By Francesca Norsen Tate, Religion Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Christmas Pageant’s Message: Room for Everyone at the Inn
Joy was evident at the Christmas pageant that the children and teens of Assumption Church in the North Heights presented last Friday. And they had their part in choreographing the sugar plum dance.
The pageant blended — with much humor — jazzy carol arrangements, a cheerleading sequence set to “Angels We Have Heard on High,” toy soldier dances, the arrival of the Three Queens, and even early-1980s rap.
Lead director Heather Leykam told the Heights Press that this year’s theme is: “Everyone is welcome. There’s always room at the inn for our community, for everyone, of all shapes and sizes.” She emphasized love as the unifying force.
Some of the shepherds recited the beloved prose poem “One Solitary Life,” based on the essay of James Allen Francis, D.D. (1864-1928). The children also recited the Gospel of St. Luke.
Leykam coordinated a team of directors handling choreography, costumes, lighting and technical/sound planning. The kids themselves choreographed the sugar plum fairy scene.
“This is the first year I and the other Oratorians have the chance to celebrate Christmas by coming to the pageant,” said Fr. Joel Warden, C.O., a member of the Brooklyn Oratory and administrator of Assumption parish. “It’s amazing to see how this parish and neighborhood event has grown over the years. What a wonderful way to get ready for the holiday — with such joy!!”
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Annual Vodka and Latkes Party Honors Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
By Andy Katz, Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A celebration of light filled Midtown Manhattan as Jeffrey Wiesenfeld’s annual Vodka and Latkes party honored Rabbi Joseph Potasnik on his 70th birthday.
“To me, that is a mission,” Rabbi Potasnik told a group of well-wishers that included both FDNY and NYPD commissioners. “We all have to kindle lights for one another. We say in our tradition … it’s a great deed to bring light into the world. I hope that all of us, regardless of our faith, will bring a little more light, a little more love, into a world that needs it so much.”
Potasnik is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights.
Vodka and latkes parties have become a popular theme for holiday season parties, usually held before the eight days of Hanukkah begin. Given Hanukkah’s origin as a celebration of the rededication of the Second Temple after civil war ended Syrian control of Jerusalem, and the miracle of a single day’s worth of oil lasting eight days, it seemed fitting at this party that speakers told of the ways Rabbi Potasnik had brought light into the lives of those around him.
Regarding Potasnik, a former FDNY chaplain, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said: “Every FDNY member loves our Rabbi Potasnik … His main message to us at a time when the city and the department are becoming so much more diversified is that the things that make us the same are so much more important than the things that divide us.”
In addition to host, Jeffrey Wiesenfeld and master of ceremonies, comedian Jake Ehrenreich, speakers praising Rabbi Potasnik included former New York Gov. David Patterson, NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, NYPD Commiss-ioner James O’Neill, Israeli Consul General for New York Dani Dayan, President of the New York Board of Rabbis Gideon Shloush, Brooklyn Christian Center Pastor A.R. Bernard and Union Temple Rabbi Linda Henry Goodman.
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Hanukkah Party Spotlights ‘Kvetch’ Klezmer Band
Synagogue President Ellen Spodek Receives Surprise Birthday Tribute
A neighborhood celebration of a victory and of light came complete with a gigantic dreidel. Congregation Mount Sinai’s Hanukkah celebration offered a creative interpretation of a holiday that carries different angles here in the United States and in the Holy Land.
Rabbi Seth Wax, discussing the holiday’s significance with the children, exclaimed, “There are two miracles of Hanukkah!”
“These two stories of Hanukkah play a central role in the way Hanukkah is understood both in America and Israel. In Israel, Hanukkah is about military victory: the fact that a small group of Jews was able to overcome forces that tried to destroy them. Makes sense in a place like Israel, right? That’s how they see the strength and power of Hanukkah. That’s a big message there.”
Wax pointed out, “But in America, we take a different angle. Instead of focusing on military victory, which is important and valid in its own way, the rabbis made it a universal holiday, with the symbol that’s universal: light. The oil that gave light to the menorah, expanded exponentially. We know that light extends everywhere, it pushes away the darkness. And Hanukkah teaches that lighting an additional candle of the menorah each day increases the light of the world, especially at this dark time of the year, and dark times of our lives.”
Rabbi Wax also introduced congregant Andrea Urist and her Kvetch Klezmer band. The ensemble, together for about a year, features Urist on flute and tenor saxophone, Peter Kowalski on bass trombone and percussion drum, Steve Wishnia on bass guitar and Marilyn Gold on accordion.
The children of the Hebrew school, working under the guidance of its director, Marlene Antebi, built a giant dreidel, which they rolled down the floor of the synagogue. This was a prelude for another surprise: The birthday of synagogue president Hon. Ellen Spodek, who is also a New York State Supreme Court Justice.
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Emmanuel Jazz Vespers Closes Out 2016
What are you doing on New Year’s Eve?
A popular way to witness the transition of years is to fill it with music. Emmanuel Baptist Church hosts its last Jazz Vespers of 2016 as it celebrates the start of a new year.
The featured artist will be jazz and Latin jazz vocalist and composer, Lauren Henderson, whose Caribbean and Latin Heritage are central themes in her original music and performance. Henderson’s diverse musical background is rooted in jazz and expands to rhythm and blues, Latin, soul, nuevo-flamenco and many other forms.
The jazz Vespers runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31 at Emmanuel Baptist Church, 279 Lafayette Ave. in Clinton Hill.
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Borough President Delivers Donated Toys to Churches and Nonprofits Helping Kids
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams was set to distribute thousands of toys to dozens of local houses of worship and nonprofits caring for underserved youth this holiday season. The donations were made possible through the support of community and corporate partners, as well as the generosity of Brooklynites who participated in Borough President Adams’ boroughwide toy drive, dropping off presents for children in need at a variety of area businesses, cultural institutions and schools.