Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn For Feb. 23

February 23, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio blesses and lights the torches to be used in processions throughout Brooklyn on Dec. 12, 2015, in celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexican-Americans. The festivities began with dancing in the plaza outside the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Prospect Heights. Eagle file photo by Francesca N. Tate
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Brooklyn’s Clergy Leaders Issue Statements on Immigration Reform, Just Days Before Deportation Orders Expand

The leader of Brooklyn’s Roman Catholic Diocese which has a strong immigrant population has spoken out about immigration reform under President Donald J. Trump’s administration. He did so just days before the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday released an even wider set of rules on deportations, to include anyone convicted of any kind of fraud, including recipients of public benefits, and of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. up to the past two years. This latest order, report Ron Nixon and Michael D. Shear in a New York Times story that broke on Tuesday, Feb. 21, “brings a major shift in the way the agency enforces the nation’s immigration laws.”

The Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio shared his column, named “Put Out Into the Deep,” with a readership that extends beyond the diocesan community. Bishop DiMarzio wrote about several aspects of immigration reform now facing the U.S. in the Feb. 15 edition of The Tablet diocesan newspaper.

Bishop DiMarzio, a longstanding advocate for immigrants, wrote about President Trump’s proposed border wall, his recent executive order temporarily banning travel to the U.S. from several primarily Muslim countries, and the administration’s talk about defunding sanctuary cities. While Bishop DiMarzio acknowledged the country’s right to defend its borders, he calls some current approaches to security “ill-advised” and an “overreaction.” In his column, he also points out some long-neglected aspects of immigration law that say “workers who overstay their time in the United States have had a legal way of regularizing their status. This has been built into the law from the very beginning, recognizing that most people come to the United States to work and to contribute, which is being forgotten in the debates of today,” he wrote.

He points out, “The Center for Migration Studies estimates that, in 2014, there were 574,542 unauthorized immigrants in New York, the majority of whom are working to maintain our restaurants and construction sites.”

A native of New Jersey and the grandson of immigrants from southern Italy, Bishop DiMarzio, was installed as the seventh bishop of Brooklyn in October 2003. Almost immediately upon becoming the bishop of Brooklyn — itself rich in the contributions of immigrants — he spoke at the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride Rally at Flushing Meadows Park. A month later, in November 2003, DiMarzio spoke before Brooklyn’s Muslim community at a Ramadan celebration and attended the Fifth World Congress of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People in Rome.

Bishop DiMarzio is chairman of the board of the Center for Migration Studies and the board of the Migration Policy Institute. He is a former member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He previously chaired the boards of the Migration Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), as well the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) and Finance Committee of Catholic Relief Services. Currently, he is a member of the boards of CLINIC and the USCCB Migration Committees. From 2003 to 2005, Bishop DiMarzio served as the U.S. representative to the Global Commission on International Migration, inspired by the United Nations, as our nation’s commissioner representative.

Bishop DiMarzio’s column can be found in its entirety at

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Last Wednesday night, the Interfaith Coalition of Brooklyn — a joint effort of East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC) and Our Lady of Refuge Roman Catholic Church — held a silent vigil from at Newkirk Plaza.

Participants holding signs in support of refugees and other immigrants and singing songs. Speakers included Rabbi Matt Carl, Sister Celia Deutsch from Our Lady of Refuge parish, Mike Hipscher, Sally Hipscher, EMJC’s Social Action Chair and Mo Ravzi, founder and director of Council of People’s Organization (COPO). The committee’s joint statement regarding the recent executive Order suspending the entrance of refugees and others from seven countries was distributed at that vigil.

EMJC’s president Toby Sanchez told the Brooklyn Heights Press on Tuesday that her synagogue and Our Lady of Refuge have been doing interfaith work for more than 20 years as a committee. They have expanded and are now called the Interfaith Coalition of Brooklyn.

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Interfaith Statement on Executive Order

Re: Immigrants and Refugees

As concerned Muslim, Catholic and Jewish leaders, we are deeply concerned about the recent executive order, which temporarily restricts travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations. This ban prevents the citizens of those countries who have already undergone a rigorous vetting process before coming to the U.S. and in some instances, from returning to the country they call home for at least 90 days. At the time of the writing of this statement, the executive order is being reviewed in the courts.  However, this unilateral measure has created profound confusion, anxiety, and fear among many people in the US and among our allies abroad. We are proud to stand with our clerical and lay leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the (Jewish) Conservative Movement, and the Islamic Society of North America.

In concern for the people of our country and those who are seeking entry, we stand with the courts, and other government institutions to protect all from unconstitutional discrimination, religious bigotry, and oppression. We believe that creating a safe America does not need to be at the expense of fundamental American values. We need and depend on all of our allies who have been on the front lines, working with us to put an end to terrorism. Many Muslims in many nations share our mission to stop violent extremists. They are often the victims of this violence.

