Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Feb. 26

March 2, 2015 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This depiction of the First Station of the Cross, titled “Jesus Condemned — Station 1” is created in mixed media. Artwork courtesy of Joseph Anastasi
Share this:

Lenten Art Exhibit Gives Fresh Take On Stations of the Cross Devotional

The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew in Clinton Hill opened a new exhibit as Lent began last Wednesday, Feb. 18.

The parish, which gained international renown for its work with Superstorm Sandy relief work, invited 14 Brooklyn artists to contribute innovative works for a “Stations of the Cross” exhibit. The tradition of walking the 14 stations of the cross, which portray the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion, is an ancient Christian devotional practice; this exhibit brings a new level of artistic expression to the experience.

“This project resurrects a connection between the church as patron of the arts and the artists as instruments of bringing the litany to the lay population,” said Anders Knuttson, the exhibit’s curator.

The participating artists represent broad ethnic and religious backgrounds, including Buddhists, Catholics, Jews and Agnostics. Each artist was given free rein to create his or her individual interpretation of a selected moment of Jesus’ last journey.

The art reflects an array of styles, including traditional illustrative depiction, found object assemblage, non-objective abstraction and color-field interpretations. The participating artists are Pamella Allen, Audrey Anastasi, Joseph Anastasi, C. Bangs, Willie Mae Brown, Anders Knutsson, Franz Lanspersky, Sylvia Maier, Otto Neals, Donovan Nelson, Anne Peabody, Danny Simmons, Andrea Spiros and Lawrence Terry.

The stations will be open for viewing and meditation at St. Luke and St. Matthew Church, at 520 Clinton Ave., until April 16. The exhibit will embark on a five-city tour in July.

The Episcopal Church of St. Luke and St. Matthew is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* * *

‘Israel: Talking @ The Movies’ Examines Jewish Challenges on Identity, Diversity, Responsibility

Each winter, brownstone Brooklyn is treated to at least two Israeli film festivals. The Kane Street Synagogue held its festival in mid-January. And, this week, the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue launched its sixth annual Israel: Talking @ The Movies festival with the theme “Facing Jewish Challenges on Identity, Diversity and Responsibility in Israeli Film.”

One of the films shows unprecedented cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian rescue forces in rendering humanitarian aid.

The next film, to be shown on Thursday, March 5, at 7 p.m., is “The Lab” (directed by Yotam Feldman, 60 minutes). This movie focuses on the Israeli arms industries since 9/11. This film reveals the “Lab,” which has transformed the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank from a burden to a marketable, highly profitable national asset.

“Sounds of Torture,” being shown on Thursday, March 19, at 7 p.m. (directed by Keren Shayo, 58 minutes), deals with the Eritrean refugees fleeing the dictatorial regime of their homeland, via the Egyptian Sinai to Israel. Many are captured on their way by Bedouin kidnappers, who demand high ransoms from their relatives. The film presents harrowing testimony about the current situation of African refugees, a story that many believe the media so far has neglected to tell.

The closing film is “Fire Lines,” being shown on Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m. (directed by David Viola and Avi Goldstein, 42 minutes).

“Fire Lines” tells the story of the historic cooperation between firefighters of the Palestinian Civil Defense and the Israel Fire and Rescue Services during the tragic Carmel fire in December 2010. The blaze that began on Mount Carmel and swept through hills around the coastal city of Haifa was the deadliest in Israeli history, claiming 44 lives.

It was also a culturally historic moment, producing un-precedented cooperation be-tween Israeli and Palestinian firefighters. The Carmel Fire of 2010 was also considered to be an exercise in humility for Israel. The country rarely finds itself on the receiving end of international disaster aid. The incongruity was highlighted even further in this instance, because the Palestinians were the ones providing the assistance.

Isaac Zablocki, director of film programs at the Jewish Community Center in New York, will facilitate discussions following each film. Zablocki is also director and a founder of the Israel Film Center, the executive director of the Other Israel Film Festival, and the executive director and a founder of ReelAbilities: New York Disabilities Film Festival.

