By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Franciscan Friar Ordained to Priesthood Will Serve in Latin and Maronite Rites
Contributed by Leila Vogl and Salma Vahdat: Parishioners, Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral
Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral was filled on Sunday, May 18, as Brother Youssef Mariam Hanna CFR was ordained to the priesthood. Br. Youssef is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, which is a Latin Rite (Roman Catholic) order. He will serve as a bi-ritual priest, meaning that he will celebrate Mass in both the Latin and Maronite Rites. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal is a missionary order. Br. Youssef will be on a mission to Lebanon this summer.
During the May 18 liturgy, two choirs sang: the Cathedral Choir and an ensemble of friars and women religious. Father Youssef Mariam administered Communion after the ordination rite. During a reception after the service, the guests were invited to greet the new priest and to kiss his hands, which would bestow special blessings on those who did so. The new priest also gave the blessing at the meal. He was scheduled to celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, May 25.
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Rhonda Epstein Prepares To Take Helm at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue
URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs Also Served Heights Synagogue
Rhonda Epstein has been elected as the new president of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.
This month, Epstein joined 100 other presidents and presidents-elect from Reform congregations throughout North America in Atlanta for the 16th Annual Scheidt Seminar to discuss solutions to everyday congregational problems, explore Torah-based governance, improve leadership skills, network and share successful program ideas with each other.
The seminar began 16 years ago, when Rudi and Honey Scheidt partnered with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) to establish the program. Recognizing how helpful it would have been, Mr. Scheidt noted that there had not been a training opportunity for him when he was president of his congregation, Temple Israel in Memphis, Tenn.
Seminar participants heard from and studied with URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, URJ Chairman of the Board of Trustees Steve Sacks and Hebrew Union College/Jewish Institute of Religion President Rabbi Aaron Panken. Rabbi Jacobs is a past spiritual leader of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue.
Sharing their expertise with participants were URJ faculty members Amy Asin, senior consultant with the Experiment in Congregational Education (ECE); and the Rev. Richard Vosko, a specialist in worship environments and sacred spaces. Participants also heard from Rabbi Dan Freelander, URJ senior vice president; Rabbi Bradley Solmsen, URJ director of youth engagement; Rabbi Louis Feldstein, CEO of Dynamic Change Solution; Cantor Susan Caro, past president of the American Conference of Cantors; Beth Schafer, worship transformation specialist, Positive Jewish Living; and members of the URJ Congregational Networks team.
“I was so inspired by the presentations at the Scheidt Seminar,” Epstein said. “When we participate in the challenge of leadership, we sometimes can feel alone at the helm. This seminar assured me that there is a network of leaders to support each other with new ideas, energy and thoughtful counsel. I returned from the seminar energized and excited to serve as president of BHS.”
Rabbi Jacobs said, “Each year, the Scheidt Seminar provides congregational presidents with the opportunity to learn together and connect with one another. So far, more than 1,300 presidents have come away from this unique gathering with new skills, materials and ideas for their congregations and with the support of a new community of their peers and the entire Reform Movement behind them.”
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Program Explores Odyssey of Jews to Brooklyn
The Institute of Living Judaism in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative and the Kane Street Synagogue present “Strangers in a Strange Land: How We Ended Up in Brooklyn” next weekend.
A panel of leading Jewish History scholars will be featured, including Drs. Ilana Abramovitch, Annie Polland, Gerald Sorin and Daniel Soyer.
Dr. Ilana Abramovitch, co-editor of Jews of Brooklyn (Brandeis University Press, 2002) is pedagogical advisor to the Rutgers University Master Teachers Institute in Holocaust education, teaches in the CUNY system and is the conference program associate for the Association for Jewish Studies. For one decade, she has served as manager of curriculum at the MJH.
Dr. Annie Polland is the vice president for education and programs at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, where she oversees exhibits and interpretation. She is the author, with Dr. Daniel Soyer, of Emerging Metropolis: New York Jews in the Age of Immigration, part of the City of Promises series, which won the 2012 National Jewish Book Award. She teaches at New York University.
Dr. Gerald Sorin, of Brooklyn, is a distinguished professor of American and Jewish studies and the director of the Louis and Mildred Resnick Institute for the Study of Modern Jewish Life at the State University of New York at New Paltz.
Dr. Daniel Soyer is professor of history at Fordham University. He is a scholar of American immigration and American Jewish history. Dr. Soyer has written on the history of ethnic fraternalism, immigrant autobiographies, immigrant transnationalism, Jews in New York City, the garment industry and New York City politics.
The Institute for Living Judaism (ILJB) is a nondenominational center for learning that aims to promote tolerance, moderation and pluralism in furthering the study and practice of the Jewish tradition. It offers quality programs to strengthen and expand Brooklyn’s Jewish community.
The Brooklyn Jewish Historical Initiative (BJHI) promotes access to information, documentation and understanding related to the diversity of the Brooklyn Jewish community, currently and in the past, and to provide opportunities for communicating, disseminating, preserving and celebrating Brooklyn Jewish life and culture.
The program begins at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 1. The Kane Street Synagogue (236 Kane St. near Court Street, 718-875-1550) hosts the program. Admission is $5. Light snacks will be offered.
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OPINION: Interfaith Coalition Urges Creation of More City Parks
‘Let’s Turn These Fields of Dreams into Reality!’
Contributed by The Rev. Joseph Hoffman and Adriane Williams, St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church
Last Sunday, we led a procession of almost 500 parishioners from Saint Barbara’s to Heckscher Playground, where we met Councilmember Rafael Espinal, Deputy Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh and Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey.
Former Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg often said that living within a 10-minute walk of a park was essential to a high-quality and healthy life in the city. It’s true if you live near Central Park, Prospect Park, or the Brooklyn Bridge. Far too many New Yorkers, however, live near neighborhood parks with dark concrete lots, muddy athletic fields and broken-down jungle gyms. Mayor de Blasio and our new parks commissioner, Mitchell Silver, have pledged to decrease park inequity. Let’s hope they are serious.
The mayor’s allocation of $80 million in capital funding for neighborhood parks is a good start. Councilman Mark Levine is pushing for an additional $27.5 million in operational funding. Money has the potential to improve neighborhood parks, but only if used wisely. East Brooklyn Congregations has been organizing to improve six parks in Bushwick. We’ve learned a couple lessons for residents and public officials.
Residents can drastically improve the maintenance of their local parks. Last fall, we documented broken drinking fountains, grass up to our knees and unpainted benches at Green Central Knoll Park.
Then we had several meetings with Brooklyn Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffrey, after which almost all of our concerns were resolved. To celebrate, we planted rows upon rows of tulips. If you visit the park now, the flowers are in bloom and baseball teams are practicing.
These improvements help, but many problems remain. At Green Central Knoll, children have nowhere to use the bathroom and, just down the street, at Heckscher Playground, half of the park is a vacant concrete lot.
This is where the officials come in — we need you to dream big. Capital funding is best used to do complete and first-rate renovations, not for Band-Aid solutions, or a piecemeal approach. An excellent example is Linden Park, in East New York, where capital funding turned a mud pit into a synthetic turf field, with a state-of-the-art athletic track and recreational lighting. Linden Park is now one of the most popular recreation spaces in the area.
On Sunday, Councilmember Espinal announced that he had requested $1.25 million for Heckscher Playground, enough to pay for half of a turf field. This is good leadership, but so far others are unwilling to finish the job.
We don’t have public or financial support yet from Borough President Eric Adams. The Mayor and the Parks Department haven’t committed any funds either. Without more money, our parks will remain in shambles.
Bloomberg never focused on the kinds of parks that make life in New York more livable for the majority of New Yorkers. Now, it’s time for Mayor de Blasio to step up to the plate. Making small neighborhood parks great places for peace, play and recreation would be a vital accomplishment — an accomplishment that can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of other projects.
The Rev. Joseph Hoffman is the pastor at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church in Bushwick and a leader in East Brooklyn Congregation. Adriane Williams, a St. Barbara's parishioner and a leader in East Brooklyn Congregations, spoke at the recent 2,200-leader assembly and urged the redevelopment of neighborhood parks such as Heckscher Playground.
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Maronite, Greek Orthodox Cathedrals Welcome the Community to Food Fests
Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral hosts its Seventh Annual Lebanese Festival: Celebrate the Flavors of Lebanon next weekend.
The festival will feature exquisite Lebanese and Middle Eastern cuisine, including tabbouleh and kibbeh, sajj delicacies, mouthwatering desserts and Lebanese wines and beer. Enjoy these savory dishes while being entertained by a rocking live band, spinning DJs and the cathedral’s sensational folkloric dance troupes, all guaranteed to have everyone on their feet, stomping to the beat! Other attractions include rides, games, a raffle and bazaar, as well as kids’ rides for the little ones.
A central part of this festival is an invitation to share, learn about and delight in Lebanese culture and heritage. In 2013, this festival hosted more than 5,000 visitors and this year’s event is expected to attract thousands more from all cultures in a five-state region.
The festival will take place on Saturday, May 31, from 12-9 p.m.; and on Sunday, June 1, from 12-6 p.m. Come join the fun on Remsen Street, between Henry and Clinton streets, in historic Brooklyn Heights. While the food is available for sale, the festival itself is open to all, with no cover charge.
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Wednesday Organ Recital Series Concludes This Week
The popular Wednesday organ recital series at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church concludes this week, on May 28. The recitals, at 1:10 p.m., have been free and open to the public. The series ends as Gregory Eaton, organist and director of music at this landmark church for more than 21 years, will be leaving his post.
Eaton will play a farewell concert as a thanksgiving to his friends and supporters in this community on Sunday, June 15, at 7 p.m. This event, also free to the public, will feature Arcadia Brass.
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Heights Synagogue Hosts Blood Drive
With the urgent message to “Donate blood now…people can’t live without it,” the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue hosts its Blood Drive on June 1.
The New York Blood Center wants to educate the public on the ease of giving blood. The donation process takes 10 minutes and has four easy steps: registration, review of medical history, the actual donation and snacks. Only one pint is needed per donation, whereas the average adult body contains 10 pints of blood. One can donate about every 56 days.
This helps a growing need. According to the New York Blood Center, someone needs blood every two seconds. The shelf life is 42 days for red cells and five days for donated platelets. One in three people will need a blood product during his/her lifetime, especially surgical, trauma and cancer patients.
The drive runs from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on June 1 at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, 131 Remsen St. One can drop in or call the synagogue at 718-522-2070 to make an appointment.