Brooklyn Boro

Faith In Brooklyn for April 24

April 24, 2018 By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Daniel Rodriguez, beloved as “America’s Tenor,” gave a free concert for healing at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Park Slope last Sunday. Eagle photo by Francesca N. Tate

America’s Tenor, Daniel Rodriguez, Gives Concert for Healing in Park Slope

Host Church Is One Block Away from Where Pregnant Mom And Two Children Were Killed While Crossing Street

Tenor Daniel Rodriguez is often called “The Voice that Helped Heal the Nation.” Last weekend, he gave concerts in Brooklyn, including one for healing on Sunday at St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, just a block from where a pregnant woman and two children were killed last month by a driver whose vehicle ran a red light and plowed into them.

The Brooklyn-born Rodriguez, who began formal voice training early in his life, became known as “the Singing Policeman” after joining the NYPD at age 30.

But he gained national acclaim — and found his calling — in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

Rodriguez was driving to work when the first plane hit Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. He arrived at the site as a first-responder and witnessed the destruction of both towers, almost losing his own life. But he survived and brought to the nation an uplifting spirit of promise and hope with his stirring rendition of “God Bless America” after the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack.

Rodriguez has since retired from the NYPD, but he has a full concert schedule. His website shows that he sang on April 21 at the 80th anniversary gala of Fontbonne Hall Academy, a Catholic girl’s high school in Bay Ridge, the Brooklyn neighborhood where he lived for many years before moving to California. He did the St. Thomas Aquinas concert the next afternoon. Rodriguez is also scheduled to sing at a diocesan Futures in Education Dinner this autumn.

The free concert at St. Thomas Aquinas Church featured Daniel Rodriguez & Friends: his wife, soprano Marla Kavanaugh of the Highland Divas; their longtime friend Angela Sbano, who is music leader at this parish; their accompanist Cesar Reyes; and tenor Frank Rendo. Together and as soloists, they presented devotional favorites such as the Bach/Gounod setting of the “Ave Maria” and the Andrew Hay Malotte setting of the “Lord’s Prayer,” and works from two of his CD albums that were for sale. They received repeated standing ovations.

Angela Sbano explained that St. Thomas Aquinas Church had opened the doors to the families that marched last month to demand safety for pedestrians along the Ninth Street and Fourth Avenue corridors. Statistics show this intersection has seen 10 traffic injuries since 2014, and five pedestrians have been hit by drivers since 2003.

Brooklynites who missed this concert will still have a chance to hear Rodriguez live. He and Rendo will perform on Friday, May 4 at Our Lady of Grace Church on Avenue W in Gravesend. Tickets for that concert at $20 can be obtained by calling 718-627-2020.

* * * 

Two Heights Congregations Forge Interfaith Covenant for Social Justice

Joy was evident at Sunday’s interfaith service at First Presbyterian Church. Members of the combined choir sang a traditional “Lubavitcher” niggun (wordless melody) and then started dancing around the aisles of the church.

The two congregations have worshiped together before, such as at their joint Martin Luther King weekend observance. They now want to do more programming together, particularly on social justice issues.

First Presbyterian Church’s Pastor Adriene Thorne said after the service that “the core of Reform Judaism, and the core of what First Presbyterian Church does, is social justice.”

Rabbi Serge Lippe, senior rabbi at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue told INBrooklyn there will be more programming, including members of each congregation’s choir volunteering together at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue’s homeless shelter.

During the service that also marked Earth Day and its emphasis on stewardship of creation, Pastor Adriene Thorne preached a sermon that emphasized the importance of loving one another within healthy boundaries. While acknowledging the joy that two vibrant congregations bring to the service, Thorne was quick to caution that no congregation is perfect — nobody loves everyone all the time, without conflict. Rather, it is up to each member of a faith community to demonstrate love by respecting one another’s personhood, and by understanding that being loved unconditionally does not give one free license to do whatever they want.

Thorne then asked all who wished to support a covenant between the First Presbyterian Church and the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue to stand and affirm this vocally. Practically the entire gathering did so.

Moreover, this Friday will continue the Interfaith Shabbat. Peter Goldberg of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund will be the guest speaker at the Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m.

A flier for the April 27 interfaith service calls Money Ball “a Costly Injustice.”

It reads, in part: “In the wake of the NYS Legislature’s recent failure to pass bail reform, this important social justice issue continues to command our attention and the support of the Reform Movement.”

Goldberg is founder and executive director of the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund. He will “share insight on money bail’s role in perpetuating race-based inequality including mass incarceration, and provide an update on efforts to bring about meaningful reform.”

* * *

Assemblymember Cymbrowitz Honors Winners Of Holocaust Memorial Creative Arts Contest

Keeping the memory and stories of the Holocaust victims and survivors alive depends on imparting this crucial history lesson to the younger generations. And state Assemblymember Steve Cymbrowitz (D-45) discovered a creative way to do so.

For several years now, Cymbrowitz, who represents parts of Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Manhattan Beach, Gravesend and Brighton Beach, has sponsored the contest with the Manhattan Beach Jewish Center, Holocaust Memorial Committee, Lena Cymbrowitz Foundation and Project Witness.

As speaker after speaker warned that the world must “never forget” the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis, Cymbrowitz honored the student winners on Sunday at Kingsborough Community College. The contest had attracted hundreds of entries from elementary, middle and high schools.

Cymbrowitz told the story of his late parents, Sonia and Sam, Holocaust survivors who met as children in Demblin, Poland and fell in love. Their childhood ended when the Nazis came. “It’s not easy to listen to these stories, but it’s very important that we continue to tell them,” Cymbrowitz said. “With the passage of time, there are fewer and fewer people who bore witness to the Holocaust. The survivors need all of us to carry on their mission and make sure that the Holocaust stays vivid in our hearts and minds. That’s why it’s critically important that our children learn about the Holocaust and listen to survivors’ stories whenever possible.”

Cymbrowitz referenced a recent study commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, which found that about 40 percent of Americans ages 18 to 35 are unaware of how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust. This, coupled with an unprecedented 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide in 2017, underscores “just how important Holocaust education really is,” he said.

The ceremony featured remarks by Holocaust survivor Jehuda Lindenblatt, Kingsborough Community College Interim President Peter M. Cohen and Brooklyn College President Michelle J. Anderson. Cohen spoke about the projects made possible by Cymbrowitz’s funding and Anderson talked about Brooklyn College’s Stand Against Hate program, which sponsors events across many genres to promote understanding among diverse communities.

In commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Cymbrowitz presented Assembly Resolutions to Cohen and Anderson as well as Marisa Hollywood, assistant director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College, which each year loans a multi-media exhibit to the ceremony. This year’s exhibit was entitled “Cruel Correspondence: Anti-Semitic Postcards 1895-1930.” Met Council provided a photographic display of Holocaust survivors creating pottery.

During the ceremony, the lawmaker announced that he was able to provide $700,000 in state funds that will quadruple the size of Kingsborough’s existing Holocaust Center and create a new Intercultural and Student Center. These facilities will be accessible to the college and community for programming and research.