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Faith In Brooklyn for December 19

December 19, 2017 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Judge Ellen Spodek gave Rabbi Hanniel Levenson an official welcome as the new spiritual leader of Congregation Mount Sinai. Eagle photo by Francesca N. Tate
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Congregation Mount Sinai celebrates quadruple joys

Hanukkah marks the victory of the Maccabean army over the Seleucid Empire (Hellenistic forces), the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, and the miracle in which a small amount of oil lasted eight days. But in Brooklyn, this year’s Hanukkah party brought additional reasons to celebrate.

The much-beloved Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, who was senior rabbi Congregation Mount Sinai for 42 years until he retired in 2013, marked his birthday surrounded by friends from the synagogue. (Rabbi Potasnik continues to be active in other areas of civic life.)

Also celebrating her birthday was the Hon. Ellen Spodek, synagogue president and a New York State Supreme Court justice. She and Hanukkah brunch co-chair Barbara Esposito invested significant time, energy and resources into this successful event that also officially welcomed Rabbi Hanniel Levenson as the new spiritual leader of Congregation Mount Sinai. Rabbi Levenson, who arrived at Congregation Mount Sinai last summer, has already introduced well-received innovative approaches to worship and Jewish spirituality.

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

There was only one Kvetch—and this was the name of the musical ensemble that played lively klezmer and haunting Ladino melodies. Congregant Andrea Urest founded the group; her Kvetch colleagues include Steve Wishnia on bass guitar, Marilyn Gold on accordion and Peter Kowalski on percussion and brass. Pointing out that an increasing number of women play tenor sax, Urest said she chose this to complement her other instrument, the flute.

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Beloved Heights tree-Lighting tradition now in 67th year, brings joy into the cold

Community members braved frigid, windy weather last Wednesday, Dec. 13, to continue a 67-year-old tradition, the lighting of the Christmas tree at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

Among the first to arrive were singers from the Grace and Spiritus Chorale, who serenaded the crowd with Christmas carols.

The ceremony, held each year at the Montague Street entrance, dates to the end of World War II, when people no longer had to observe the enforced blackout meant to safeguard convoy ships in the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Each year, a child from a family with multigenerational Brooklyn roots gets the opportunity to light the tree. Four-year-old Xavier Akinmusuru is the fifth generation of a Brooklyn Heights family, starting here with maternal great-great-grandparents Nellie and William Sullivan, who lived at 45 Willow Place, raising six children there in the early 1900s. Paternal great-great-grandfather Ramon Montero came to America in 1916 from Spain, opening The Long Island Restaurant and Montero’s on Atlantic Avenue, still enjoyed by Brooklynites today.

Helping make this tradition possible were the NYC Parks Department employees, who donated their skill and time to install safely and correctly the 25-foot tree, its lights and the Brooklyn Heights Garden Club, founded 77 years ago, whose coordinator is Amerika Williamson.

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Another Beloved Tradition: First Unitarian Congregational Society’s candlelight service

Another longstanding Brooklyn Heights tradition is the music-filled 5 p.m. Candlelight Service at the First Unitarian Congregational Society. The service is a beloved part of the congregation’s liturgical calendar, welcoming visitors from all over New York City.

This year, music director Adam Podd and Senior Minister the Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons will present a varied program of music and spoken word. Podd will draw from a range of contemporary and classical music from around the world.

The service will feature the First Unitarian Choir and soloists, with accompaniment from the church’s historic Mann & Trupiano pipe organ, piano and a string quartet of New York’s finest musicians.

Highlights will include portions from Schiassi’s “Christmas Symphony,” a choral setting of the Nigerian carol “Betelehemu” and an original new arrangement of “Cantique de Noel” (“O Holy Night”), featuring tenor Brandon Hornsby-Selvin with choir and strings. The Rev. Ana Levy-Lyons, First Unitarian’s senior minister, will offer a Christmas homily with lessons and readings of the season. The service will conclude with a choral postlude, tapping into the gospel music tradition.

The service will take place in the congregation’s historic 1844 Gothic Revival Sanctuary on the corner of Pierrepont Street and Monroe Place in Brooklyn Heights.  The sanctuary is famed for its original Tiffany windows and angel mosaic.

One hour earlier, at 4 p.m., a family service featuring familiar carols and stories of the season has become a highlight for families with younger children. Leading this service will be Meagan Henry, First Unitarian’s director of education and family ministry. It takes place in the McKinney Chapel adjacent to the Sanctuary building.

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New Year’s Eve jazz vespers welcomes back Antonio Hart

Antonio Hart returns to Emmanuel Baptist Church Jazz Vespers, after a two-year hiatus, to ring in 2018 in a jazzy spirit.

The Clinton Hill church’s popular New Year’s Eve Jazz Vesper begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 31, and features Antonio Hart & His Ensemble. A $20 donation is requested. Emmanuel Baptist Church is at 279 Lafayette Ave., near St. James Place.

For more information, call 718-622-1107.


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