Admission is $5 per film and $20 for the series for members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue; $10/film, $30/series for non-members. RSVP to [email protected], or call (718) 522-2070 ext. 121.

* * *

Emmanuel Church’s Next Jazz Vespers Launches Women’s History Month

Emmanuel Baptist Church Jazz Vespers will kick off Women’s History Month on Sunday, March 1, with a special performance by vocal powerhouse Vivian Sessoms. The Vespers takes place at its namesake, the historic Emmanuel Baptist Church, 279 Lafayette Ave. in Clinton Hill. The Vespers series presents an eclectic mix of jazz performers who resonate and connect with their audience through a variety of musical styles.  

Sessoms will perform a medley of pieces, including selections that will honor female jazz performers who have been iconic in the genre, in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Vivian Sessoms is a successful and show-stopping solo artist, and has been a featured vocalist, writer and producer for several artists, including Harold Mabern (legendary jazz pianist), Lalah Hathaway, Chris Botti (jazz trumpeter), Eric Benet, Will Downing and Amel Larrieux. She has performed in the U.S. and internationally, as a headliner or special guest, at a number of venues, including Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Blue Note and the Red Cross Gala (at the request of the Prince of Monaco).

The Vespers’ recurrent theme is “Experience the Presence of God Through the Sounds of Jazz.” Currently in its third year, the Jazz Vespers series has built a following of jazz lovers around New York City and Brooklyn, and it continues to secure well-respected musicians who bring an unmistakable feeling of celebration for God and this art form.

For more information on the Jazz Vespers, go to, or call (718) 622-1107.

* * *


Neighboring Synagogues Join Forces, Serving Dinner to Shelter Guests

The women of Congregation B’nai Avraham B’nai Avraham joined Brooklyn Heights Synagogue (BHS) women as they prepared and served dinner to guests of the BHS Homeless Shelter. The chefs also joined the guests for the meal. Shown here, waiting to serve dinner, are B’nai Avraham friends and neighbors Charlotte, Tova and Celia with BHS member and program coordinator Babette Krolik, who spearheaded the event. The dinner, held Wednesday, Feb. 18, brought these two communities of women together in service to others. 

* * *


Haman, Purim and the Deathly Hamantaschen Comes to Brooklyn Heights Synagogue

Purim is a holiday of merriment and parody that celebrates the survival of the Jews through a twist in the plot. This year, the holiday begins on Wednesday, March 4.

The story behind the festival of Purim can be found in the Book of Esther, the fifth of five megilloth (scrolls) that were traditionally read at major Jewish festivals.

The Book of Esther unfolds the story of how its namesake, a young Jewish woman living in Persia, saves her people from evil and cruel extermination at the hands of a key administrator named Haman. Some Biblical scholars believe that the Book of Esther takes place during the Persian Exile; others place it during the Maccabean period.  

Even though the name of the Almighty God is never mentioned, the continued survival of the Jewish people is the major point of this story, which narrates one such instance of deliverance, by Esther and her cousin Mordecai. Queen Esther learns of a plot to assassinate King Ahasuerus and, thus, saves his life. Haman is promoted to be a chief officer in the court and is angry when the other attendants — foremost among them, Mordecai — refuse to bow to him. Haman then plots to kill the people in the king’s realm “whose laws are different from any other people.”

Mordecai learns of the plot and informs Esther, who, after prayer and fasting, courageously asks for an audience with her husband at a time when women — including the queen — stood in his the king’s presence only when summoned. She prepares a banquet to which Haman is invited; then, at the promise that the king will grant her request, Esther petitions for deliverance for her people and exposes Haman’s plan to execute them. And instead of Haman’s being victorious, he is hung on the very gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

Jews celebrate their survival by dressing up as their heroine, Esther, and as Mordecai. They play with noisemakers to drown out the name of the evil Haman. A three-sided pastry filled with apricot or prune preserves is called Hamantaschen. And merrymaking and parody are the order of the day.

