving meals.

CCBQ operates a network of 20 food pantries in Brooklyn and Queens providing food assistance to many families and individuals in need. Last year, the agency’s pantries helped distribute more than 1 million meals to over 115,000 people. On Monday, the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens food pantry network was also chosen to help distribute the 300,000 pounds of donated food from Goya Foods.

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The CCBQ Junior Board, formed out of the Catholic Alumni Networking Reception (CANR)/Young Professionals for CCBQ, is hosting its first-ever Holiday Gift Reception. During the holiday season, Catholic Charities experiences an increase in the number of families visiting its Community Centers seeking assistance for holiday gifts, food and more. This reception serves to raise money and gifts for these families in need. All are welcome to attend. Admission is a $35 donation or $35 gift card. One hundred percent of all funds and gift cards raised will go directly toward the Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens holiday drive for children and families in need this Christmas season.

The Gift Reception takes place in Manhattan on Wednesday, Dec. 3. Register at, or email [email protected].

The CANR/Young Professionals for CCBQ are friends who believe in the mission of Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens. This group, soon to be called the CCBQ Junior Board, introduces young professionals to the work of Catholic Charities through social gatherings, volunteer opportunities, faith-based events and philanthropic support. The CCBQ Junior Board will help cultivate the next generation of leaders committed to Catholic Charities, serving thousands in need in community.





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