By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Program Nurturing Jewish Identity Expands Throughout Brooklyn
Keshet, a successful and well-known educational community afterschool program for Israelis in Brooklyn, is expanding with the support of the Israeli-American Council (IAC) and will be renamed IAC-Keshet Programs.
IAC-Keshet is an afterschool Hebrew dual language program for both Hebrew- and non-Hebrew-speaking children, ages 3 and up. In addition to Hebrew-language education, IAC-Keshet also explores different aspects of Jewish and Israeli identity, helping students make a strong connection to Israel. The Hebrew word Keshet means “rainbow.”
With the change, IAC-Keshet Programs will be moving from Congregation Beth Elohim, a Reform congregation in Park Slope, to Kings Bay Y at Windsor Terrace, a JCC with multiple locations in Brooklyn. The program is expanding in order to reach out to the broader Israeli and Jewish communities in Brooklyn and beyond.
This new development reflects a growing trend in which Israeli-American programs are expanding, while engaging the broader Jewish community under the IAC’s leadership.
Yehudit Feinstein-Mentesh, the newly appointed IAC New York regional director and the founder of Keshet, told the Brooklyn Eagle during a presentation at the Kings Bay Y that she and a group of Israeli parents started gathering several years ago to create a space for sharing cultural identity.
“We gave a welcome to the group Israelis in Brooklyn — a warm, vibrant and diverse community in Brooklyn and throughout the New York area,” she said. “Israelis in Brooklyn brings together Israelis and native-born Americans into a community of shared cultural identity.”
According to the Israeli American Council-Israelis in Brooklyn website, Feinstein-Mentesh founded the group in 2010. Israelis in Brooklyn quickly became a meeting place for those searching for Jewish culture and identity through an Israeli lens and Hebrew medium.
Feinstein-Mentesh said that Israelis in Brooklyn started with 25 families.
“In the second year, we had more Americans, learning about Hebrew and Israeli culture. We have grown to more than 100 families by last year,” she said. “Then we received a lot of phone calls from persons in other communities who wanted to have the same programs.”
The collaboration has expanded into locations in Williamsburg and to Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights. IAC-Keshet has the support of Senior Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim; Rabbi Laurie Phillips, who will be teaching a bar/bat mitzvah track to the older kids; and Rabbi Seth Wax of Congregation Mount Sinai.
“We are so excited to partner with Seth,” Yehudit said. “He opened the door for us.”
Rabbi Wax also told the Brooklyn Eagle that he and his synagogue began to partner with Kings Bay through a music program at the Brooklyn Heights Library branch (Brooklyn Public Library), about twice a month.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work with the Kings Bay Y this year,” he said. “And I think they were looking for further opportunities to partner in this community. I think the partnership was natural.”
Although Mount Sinai is not involved with the language immersion program, it is teaming with Kings Bay for the “Under the Bridge” Sabbath celebration and will co-sponsor some events this fall.
During the presentation at Kings Bay, Feinstein-Mentesh, Adi Amit (Keshet program teacher) and Margalit Kevenstock (Keshet program curriculum consultant) explained how the language and culture tracks work.
In addition to the dual language tracks, each age level has its own lesson theme, from songs, stories, geography and family trees to the B’nei Mitzvah track for the older kids.
“When children come to Keshet, they will have a feeling that they’re almost in Israel —discovering the flavors, the sounds — we teach Hebrew in a very high level,” Feinstein-Mentesh said. “So, kids can feel free to learn about Israel, with respect to Brooklyn and culture here.”
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Rabbi Matt Carl Named to Lead East Midwood Jewish Center
Also Served Congregation Mount Sinai For Two Years, Creating Programs for Youth
Rabbi Matt Carl, a religious leader, educator and environmentalist, has been named the new rabbi of the East Midwood Jewish Center (EMJC).
EMJC’s two presidents, Randy Grossman and Toby Sanchez, made the announcement. Rabbi Carl succeeds Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, who was the spiritual leader of EMJC for 36 years and who now becomes rabbi emeritus. Rabbi Kass is also chief chaplain of the New York City Police Department, the longest-serving chaplain in the history of the department (48 years) and the first to achieve the rank of assistant chief.
Before joining EMJC, Rabbi Carl served as the part-time rabbi of the Battery Park Synagogue, a 50-family, unaffiliated synagogue in New York City, from September 2010 until May 2014. He created, counseled and collaborated with the synagogue’s 20s and 30s group, oversaw and supervised the Hebrew school and directed adult education programs.
He was also director of community development and engagement at Hazon from October 2013 to May 2014. Hazon is America's largest Jewish environmental organization dedicated to “creating healthier and more sustainable communities in the Jewish world and beyond.”
Rabbi Carl wrote for Hazon’s website, The Jew and the Carrot, which is the homepage for the New Jewish Food Movement, with a focus on health and sustainability, organic eating, nutrition, food politics and healthy, delicious cooking.
He has also written articles for the newsletter kveller.com, which covers Jewish family life, parental advice and perspectives. His writings, titled “My Jewish Learning,” can be seen in print and on various blogs. He has written for the American Jewish World Service, which pursues global justice through grassroots change and is the first American Jewish organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, hunger and disease among people across the globe. He has lectured on ethical eating and Judaism and taught a 20-week course titled “Introduction to Judaism: An Exploration for Curious Adults.”
Rabbi Carl also served as associate rabbi of Congregation Mount Sinai, a 150-family, independent, equalitarian synagogue in Brooklyn, from 2008 to 2010, where he created programs for the younger generation and unaffiliated Jews. He co-founded the Brooklyn United Jewish High School Program with several other local synagogue educators and established the Brooklyn Bridge Community Supported Agriculture program.
A native of Long Beach, Calif., and graduate of Vassar College, he majored religion and completed a minor in environmental geography. He also received degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan and Machon Schechter in Jerusalem. He also has experience in financial planning, hospital chaplaincy and college campus chaplaincy.
He is also affiliated with Altshul, in Park Slope, a lay-led, independent, egalitarian minyan, and Shir HaMaalot, “Song of the Heights,” a volunteer-led, “trad-egal” chavurah that hosts monthly musical Friday night services and a vegetarian potluck dinner in Prospect/Crown Heights, usually at Union Temple.
East Midwood Jewish Center is an inclusive, egalitarian, Conservative synagogue at 1625 Ocean Ave. Since 1924, it has been a house of worship, a place for Judaic discovery and action. New members receive a 50-percent discount on membership for the first year. High Holiday tickets are now on sale. For further information, call 718-338-3800.
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Times Article Focuses on New Co-Cathedral’s Architectural Splendor
St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral — the architecture and massive restoration project — made the news again last week when the New York Times published David Dunlap’s story, “BUILDING BLOCKS: Amid Criticism, a Changing Brooklyn Gets a Second Cathedral.”
Dunlap, a widely-respected expert on architecture and historic buildings, pointed out that the diocese’s move to invest $18.5 million in the restoration of St. Joseph’s Church received criticism. However, Bishop DiMarzio, seeing that the Prospect Heights neighborhood would become a promising demographic, refuted the naysayers.
“We had a choice: tear the church down, or reconstruct the church,” Bishop DiMarzio said in his May 13, 2014 homily when sanctuary was dedicated as a co-cathedral. “Clearly, the location so close to the new Barclays Center, with available parking and public transportation also close by, makes this site an ideal one in the diocese where we can gather more people than could be accommodated in our beautiful Cathedral Basilica of St. James.”
Dunlap also credits the parochial vicar, the Rev. Jorge Ortiz-Garay, whose arrival at St. Joseph’s Church five years ago attracted new, Mexican parishioners. Involved in the restoration were Acheson Doyle Partners, the Botti Studio of Architectural Arts, which restored the stained glass windows by Locke Studio of Brooklyn.
Then, EverGreene Architectural Arts, also known for its work with Grace Church over the past couple of years, was given the chance to honor the Blessed Mother through art. (Both the Times’ Dunlap and the Brooklyn Eagle published stories on Grace Church’s ceiling art discovery last December, as did NYC broadcast media.)
EverGreene created art dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, working with the 77-foot-high barrel-vaulted ceiling, 20 dome-shaped vaults in the side aisles and transepts and the wall behind the organ loft.
“One of the early ideas was to show all the manifestations of the holy mother in one place,” EverGreene’s president, Jeff Greene, told the Times.
Each dome now bears a figure of Mary appropriate to one of the many national and ethnic groups (apostolates) in the diocese, among them: Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico), Our Lady of Antipolo (Philippines), Our Lady of Knock (Ireland), Our Lady of Immaculate Conception (Korea), Our Lady of the Assumption (Ghana), Our Lady of Vilnius (Lithuania), Our Lady of Altagracia (Dominican Republic) and Our Lady of Lujan (Argentina).
Monsignor Kieran Harrington, rector of St. Joseph’s Co-Cathedral, told the Times, “Everyone can see their own mother in the face of the blessed mother.”
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Milestones in Faith
Assumption Church at Present Site Was Dedicated 105 Years Ago
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, on Cranberry Street in Brooklyn Heights, was dedicated 105 years ago, on the Feast Day of the Assumption — Aug. 15, 1909.
The parish was originally founded in 1842, when Brooklyn and the rest of Long Island were part of the Diocese of New York. (Brooklyn would get its own diocese 11 years later.) Then-Bishop Hughes dedicated the church at the original site, near what is now DUMBO, on June 10, 1842.
The church was dedicated to the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A free school was established in rooms over the church vestries. Eventually, a schoolhouse was built near Pearl and York streets and, in 1878, then-Pastor Fr. Keegan oversaw the building of the Assumption Literary Institute at 96-98 Jay St., which was the first parochial hall in the new diocese. It contained recreational facilities as well: a billiard room, bowling alley, lecture room and stage.
During the 1890s, the parish buildings were taken over by “eminent domain” so that the Manhattan Bridge could be built. That structure was dedicated on New Year’s Eve, Dec. 31, 1909. Meanwhile, the Assumption parish received $125,000 for the church property, part of which was used to purchase four lots on Cranberry Street and four lots on Middagh Street.
Ground was broken at the new site in August 1908 and the cornerstone was laid four months later. The church exterior is in Italian-Renaissance style and its interior, with its round columns and curved dome ceiling, is Romanesque.
Assumption’s sanctuary was used for the famous “Confession” scene in the popular 1987 movie Moonstruck.
The Feast of the Assumption is an ancient solemnity in the early Church, celebrated throughout Christendom from the sixth century onward. Eastern Christians called this solemnity the Dormition of Mary, or the Falling Asleep of Mary. The earliest writing of this feast is believed to date from the fourth century and it is attributed to St. John, to whose care Jesus entrusted Mary as He hung upon the cross.
Tradition holds that Mary was assumed into heaven after her “falling asleep in the Lord” before her body suffered any decay. However, it took several centuries — until just 64 years ago — for this tradition to be declared a dogma. Pope Pius XII did so on All Saints Day, Nov.1, 1950.
Assumption Church, here in the Heights, will observe the Feast with mass at 8 a.m. on Aug. 15. An informal meet-and-greet will follow the liturgy.