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue’s Purim parody, spun off from a wildly popular series, is titled “Haman, Purim and the Deathly Hamantaschen.” The event promises that “pizza and other triangular refreshments will be served.” This Purimspiel begins at 6:30 p.m. on March 4.

* * *

Congregation Mount Sinai (CMS) will host its annual Purim Carnival three days earlier, on Sunday, March 1, from 1 to 4 p.m.

Kids of all ages and families are invited to the CMS Purim Carnival, which will have rides, games, food and Hamantaschen! Tickets are available at the door.

* * *

Lecture Explores the Bond Between San Damiano Crucifix and Franciscans

The Crucifix of San Damiano lies at the heart of the Franciscan Order. It was under that cross when, in the 13th Century, Francis Bernadone (St. Francis of Assisi) had a decisive moment in his conversion experience.

Father André Cirino, OFM, author of “The Cross Was Their Book: Meditations on St. Francis’ Prayer before a Crucifix,” spoke at St. Francis College on Tuesday, Feb. 24 at 4 p.m. in the college’s Maroney Forum for Arts, Culture & Education. He discussed the San Damiano Crucifix and its impact on St. Francis, as well as St. Clare, who spent 41 years meditating before this icon while she lived at San Damiano.

“Because this Crucifix played an important role in both of their lives, we strive to know more about it because it is one of the keys that open their spirituality to us today,” said Father André. “St. Francis heard the message from Christ Jesus, ‘Francis, go and repair my church which is falling into ruin.’ And it launched him on his journey into the heart of God.”

Father André, OFM, is an itinerant preacher whose ministry includes parishes, Franciscan formation, retreats, education, pilgrimages and publications. Father André’s latest writing is “The Cross Was Their Book,” meditations on St. Francis’ Prayer before a Crucifix. He has conducted pilgrimages to Assisi, Italy, Prague, England, Mallorca, France, Germany and the California Missions, and to the shrines of the Saints of the Northeast United States. For more information, see

* * *

Brooklyn Clergy Join Riverside Church’s ‘7 Last Words’ Service for Racial Justice

As the nation continues to be embroiled in debates over racial and criminal justice, The Riverside Church held a service themed “Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks” last Friday, Feb. 20. Being held during Black History Month and the first week of the season of Lent, the service was modeled after Seven Last Words services traditionally held on Good Friday that focus on Jesus’ last words during the crucifixion.

At Riverside, though, “Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks” focused instead on the final words of seven black people killed by police, security personnel, or vigilantes, including Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Renisha McBride.

Statistics report that every 28 hours in America, a black person is shot and killed by police, security personnel, or vigilantes. “Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks” used as its text the words of seven such victims: “Mom, I want to go to college” — Amadou Diallo; “I don’t want to die”  — Shantel Davis; “Don’t shoot” — Michael Brown; “I can’t breathe” — Eric Garner; “I want to go home” — Renisha McBride; “I love you (too)” — Sean Bell; (Scream) — Trayvon Martin.

Among those Brooklyn faith leaders scheduled to speak was author, educator and activist Darnell L. Moore. Joining him were Rev. Traci deVon Blackmon; Rosa A. Clemente; Rev. Nyle Fort; Father Michael L. Pfleger; Rev. Michael A. Walrond, Jr. and Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems.

“If we truly hope to change our communities and combat systemic injustice, the first time we meet each other cannot be in the street in protest after another tragedy,” said Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, Senior Minister of The Riverside Church. “The church has an important role to play in the work of reconciliation by creating spaces where we can hear each other and try to learn from the other.”

The Riverside Church ( is an interracial, interdenominational and international church built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927. The 1,750-member Riverside Church in Morningside Heights has a rich tradition of providing a forum for important civic and spiritual leaders. Past speakers include: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President William J. Clinton, the Dalai Lama, Fidel Castro, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.





Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment