Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for Jan. 17

January 17, 2018 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Rabbi Serge Lippe, guest preacher at First Presbyterian Church on Sunday, speaks on “Justice Indivisible.” Eagle photo by Francesca N. Tate
Share this:

Outspoken Brooklyn Heights Clergy Preach About Ongoing Civil Rights Struggles

Rabbi Lippe Preaches on King’s Speech That ‘Laid Bare’ Myths About Racism

The struggle for justice, liberty and to be live as a creation of God were themes forefront in the annual interfaith observance of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday that the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and First Presbyterian Church held last weekend. Even though the slain civil rights leader is honored once annually, the preachers here said that King’s fight is particularly at the forefront today.

Two services, for Friday night Shabbat and Sunday morning worship, filled each sanctuary. Pastor Adriene Thorne and Rabbi Serge Lippe, doing pulpit exchanges, addressed Exodus, Chapters 7-9, from the Hebrew Scriptures; and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March 1968 speech at Grosse Point South High School in Michigan.

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

Thorne’s sermon, titled “Caught Up in the Struggle,” focused on the first few verses of Exodus 7, in which God instructs a reluctant Moses to demand freedom for the Israelites. God tells Moses he will harden the pharaoh’s heart and multiply his signs.

Thorne said, “This is a story of agency and two brothers who are mouthpieces for the holy. This is a story of second chances and third chances and ultimately 10 chances to get it right and let God’s people go. This is a story of plagues and hard hearts and multiple pleas to make another choice. Make another choice, pharaoh. Make another choice, any other choice than the death-dealing, anti-creation choice that puts you on a sure and certain crash course with the God of the universe. Like Moses and Aaron, you too pharaoh, are stamped with the divine imprimatur, the imago dei, the made in the image of God-ness that means this story could end another way. But a poor choice leaves God no choice but to affirm life.

“To upset the societal and ethical order is to upset the creational and cosmic order,” Thorne continued. “It is to be caught up in a struggle that will not end well. Dr. King gave his life to this struggle, speaking truth to the pharaohs of his day. The death-dealing, hard-hearted pharaohs who flouted the rules of the cosmos by failing to live as God created them. There were and are pharaohs who betray the agreements of a just and loving society,” Thorne said, giving examples of Bull Connor and J. Edgar Hoover.

“This struggle the Hebrew people experienced, this struggle Martin and countless others died fighting, this struggle that we are even now resisting, is a struggle for life,” Thorne said. And we are each of us responsible for life, responsible to be mouthpieces for God’s dream, responsible to make better choices that bring us closer to our made in the image of God-ness. The biggest struggle is always the one with ourselves. Do we believe that we too are touched by the holy … able to do the unimaginable?”

Lippe, also speaking on the latest updraft of racial hatred, said on Sunday that King’s Gross Pointe high school speech attracted 2,700, some of them hecklers and civil rights opponents. King proceeded to debunk three myths: that America is no longer a racist country; that King and his allies were acting too quickly: “that, with simple patience, time would be on their side”; and that efforts to change people’s hearts and minds had to precede any civil rights legislation.

“Who would have thought that 50 years after Martin’s assassination that our nation would have slid into this retrograde moment of history?” Lippe exclaimed. “That these myths that Dr. King identified would have crawled out from under their rocks into the bright sunlight. That the president of these United States of America would, without reservation, give voice to ‘the notion that one group has all of the knowledge, all of the insights, all of the purity, all of the work, all of the dignity. And another group is worthless, on a lower level of humanity, inferior.’”

Lippe continued, “The myth that we are a post-racist country has been laid bare. The idea that time and heart-changing are necessary or sufficient for progress has been met a half-century later by efforts to roll back that progress, even by the claims of a candidate for the U.S. Senate that slaves had better and safer lives than African-Americans today.

“Today’s myths are as insidious as the myths Dr. King spoke out against a half-century ago. That justice can exist without expanding legal rights beyond heteronormative men and women. That justice can exist while seeking to ban immigrants from Muslim countries. That justice can exist while favoring the rich and powerful and turning a blind eye to the poor and powerless. That justice can exist when there is one set of rules for winners and another set of rules for losers. That justice can be constituted from something other than the truth. That justice can somehow be divided and unequally applied and still be justice.”

* * *

Plymouth Church Launches Its 2018 Anti-Trafficking Ministry

Plymouth Church, which led the abolitionist movement in New York City and was a site of the Underground Railroad two centuries ago, is now involved fighting to end another kind of slavery.

Plymouth is involved in the anti-trafficking movement. As part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the landmark church will hold a program on protecting women and children and offering refuge and aid to survivors. According to statistics, in 2016, nearly 2500 children were sexually exploited in the five boroughs.  

Plymouth holds its open-to-the-public forum: “In Our Backyard: How to effect change for trafficking survivors in our community.” During the forum, speakers will explain human trafficking in New York City, raise awareness of the signs of human trafficking and tell participants how they can report it. The program, running from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., will include a screening of the film “In Our Backyard,” and a roundtable discussion with the film’s director, a trafficking survivor and leaders from ECPAT USA and Restore NYC. Lt. Christopher Sharpe of NYPD’s Human Trafficking Team will share real-world advice about recognizing and responding to suspected trafficking in the community.

The program’s sponsor is We Are the New Abolitionists, Plymouth’s anti-trafficking ministry. They will continue into 2018 with community service and fundraising projects.  A portion of funds raised from Plymouth’s ongoing thrift shop are donated to a local anti-trafficking organization.  Past activities have included providing fresh clothing and hygiene products for women in Trafficking Court in Queens, creating shopping lists, which include facts about trafficking.

The movie is not recommended for children younger than 16.  Childcare provided for children 12 and under.  RSVP for child care to Julia.

* * *

Popular Brooklyn Israel Festival Returns to Cobble Hill for 14th Year

The Brooklyn Israel Film Festival at Kane Street Synagogue marks its 14th year presenting the best of new Israeli cinema. Aside from its three nights of thought-provoking films, the festival lineup this year begins a new tradition: a fourth film for children.

The festival runs Jan. 25, 27 and 28.

The 2018 films, which reveal diverse facets of Israeli life, include a bold documentary about one of Israel’s most controversial issues; a powerful feature film about history and identity; a poignant feature film that explores the meaning of community; and a family film that will entertain children on Sunday evening while their parents watch the main attraction.

The 2016 festival kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. with “The Settlers” (directed by Shimon Dotan). This courageous film asks tough questions about an issue that divides Jews within Israel and around the world. The film takes us deep inside the world of Jewish settlers in the West Bank, exploring their daily lives, their world views and their position within Israel. Interweaving archival footage with current interviews of settlers, Palestinians, academics and politicians, the film traces the history and growth of the settlements and leaves us with important insights and hard questions about their impact on Israeli society. “The Settlers” is in Hebrew and English with English subtitles.

An opening night reception sponsored by Pride Caterers begins at 7 p.m.

There is no film on Friday night because of the Shabbat observance.

* * *

Landmark Park Slope Synagogue Wins $40K Jewish Heritage Fund Grant

The Park Slope Jewish Center is among a new group of 17 sacred sites being awarded grants from the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

A private nonprofit, the Conservancy has announced 17 Sacred Sites Grants totaling $279,500 awarded to historic religious properties throughout New York state, including a $40,000 Jewish Heritage Fund Grant to Park Slope Jewish Center in Brooklyn for comprehensive exterior restoration, including brick masonry repointing, parapet reconstruction and roof drainage upgrades.

“Religious institutions combine architecture, history, personal and communal memories that help define our localities,” said New York Landmarks Conservancy President Peg Breen. “They are important to preserve for all these reasons, as well as for the cultural and social service programs so many religious buildings house.”

Originally known as Congregation Tifereth Israel, the Park Slope Jewish Center was designed by architect Allen A. Blaustein in an eclectic fashion with Baroque and Romanesque elements.  The three-part facade with high entrance steps is typical of early 20th century vernacular “tenement” synagogues, evoking the massing of 19th-century European synagogues.  The exterior is a simple rectangular structure with a Romanesque motif of rounded arches, a domed skylight over the sanctuary and rose windows at each end of the building.  The sanctuary interior features lovely vernacular murals with sunburst and heavenly blue-sky motifs.

The synagogue houses a community day care center and neighborhood chorus Shir Chadash.  There is an MLK Day of Service that works with synagogue members and others to fill volunteer roles.  Last year, volunteers worked at various local feeding programs, the Prospect Park Conservancy, the Brooklyn Justice Center and Dress for Success.  The synagogue serves as a meeting center for Get Organized Brooklyn, a political awareness organization founded in part by local City Council Member Brad Lander.  Combined, these activities serve 7,250 people in the community.

Since 2010 the Jewish Heritage Fund has pledged 20 challenge grants totaling $710,000 to 19 synagogues in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens, helping fund $6.5 million in restoration projects, and leveraging more than $14 million in total project expenditure.  The Jewish Heritage Fund safeguards these endangered buildings by providing challenge grants from $25,000 to $75,000 to fund major repairs and restoration.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy has led the effort to preserve and protect New York City’s architectural legacy for more than 40 years. Since its founding, the Conservancy has loaned and granted more than $50 million.

On Saturday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m., the festival continues with “The Testament,” (directed by Amichai Greenberg), a feature film that juxtaposes a historical account of a brutal incident that may have taken place during the Holocaust with a contemporary tale about Jewish identity. Yoel, an Orthodox Israeli and a historian, is investigating a massacre that may have occurred in Austria during the Holocaust. In the process, he uncovers a long-buried secret that could turn his world upside down and destroy his family. Is he willing to risk everything to learn the truth?  This film is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The 14th annual Brooklyn Israel Film Festival concludes on Sunday, Jan. 28 at 5:30 p.m. with a pair of films for adults and children. While the beautiful feature film “A Quiet Heart” (directed by Eitan Anner) is screened in the main venue, the family musical “Guavas” (directed by Kobi Machat) will be shown upstairs for kids ages 5-10.

“A Quiet Heart”: A small apartment in Jerusalem is a refuge for a young woman seeking solitude and anonymity. Her love of music brings unexpected friendships with a gifted young ultra-Orthodox boy in her building and with a charismatic Italian monk and organist. But her secular lifestyle makes her a target in her new community. Both these films are in Hebrew with English subtitles.

“Guavas”: A girl named Billi moves to an unusual town where people and puppets live in harmony and learn a valuable lesson about working together to fight for things that matter. This film is appropriate for ages 5-10.

Tickets are $16 for each night or $36 for the full series of three films. A special Sunday $25 family ticket includes one adult ticket to “A Quiet Heart” and one child ticket to “Guavas” plus a slice of pizza.  Online ticketing is now open; tickets can also be purchased at the door. For more information about the festival, go to or 


Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment