By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Heights Congregations Share Iftars, Offer Insights on Judaism and Islam
This week, Jewish and Muslim communities provided a balm here in Brooklyn for the violence and warfare unfolding in the Holy Land.
The Masjid Dawood (Dawood Mosque) and the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue welcomed each other’s congregants, as well as other local Jews and Muslims, to their respect Iftars. An Iftar is the traditional evening meal that breaks each day’s fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Dawood Mosque hosted its Iftar on Monday, July 14; the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue reciprocated on Thursday, July 17.
Both Iftars began with hospitality, offering succulent dates and water for Muslims who had been fasting from food, water and pleasurable activities since sunrise. Then members of the Muslim community took part in the prayers.
The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue’s Iftar tradition is now in its seventh year, Rabbi Serge Lippe said at Thursday’s event.
“The mosque was incorporated as a mosque before the synagogue was in the neighborhood. We have been neighbors in the community for a whole lot of years,” Rabbi Lippe pointed out.
Dawood Mosque pre-existed the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, which was incorporated 15 years later, in 1959. Therefore, he said, there has been a strong Muslim presence in Brownstone Brooklyn for several decades.
Likewise, Dr. Ahmad Jaber, who had led the prayers, said that the Dawood Mosque had been established in the 1920s and incorporated in 1944, making it the first mosque in Downtown Brooklyn. He said there are about 175 mosques in New York City, a figure that is also shown in websites and research groups such as “A Journey Through NYC Religions.” Dr. Jaber also expressed thanks for the hospitality.
Rabbi Lippe said, “The truth is, until recently, in the last 15 years, communities sometimes moved like strangers in the night. Thank God we have found our relationship with one another amidst both unfortunate circumstances, but amidst great happiness and friendship. We don’t do this [the Iftar] because of the cameras [alluding to the presence of local print and broadcast media] and we don’t do it for display. We do it because we’re neighbors. We’re community.”
Rabbi Lippe continued, “Brooklyn may be the promised land as far as many of us are concerned. It represents a place where we all have our very best aspirations. But in the world right now, there is a great deal of violence and conflict, especially in the Holy Land.”
He then shared a prayer that he had crafted for all present, asking the Almighty for safety and shelter, comfort and for an end to the violence and missiles and rockets.
The prayer concluded, “O God, we cannot pray to You for peace tonight, for peace is the task that You have given to us. Instead, we pray, O God, for wisdom and will, for courage and fortitude. Strengthen the hands of all who seek to restore calm and peace, the efforts of all those who reject death and bloodshed, the aspirations of those working for life and blessings.”
The participants learned about each other’s traditions and helped dispel misconceptions about their faiths over a catered meal of Moroccan chicken and prunes, saffron, cumin carrots and eggplant, romesco tomato sauce, hummus and baba ghannouj.
A Brooklyn Heights Synagogue staffer told the Brooklyn Eagle that the caterer is the same as last year’s. [The Eagle’s religion section published a feature in August 2013 on that acclaimed caterer, Village Crown.]
Rabbi Lippe explained the contrasts between the lunar year of 354.3 days and the Islamic and Hebrew calendars’ reconciliation of their lunar years with the civil calendar (based on the Christian/Gregorian calendar). In order to keep the spring holidays in the spring and the autumn festivals in their proper season, the Hebrew calendar adds a leap month (Adar I in the early spring) about seven times in a 19-year cycle.
Dr. Jaber, Imam Abdallah Allam and Heba and Melissa, two young women who attend Dawood Mosque, provided some insights on the rigors of the holy month of Ramadan and the significance of cultivating a charitable heart during this month of self-discipline and revelation. They also spoke at length on what Islam actually teaches about the rights of women. Pointing out that Islam does not prohibit women from gaining an education, they said that women have been teachers of men. Responding to a question about why women in some Islamic societies are in danger for seeking an education, Heba and Melissa said that this attitude is more cultural and societal than it is religious. Melissa pointed out that her own cultural background, Hispanic/Caribbean, also carries the attitude that “women belong in the home.” But Islam, by contrast, was the first religious tradition to allow women the right of inheritance. Women can also pursue their own careers and participate in business.
As part of the Jewish and Muslim traditions of hospitality, participants were encouraged to bring home the surplus food.
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Congregation Mount Sinai Partners With Kings Bay Y for New Programs
Congregation Mount Sinai will host another Iftar on Thursday, July 24, as part of a new partnership that the synagogue has formed with the Kings Bay Y and the Turkish Cultural Center.
Congregation Mount Sinai will host a delicious dinner and meaningful conversations as participants explore each other’s religious traditions and become more acquainted as persons. A Sufi music performance will also take place at the Iftar, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Congregation Mount Sinai is at 250 Cadman Plaza West in Brooklyn Heights/Downtown Brooklyn.
As Muslims observe Ramadan, Jews are also in the period of Bein HaMeitzarim (the Three Weeks), leading up to the sorrowful observance of Tisha B’Av.
The day after this Iftar, Congregation Mount Sinai will continue another venture with the Kings Bay Y, which has thus far been successful.
“Under the Bridge” is a special Sabbath celebration with a picnic dinner at Brooklyn Bridge Park. The Kings Bay Y branch at North Williamsburg and Congregation Mount Sinai invite the community to this Shabbat celebration, being held once a month during July and August. Rabbi Seth Wax of Mount Sinai reported that the June launch of “Under the Bridge” was very successful, with a large attendance. “Under the Bridge” includes musical services featuring Israeli, Brazilian and jazz music. Attendees bring their own picnic dinner at the BridgeView Lawn at Pier 1. Music starts at 6:30 p.m. The next “Under the Bridge” Shabbats take place on Fridays, July 25 and Aug. 15.
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St. Joseph’s College Welcomes Dr. Jack Calareso as Seventh President
St. Joseph’s College, with campuses in Clinton Hill and Patchogue, L.I., welcomes Jack P. Calareso, Ph.D. as its seventh president. Dr. Calareso succeeds the college’s retiring president, Sister Elizabeth A. Hill, who served as its leader for 17 years. Dr. Calareso will be the first lay leader (not part of a religious order) of the college since its founding in 1916.
“My primary responsibility is to do everything I can to support each and every member of the St. Joseph’s College community,” said Dr. Calareso. “In the coming weeks, I hope to begin to share my ideas for the future. We are fortunate to have two dynamic campuses and my goal is to spend an equal number of days on each campus. I am very excited to serve as SJC’s new president.”
Dr. Calareso served as president of Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass. since 2007. Prior to that, he served as the president of Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, Ohio, and Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. Dr. Calareso has earned a national reputation for his knowledge in liberal arts education, teaching and administration. He is also a renowned speaker at international, national, regional and local conferences and workshops, as well as the author of numerous books and articles. A strong fundraiser, Dr. Calareso has successfully planned and led a number of major fundraising campaigns resulting in significant capital improvements, growth of endowments, scholarship programs, endowed chairs and special projects.
Dr. Calareso received a Ph.D. from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. He earned a master’s degree from St. Bernard’s School of Theology in Rochester, N.Y., and an undergraduate degree from Boston College. Dr. Calareso and his wife Rose have three grown children and four grandchildren. The couple has relocated to Brooklyn from Massachusetts.
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Outreach Project Will Provide School Supplies to Needy Kids
St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church has participated in “Operation Backpack” through Volunteers of America as part of the Episcopal parish’s July outreach.
Donations of new backpacks, a variety of school supplies and fully stocked backpacks are being collected through Sunday, July 27. Lists of items suitable for school children in several age groups are available at the church entrance and on its website.
A single backpack, three-ring binder, spiral notebook, pack of #2 pencils, or a box of crayons will make a difference. All donations as of July 27 will then be sorted and delivered to Volunteers of America of New York City and added to their distribution of backpacks to thousands of kids across the country.
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Milestones in Faith
St. James Cathedral Basilica Marks Patronal Feast on July 25
Founded in 1822, St. James was the first Catholic church on Long Island and, thus, the cradle of Catholic Christianity for two dioceses and 388 parishes. The church is named for St. James the Apostle (also called St. James the Greater), whose feast day falls on July 25 each year.
The church traces its origins back to March 1, 1822, when Peter Turner, foremost founder of St. James and president of the Roman Catholic Society, gathered together with 70 laypersons to buy property for a church. On July 25 of that year – the feast of St. James the Greater – Bishop Connolly laid the cornerstone of the first church in Brooklyn. It was the third church in New York City and the sixth Roman Catholic Church in New York State.
The Diocese of Brooklyn was established 33 years later, in 1853. In November of that year, Rev. John Loughlin was installed as the first bishop of Brooklyn at the church, now named St. James Cathedral. The Vatican named St. James Cathedral a basilica on May 6, 1982, on the 160th anniversary of its founding.
Fast forward to March 2013, when then-Pope Benedict XVI designated St. Joseph’s Church in Prospect Heights as a co-cathedral, just before he abdicated the papacy last year. The much-larger church building at 856 Pacific St., newly restored thanks to an $18 million capital campaign, was dedicated as a diocesan co-cathedral on May 13, 2014. So, the Diocese of Brooklyn now has two cathedrals. St. James Cathedral-Basilica is the older, but both have their histories.
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