By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
NYC religious leaders voice support For Mayor de Blasio’s pre-K plan
Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens Signs On
By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
From rabbis to pastors to imams to archbishops, hundreds of religious leaders across the city on Thursday expressed their support for New York City’s tax plan to fund universal pre-K and after-school programs.
Thursday morning, 250 religious leaders, many from Brooklyn, released an open letter to Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature on Thursday asking them to back the plan.
At the same time, New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan backed the idea, appearing with the Mayor at the St. Francis of Assisi School in the Bronx to announce that Archdiocese of New York would be partnering with the city on the pre-K rollout. The Archdiocese of Brooklyn and Queens has also signed on.
“The partnership of the Archdiocese will be a crucial part of the equation because they understand full day, high-quality pre-K is the way to go,” Mayor de Blasio said.
“Between the Archdiocese and the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, combined in the first round of proposals that we asked for, from organizations all over the city – the Archdiocese and the Diocese combined have put forward 1,700 potential seats,” he said.
Archbishop Dolan said the church could utilize many schools for pre-K that have closed in recent years for economic reasons.
Among Brooklyn religious leaders signing the letter to the Governor were Rev. Herbert Daughtry, House of the Lord Church; Rabbi Avroham Kahn, COJO of Flatbush; the Reverends Stephen D. Muncie and Julie Hoplamazian, Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights; Rabbi Seth Wax, Congregation Mount Sinai; the Reverends John E. Denaro and Sarah J. Kooperkamp, St. Ann and The Holy Trinity Church; Executive Director Abdulkani Bakubal, Muslim Community Center; Imam Shair Abdul-Mani, Iqra Masjid; Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, JCC of Boro Park; Rabbi Shea Rubenstein, JCC of Marine Park; Rev. Clinton Miller, Brown Memorial Baptist Church; Pastor Richard H. Calhoun Sr., Flatbush Seventh-day Adventist Church; and Rev. Johnny Ray Youngblood, emeritus, St. Paul Community Baptist Church.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also signed on.
In the letter, the religious leaders said that high quality pre-k and after-school programs “level the playing field between low-income children and their higher-income peers, and provide vital economic security to families.”
The signers added that under the proposal, the city’s wealthiest residents would pay a tax equivalent to “the cost of a soy latte a day.” The tax would raise $530 million over the next five years for universal pre-K and after-school programs for middle schoolers.
Mayor de Blasio has been lobbying hard for the proposal, which would tax the city’s highest earners to fund pre-K for 53,767 children who currently receive only part-time pre-K or no pre-K at all.
“We’ve said clearly: we are going to take the resources for pre-K and after school and put them in a lockbox, and use them for those purposes only,” de Blasio said.
The state needs to approve the tax plan, however, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, looking ahead to the November elections, has opposed the idea of any new taxes. He has countered de Blasio’s proposal with his own commitment of $300 million over the next two years to fund pre-school programs.
The city, already burned by unfulfilled education funding promises from Albany, is saying “no thanks.”
“We’ve heard politicians in Albany make promises to expand universal pre-k for more than fifteen years, but without a stable funding source, that promise has been broken time and again,” the religious leaders said in their letter.
On Tuesday, while Mayor de Blasio and supporters lobbied in Albany for the pre-K funding plan, Gov. Cuomo chose instead to cheer on charter school supporters rallying for their free rent deal inside the city’s traditional public schools.
The disruption that often ensues following the co-location of charter schools into traditional city school buildings has prompted the Mayor to recently put the brakes on a small number – 3 out of 17-- of previously-approved charter co-locations, angering the politically-connected head of the Success Academy network, Eva Moskowitz.
Moskowitz let thousands of Success students at her 22 schools play hooky on Thursday, so they and their parents could be bused to the capital to rally for her network.
On Saturday, the Mayor and Reverend Al Sharpton will rally with members of the clergy, officials and others for the National Action Network (NAN)’s UPK Day.
More about the Universal pre-K plan at http://upknyc.org
* * *
Brooklyn’s Bishop DiMarzio Joins Labor Groups Urging Passage of Education Tax Credit in State Budget
Major New York City labor leaders, representing more than 255,000 working men and women, united with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn; Timothy Cardinal Dolan, of the Archdiocese of New York, other faith leaders, business, students and parents. Together, they urged Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to approve, as part of the new state budget, a bill that would increase charitable donations to public schools and scholarships for low-income and working family students looking to attend parochial and other private schools.
Joining Cardinal Dolan and Bishop DiMarzio at Monday’s news conference, held at Cathedral High School in Manhattan, were 32BJ/SEIU, New York Police Department Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick J. Lynch; Steve Cassidy, president of the FNDY Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York; Agudath Israel of American Vice President Rabbi Yehiel M. Kalish, retired Brooklyn business and community leader Robert Catell, students, parents, community leaders and many other business and labor leaders.