America’s long democratic history proves that admitting peoples of different cultures and religious traditions strengthens us. Maintaining rule of law and security while welcoming newcomers does work. As a country of immigrants, diversity is our strength.

We call on all political leaders and media outlets to be responsible and not to shy away from voicing the concerns of many in our country during this critical time. Inspired by our religious traditions that instruct us to welcome the stranger and receive the vulnerable with kindness, we stand together as Christians, Jews and Muslims to resist an agenda of hate, corruption and injustice. We work to promote peace, friendship, and understanding. We will not stand idly by, nor be silent in the face of this injustice.

Signers included Father Michael Perry, pastor of Our Lady of Refuge RC Church, Brooklyn; Rabbi Matt Carl of the East Midwood Jewish Center; Sr. Celia Deutsch, Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, Our Lady of Refuge Church; Sally Hipscher, East Midwood Jewish Center; and Fetullah Onal.

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Panel Will Examine Growing Wave of Anti-Semitism Worldwide

As Purim approaches, must the Jewish community still be concerned about the New/Old Anti-Semitism?

Join Congregation Mount Sinai on March 8 to address these concerns with a panel of speakers.

The recent presidential campaign unleashed a nativism in the heartland not seen since the “America First” movement of the 1930s. The rise of the Alt-Right, closely associated with presidential adviser Steve Bannon, has loosed a wave of anti-Semitic attacks. Even as President Trump on Tuesday condemned anti-Semitism, the wider international community, particularly Europe, is also facing the growth of far-right nationalism not seen since the 1930s. Combined with persistent attacks on the press, attempts to close the U.S. borders to refugees and immigrants, and the Jewish community has much to be concerned with.

Congregation Mount Sinai invites the community to a discussion addressing these concerns, including the rise of anti-Semitism on college campuses, and attempts to close the borders to refugees.

Panelists include Seffi Kogen, assistant director of campus affairs, American Jewish Committee; New York Times reporter Joseph Goldstein; Evan Bernstein, New York regional director, Anti-Defamation League; and Lourdes M. Rosado, bureau chief, Civil Rights Bureau, NYS Office of the Attorney General.

This forum takes place on Wednesday, March 8 at Congregation Mount Sinai, 250 Cadman Plaza West. A 6 p.m. dinner precedes the forum. RSVP deadline for the dinner is Friday, March 3. Dinner and Program: $25 per person; program only: $10 per person Reservations must be paid prior to the dinner.

A vegetarian meal is also available upon request. For more information, contact Congregation Mount Sinai at 718-875-9124.

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Vanderbilt Seminary Scholar Leads Talk on Gender, Racial Justice

The Reverend Dr. Emilie Townes, dean of the Vanderbilt Divinity School, will hold a workshop on “The Power of Love in Hard Times Like These: Conversations on Gender and Racial Justice,” at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights.

This program, which will be the first such Feminist Scholar in Residence workshop, is a project of Grace Church’s Gender Equity in Word and Deed Committee and The Mercer School of Theology. The Mercer School is a center for theological education and ministry training for the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, which includes Brooklyn.

Dr. Townes’ broad areas of expertise include Christian ethics, cultural theory and studies, postmodernism and social postmodernism. She has been a pioneering scholar in womanist theology, a field of studies in which the historic and current insights of African-American women are brought into critical engagement with the traditions of Christian theology. Townes has a strong interest in thinking critically about womanist perspectives on issues such as health care, economic justice, poetry and literary theory.

“For several years, the Gender Equity in Word and Deed Committee at Grace Church Brooklyn Heights has focused on gender issues,” says Dexter Guerrieri, chair of Grace Church’s Gender Equity in Word and Deed Committee. “Out of a concern that many people, especially our children, still think that God is male, we examined the gender references in the Nicene Creed and led a seminar to discuss Gender and the Nicene Creed by Rev. Elizabeth Geitz. She argues that a return to tradition — and to several traditional texts, beginning with the original Greek version of the Creed itself — “Support a gender-inclusive theology of the Trinity.”

Guerrieri adds, “Given the current political climate, our goal is to elevate the level of discourse and open dialogue with the community about the biases of sexism and racism of which we may not be aware. We want to learn how Womanist theology offers insights into how and what we think and believe. Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, whose expertise bridges these topics, asks us to join a respectful conversation on gender and racial justice.”

The goal of this scholar-in-residence program will be to explore the ways in which people can generate generous and kind communication on the challenge of recognizing and overcoming gender and racial discrimination in the U.S.

The program takes place on Saturday, March 18, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. While the event is free, reservations are necessary via Registrants can also pre-order a $20 buffet lunch, if desired. For more information, send an email to [email protected]. Grace Church is at 254 Hicks Street.

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NYPD Honors Beloved Chaplain for Half-Century of Service

Rabbi Alvin Kass is Longest-Serving Chaplain in Department’s History

Members of the East Midwood Jewish Center joined at least 500 others at One Police Plaza recently to honor the synagogue’s beloved rabbi emeritus, Dr. Rabbi Alvin Kass, the legendary chief chaplain of the NYPD, on his 50 years of service.

The longest-serving chaplain in the history of the department, Rabbi Kass is the first to become a three star chaplain and is only the third Jewish chaplain. Kass, 80, also served the East Midwood Jewish Center for three decades until his retirement a few years ago.

The NYPD has Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and Muslim chaplains; but each chaplain serves all the police. The job is to keep the police healthy, strong and on an even keel, despite hardships and difficult situations. The NYPD chaplaincy has been considered the model for the rest of the country.

Rabbi Kass also serves as the chaplain of the New York office of the FBI and the New York Field Region of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In his long career he has served seven mayors and 16 police commissioners. The event was widely reported and elicited an editorial in the New York Daily News, headlined “The soul of the NYPD: A rabbi for the ages.” 

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Workshops on ‘Positive Discipline’ Geared to Parents of Teens

Growing pains are tough on parents as well as on teens and ’tweens.

First Presbyterian Church on Henry Street offers a series for the parents of teenagers and youths in their pre-teen years.

Teens are doing developmentally necessary work to become adults, which can be an arduous experience for the parent(s) too. Participants will learn how to support their teen’s growth and transformation and how to solve everyday challenges, develop respectful relationships and find solutions that are right for one’s family.

Positive Discipline classes provide parents with non-punitive methods to encourage and empower children, and to help them develop important life skills.

Leading the series is Mary Lynn Fiske, a positive discipline parent educator and a positive discipline classroom educator.  

This class will convene at 12:30 p.m. Sundays: March 5, 12, 19, 26; and April 2, 23 and 30, breaking for Palm Sunday and Easter.

There is a $50 materials fee that includes handouts, and the book “Positive Discipline for Teenagers.” Register by contacting Mary Lynn Fiske via email: [email protected].

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NightShul Series Tackles How Biblical Leaders Learned from Their Mistakes

The East Midwood Jewish Center’s popular NightShul 2017 Adult Learning Series has kicked off with “Leadership Lessons from Moses and Other Biblical Heroes.”

Dr. Linda Friedman and Dr. Hershey Friedman will teach this three-class series with a timely focus on moral character and leadership.

The syllabus: Unlike many historical documents, the Bible does not cover up mistakes or wrongdoing. This makes it extremely valuable for teaching moral character and leadership. Lessons learned from mistakes often provide a more lasting and powerful impact than those learned from doing things right. Also, it is difficult to learn a lesson from the lives of perfect people. The Bible demonstrates that even great people make mistakes. Participants will examine the mistakes made by some of the greatest Biblical greatest leaders, among them Jacob, Judah, Joseph, Moses, Saul, David, Solomon, Mordecai and Esther to see what can be gleaned from them.

EMJC President Toby Sanchez says “Husband-and-wife duo Dr. Linda Friedman and Dr. Hershey Friedman are two of our most popular lecturers. This new series is extremely timely and a great way to meet people in the community and discuss faith and cultural history in a safe space.”

The Heights Press learned about this program after the opening lecture. However, individual classes ($15) are still open in this series that runs Feb. 23.

All NightShul admission includes wine and cheese social hours starting at 7 p.m. The 90 minutes of learning begins at 8 p.m.

Supporting Nightshul are generous gifts from the Astoria Bank, Sherman’s Flatbush Memorial Chapel and Presser’s Bake Shop. NightShul is one of the many religious, educational and recreational programs offered by the East Midwood Jewish Center, an egalitarian, inclusive Conservative congregation which is open to all. For more information, visit or call 718­338­3800. 

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‘Resetting the Table’ Dialogue Series Fosters Talks on Difficult Israeli Issues

Several Brooklyn Jewish organizations will be participating in an innovative new dialogue series that began on Feb. 15

Resetting the Table, a nationally successful Jewish Council for Public Affairs program which helps Jews discuss controversial issues about Israel together, will host this first-of-its-kind education and dialogue series.

This four-part series (running until April 25) begins with an opening workshop in which participants from a variety of Brooklyn organizations, will share experiences and views with one another, bring their differences to the surface, and practice communication skills for engaging constructively across these different perspectives.

For more information or to sign up, please contact Rabbi Seth Wax at 718-875-9125 or [email protected].

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