Brooklyn’s Bishop DiMarzio said, “The Education Investment Tax Credit is the top priority of the New York State Bishops this year, for a simple reason: If a child cannot access a quality education, whether in a public, religious or charter school, than he or she will not succeed in life. The evidence of this is clear. Good schools lift children out of poverty, and give them a chance. It is time to stop playing politics with the families of our state, and time to pass this necessary bill. I am very grateful for the courage of so many of our union leaders for standing up for their members who have children in non-public schools.”
“The time to pass this bill is now,” Cardinal Dolan said. “With the support of so many of our state’s great labor unions and business leaders, and so many of my brothers and sisters in ministry, I think we have a great chance to do so.”
Also reinforcing these points were the PBA’s Patrick Lynch; Hector Figueroa, president of the 32BJ/SEIU, the nation’s largest property service workers union with more than 145,000 members, including 75,000 in New York City; and Tom Mungeer, President, NYS Troopers PBA, which represents 6,000 active and retired State Troopers.
The Education Investment Tax Credit will increase funds in two areas critical to our state’s educational future – donations to public schools, school districts and teacher-driven projects; and scholarships to help low- and middle-income students attend religious and other tuition-based schools. The total increase on donations from this bill would grow to $300 million per year, divided evenly between public school needs and scholarships for students to attend parochial or other private schools.
The bill is being advanced in the wake of education budget cuts and as family economic pressures have led to closures of Catholic and other parochial schools around the state. In 2012, the Senate passed the bill 55-4 in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote. The Assembly version is co-sponsored by two-thirds of the members and a majority of Democrats and Republicans, including leaders of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.
The bill, if passed, would create a new tax credit would be created for those who make a charitable donation for educational purposes. New York State already provides tax credits for many other purposes, including film and TV production, job creation, economic development and domestic beer brewing.
Low-income and middle-class students would benefit directly from up to $150 million in annual charitable contributions to nonprofit scholarship organizations providing tuition assistance. The new donations for scholarships would make private and parochial education a reality for families seeking new quality educational opportunities and assist those already enrolled who are struggling to afford tuition at schools that best meet their needs. No government funds would flow to private or parochial schools.
More than 55 civic, community, labor, educational, faith and other organizations support the Education Investment Tax Credit.
* * *
Clergy Bring Ash Wednesday To DUMBO Archway
Father James King, pastor of Assumption Church, conducted a brief noontime Ash Wednesday service and distributed ashes to people at DUMBO’S Archway last week. Assisting him was Father Paul, representing the area deanery. Assumption Church estimates that about 60-75 people came to receive ashes on their forehead for this observance that begins Lent for Western Rite Christians. Clergy from a growing number of churches around Brooklyn, as well as the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island have made themselves available to Christians who might not otherwise get to church.
* * *
Ushering in Lent with Salsa Dancing and Ashes
Salsa dancing, as a way of understanding one’s humanity, was at the core of First Presbyterian Church’s Ash Wednesday service on March 5.
Leading the service were the Rev. Nadine Hundertmark, Interim Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church and Samantha Gonzalez-Block, Seminary Intern.
Samantha, who has been teaching salsa since she was 15, also recently began teaching this dance style to Jewish and Christian seminary students. “I realized it feels very prayerful for me, and it’s really about this recognition of your body, and your ability to move and your humanity and immortality; and it’s also about the connection to your partner, and your connection to the community that you’re dancing with. It can really uplifts the soul. It’s very prayerful. So we were talking about how we can bring that into worship space. Lent seemed like a very interesting way to do it. Lent is also about recognizing your humanity and mortality, and noticing God in the fragility in your body—which God made.” she told the Brooklyn Eagle at the event.
The Rev. Nadine Hundertmark began the service with a reflection on the significance and spirit of the Lenten season. Speaking of the values that are held and enabled in society, she said, “In our culture…taking what’s not yours, that’s accepted. Domination, that’s okay, denial, complicity in other people’s suffering…retaliation… mindless entertainment, running scared—these are the realities with which we live. But these are not our ways. On Ash Wednesday, we affirm that we have decided to turn from sin and follow Jesus. Because, in giving ourselves away in love, forgiving one another, suffering with one another, serving the poor, trusting in God above all, we find our way.”
Samantha then gathered the worshipers between the pews and pulpit and taught them the foundational steps, and had them partnered. In very little time, the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church was filled with the sound of salsa music from a jazz band. Many of the dancers were partnered with other congregants.
“Dancing is a form of praise, of prayer,” said Samantha. “And it totally belongs in worship space. People will not dance this dance the same way that they did before they came in here. Now they dance it with an awareness. And they won’t even look at each other the same way that they did before, because they’ve built a connection with their partner, they’ve shared a worshipful experience with each other. It’s really about sharing the experience. Grandfathers dancing with granddaughters, for example. It’s not about doing it perfectly. It’s about building connections.”
* * *
Greek Orthodox Church Hosts Book Signing; Author Says an Angel Transformed Her Life
Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church in Midwood will host a Book Signing with author Vassula Ryden.
Ryden, a resident of Athens, Greece, will be available to sign copies of her book, Heaven is Real and So is Hell.
This book unfolds the story of Vassula's amazing journey, which started one day in November of 1985. This experience has propelled her since then on God's mission to reveal to the world what she has discovered is the truth. The conversations she experienced with God aim to bring a clear message for the whole of humanity to return to the path of virtue.
Vassula Ryden was born into a Greek family and raised in Egypt and Switzerland. Later, she married a Swedish man and for over 20 years lived an international life as her husband's career in international development took her to Africa and Asia. Her days were spent entertaining, painting and playing tennis. It was a life of pleasure and without stress.
All of this was to change dramatically in November, 1985, when without any warning her life was turned upside down with the appearance of her Guardian Angel Daniel, bringing a call to devote her life to the service of God.
The Book signing takes place on Tuesday, March 18 at 7 p.m. Three Hierarchs Greek Church is at 1724 Avenue P, Brooklyn, NY 11229, according to the address provided on the church’s website.
* * *
Brooklyn Chapter Organist Gives Recital at St. Ann’s
Organist and educator John A. Wolfe will give an organ recital, featuring the music of Bach, Grigny, Messiaen and Vierne, at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church next Wednesday. The recital is part of the landmark parish’s free Wednesday Organ Concert series.
John A. Wolfe is a New York City-based organist, choral conductor, concert producer and music educator. He is an executive board member of the American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter. He is a winner of the Maynard Walker Organ Award from the Aaron Copland School of Music and a winner of scholarships from the Queens, Nassau and York chapters of the American Guild of Organists.
Wolfe’s performance credits span all five boroughs of New York City and included 137 public performances in 2013, with such highlights as an appearance in the film Fugue for Boxed Wine Productions, the Queens College Baroque Opera Workshop’s production of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea and the Queens College ceremony honoring Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Wolfe has been a featured performer in the Prism Concert Series at Central Synagogue in Manhattan and in T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral at St. Joseph’s Church of Our Lord in Brooklyn, earning favorable reviews in The New York Times and Time Out New York. He has also produced and performed in a series of recitals bringing Baroque chamber music to churches spanning the New York City metropolitan area, as well as a series of recitals featuring organists from across the city celebrating the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. He will present a similar programme at his graduate organ recital on March 22 at All Souls Church in Manhattan.
The recital, which is free and open to the public, is at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church begins at 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday March 12. The church is at the corner of Clinton and Montague streets in Brooklyn Heights.
* * *
The Forum @ St. Ann’s Presents ‘Water and Land’ Exhibit and Talk
St. Ann & Holy Trinity Church hosts exhibition of oil paintings by Andrea Geller, on view in the church sanctuary through April 18.
Titled Water and Land, this exhibition is the first in a series of visual art programs at the church during 2014. It is presented as part of The Forum @ St. Ann’s, which seeks to engage the community in conversation about the arts, ideas and civic life. There will be a reception and artist’s talk on Sunday March 16, from 2-4 p.m. The church is at the corner of Clinton and Montague streets in Brooklyn Heights. All of the works on view are for sale. A portion of the proceeds will benefit future arts programming.
The paintings are from two series that Geller has been developing since 2007, which illustrate a world continuous state of flux. Figures, often isolated from one another or completely alone, find themselves looking into the abyss of an empty landscape or cast off into the depths of the water. Geller has a long standing interest “in the space between people as they move.” The canvases possess an inert energy marked with bold colors and open vistas.
Geller states: “Water has a transformative effect for me that I convey through the gestural figure’s body language. The presence of the figure, and sometimes its absence, also suggests time change. I aim to achieve harmony on the canvas, a reflection of what I strive for in life. Through loose and gestural brushwork and layering of color, the process is also suggestive of movement. The resulting images straddle both the real and the abstract: a direct correlation to duality in life.”
Geller studied painting at Cornell University and earned her BFA from Parsons School of Design. She earned her MFA in painting from William Paterson University. She exhibits her work nationally and is included in numerous collections. Her painting “Floating” was selected by the US Ambassador to Greece to hang in the U.S. Embassy in Athens.
Plymouth Church is embarking on a comprehensive Lenten study that incorporates prayer, reflection, the arts and international outreach. …