Faith In Brooklyn for November 13

(Left to Right): The Bereavement Conference Committee Members: Mary Ann Dantuono, Sr. Margaret John Kelly, Carlos A. Balcarcel, Josefa Castro, Ingrid Seunarine, Nina Valmonte, Ellen Patricia Finn, Stephen N. Comando. Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities-Brooklyn and Queens


Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Bereavement Conference Offers Workshops, Music on Healing

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens co-sponsored its second-annual Bereavement Conference last Saturday at St. John’s University. Themed “Journey to Healing: We Remember; We Celebrate; We Believe,” the conference was a joint partnership of Catholic Charities, Catholic Cemeteries, Diocese of Brooklyn and the Vincentian Center for Church & Society at St. John’s.

The afternoon conference, which brought in approximately 240 attendees, was hosted at St. John’s D’Angelo Center, offered various workshops such as Spousal Loss, Men and Grief, Art and Grief, Trauma and Caregivers among others the workshop concluded with a Mass, with the Most Reverend Paul R. Sanchez, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, presiding. The Mass was celebrated at St. Thomas More Church on St. John’s University’s Great Lawn.

A committee of members from Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens, Catholic Cemeteries and St. John’s, work for months helping to put together this conference. Last year’s conference wound up being canceled due to the effects of Sandy and the need for assistance elsewhere. Additionally, Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens sent volunteers from the agency to reach out to those attending the conference with information regarding all of our human service programs.

The opening guest speaker was Sidney Callahan, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and distinguished scholar at The Hastings Center, a pioneering bioethics center. She is also the author of the Christopher Award-winning With All Our Hearts and Minds: The Spiritual Works of Mercy in a Psychological Age and Created for Joy: A Christian View of Suffering. She was also the Paul J. McKeever Chair of Moral Theology at St. John’s University.

The closing guest speaker was Paul Alexander, LCSW, a psychotherapist with a private practice for adults and children. He blends this work with his gift of music. As a singer, songwriter, psychotherapist, author, actor and performing artist he has shared his music and message of hope throughout the United States and Canada, according to his website, Bereavement resource centers, including the Centering Corporation, Compassion Books, Bereavement Publishing, New Leaf Resources, Grief Inc. and Grief Support Services have carried his collection.

Committee members included from Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens: Sr. Ellen Patricia Finn, O.P., M.E.d., LMSW, Deputy Executive Director, Nina Valmonte, Director, Parish and Community Outreach and Services, Ingrid Seunarine, Director of Bereavement Services, and Josefa Castro, Queens Community Center Project Director; from St. John’s University: Sr. Margaret John Kelly, D.C., Ph.D., Executive Director of the Vincentian Center for Church and Society, Mary Ann Dantuono, Associate Director, Vincentian Center for Church & Society; and from Catholic Cemeteries Archdiocese of Brooklyn: Stephen N. Comando, Executive Director and Carlos Balcarcel, Sales and Marketing Manager.

“We were extremely happy with the turnout at this year’s conference,” Seunarine said. “It was a huge success enabled by our organizers, featured speakers and workshops. The attendees really got to experience this year’s theme of ‘We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe,’ starting with Dr. Callahan and her theological reflection and exploration of seeking meaning in the loss. This continued throughout the day with the various presenters and their expertise that was illustrated in their workshops. The day ended in a crescendo with Paul Alexander’s ‘Maintaining the Connection and Tribute to Life and the Legacy’ musical presentation. There was a beautiful end to the day as we were spiritually fed with the body of Christ at the liturgy of the Mass. The day embodied our theme of We Remember, We Celebrate, We Believe.”

Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens Office of Bereavement Ministry serves bereaved individuals regardless of faith or culture. Bereavement Services are offered individually on a one-on-one basis as well as in a support group setting. There are approximately 40 bereavement support groups located within the parishes of the Diocese. For parish locations, contact Ingrid Seunarine at 718-722-6214 or

The D’Angelo Center at St. John’s University in Queens. The university, run by the Catholic Vincentian order, has close bonds to Brooklyn, having been established the Borough of Churches. For many years, the St. John’s campus was situated on Schermerhorn Street. Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate
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‘Miracles with Music’ Will Benefit Baraka Women’s Center in Kenya

The Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church hosts “Miracles with Music,” a concert to benefit the Baraka Women’s Center in Nairobi, Kenya.

The 8 p.m. concert on Tuesday, Nov. 19 will feature the music of David Amram, Award Winning Symphonic Composer; Sanford Allen, Clarion Concerts; David Wechsler, Omni Ensemble; Heidi Upton, St. John’s University and the Lafayette Inspirational Ensemble directed by Janis Russell.

The featured artist, Amram has collaborated with such diverse artists as Lyle Lovett, Johnny Depp, Leonard Bernstein, Dizzy Gillespie, Willie Nelson and Thelonious Monk. He served as artist-in-residence at the International Council of Churches gathering in Kenya, and among his works is a variation of a Kenyan folk song which will be performed by an orchestra and choir on the night of the concert.

The Baraka (word means Blessings in Kiswahili ) Women’s Center, in a section of Nairobi that ranks as one of the world’s largest slums, is empowering women to write business plans and has created a revolving fund for micro-loans to support the women’s new or expanding ventures.

Ticket prices: $30 advance sale / $35 at door or, for those who want to arrive early to meet the artists and share some wine and African inspired food at 6:30 p.m.: $100. For ticket purchases, visit with further questions may send an e-mail to:
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‘Other Israel Film Festival’ Explores Relations Between Israelis and Arabs

Congregation Beth Elohim is one of the host venues around New York City for Other Israel Film Festival, a collection of short films for the whole family on the topic of Arabs in Israel by emerging and established directors.

The growing synagogue in Park Slope has been a local pioneer for events and discussions bringing together Jews, Arabs and Muslims.

The Other Israel Film Festival uses this medium to foster social awareness and cultural understanding. The Festival presents dramatic and documentary films, as well as engaging panels about history, culture, and identity on the topic of minority populations in Israel with a focus on Arab citizens, or Israeli/Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise twenty percent of Israel’s population. The goal is to promote awareness and appreciation of the diversity of the state of Israel, provide a dynamic and inclusive forum for exploration of, and dialogue about, populations in margins of Israeli society, and to encourage cinematic expression and creativity dealing with these themes.

In this family friendly selection of new short films, Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen tell the story of a man trying to cross a checkpoint with his donkey, two kids fighting over Batman, a boy attempting to play soccer with kids from the other side and One Voice presenting two films with a vision of Israel in 2018.

Some of the films: Various Directors | 45 min | Narrative; Batman at the Checkpoint Directed by: Rafael Balulu; The Other Side Directed by: Khen Shalem; Boy and soldier 2018 (OneVoice) Directed by: Eran Riklis; What About me Directed by: Etgar Keret & Shira Geffen; Palestinian Airport 2018 (OneVoice).

Actor Makram Khoury and Tal Haris from OneVoice will do a talk back following the screening.

Dove’s Cry, which makes its US Premiere, is 2013 | 52 minutes | Documentary produced this year and directed by Ganit Ilouz. Languages are Hebrew and Arabic.

The story line: Hadeel, a lively 27-year old Arab teacher from Israel’s Wadi Ara region, is the magnetic subject of Ganit Ilouz's Dove's Cry. As part of “Let's Talk,” a cross-cultural outreach program, Hadeel teaches spoken Arabic to a sixth-grade class at a Jewish elementary school in Hod Hasharon. Ganit Ilouz’s camera follows Hadeel over the course of a year, during which she faces both casual prejudice at work and mounting pressure to marry at home. While the moments of curiosity and open dialogue that Hadeel experiences with her students and co-workers offer reason for optimism, the film never soft-sells the difficulties that she faces. In candid conversations with the camera or her sister, Hadeel confesses her own fears and doubts, while remaining nevertheless convinced she can make a difference. This is a humane and even-handed film about communication at any cost.  

Tickets can be purchased online via The films being shown at Congregation Beth Elohim are part of the film festival’s wider offering. Some of the other thought-provoking films are being shown at Kane Street Synagogue in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill and at Manhattan venues, including the Jewish Community Center.

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Interfaith Talk Focuses on Hope From 4 Viewpoints

The act of remembering, celebrating and believing touches on the ability to hope. As part of its weekly Open Beit Midrash educational series, the Kane Street Synagogue recently hosted an interfaith panel discussion on the topic of hope.

The panelists, all active in interfaith relations, were Kane Street’s Rabbi Sam Weintraub, who before his 1996 appointment at the congregation, served as Interfaith Fellow at the American Jewish Committee; Dr. T. Kenjitsu Nakagaki, president of the Buddhist Council of New York, and author of Diary of a Manhattan Monk: Dr. Sarah Sayeed, director of community partnerships at the Interfaith Center, and a board member of Women in Islam, Inc. and the Rev. Stephen Muncie, rector of Grace Church-Brooklyn Heights, an Episcopal parish. Dr. Henry Goldschmidt, director of education programs at the Interfaith Center, moderated the discussion.

Goldschmidt, in his opening remarks, said, “Hope is flowing in so many different parts of our everyday lives, as New Yorkers still recovering a year after Hurricane Sandy, and looking ahead hopefully as to the future of our city, as people of faith in our various, communities; as Americans hoping for something productive to come out of Washington DC; as parents thinking about our children growing up; and as children growing up. In all these different ways, hope is such a part of the fabric of our everyday lives, in ways that we don’t usually stop and think and talk about. Just on a human level, this is a great grounds for conversation.”

The first panelist, Dr. Sayeed, began her presentation with a story about the Prophet Mohammed who drew a square, and then drew a straight line extending out of the square, (lease on life) attached to the central line he drew other lines going in different directions, but not out of the square representing hope. The small lines indicate trouble. And what endures outside of the boundaries is this line of hope.

“So hope, within the Muslim context, and probably for other faith traditions as well, is the connection between the human and the divine, and for Muslims, in life and death, between what endures and what is impermanent,” she said.

Hope in the Muslim context is seen as a gift from God, the idea of having a positive outcome. “The best goal that Muslims are to work for is to have a felicitous meeting with God in the hereafter.” Moreover, she explained, “Hope is connected with faith: “A person who has faith and knows about God is the one who is hopeful.”

Islam cautions about inordinate and false hope—living in a way in which one is oblivious to the hereafter, or “clinging to sense that life is permanent and goes on forever, that would block you from (being open to or unworthy of) the hereafter.”

In Muslim context, “no one is guaranteed that they are going to enter heaven. And while we must always hope for God, we must hope for the mercy of God,” Dr. Sayeed explained.

She concluded her talk with a metaphor from one of the Hadiths from an Islamic scholar. attributes this work to Ibn Al-Qayyim, Madarij al-Salikin as part of an anthology of Muslim writers: “The heart is like a bird: love at its head and its two wings are hope and fear.”

Dr. Sayeed elaborated on this: “The heart in a journey towards God is like that of a bird. Love is its head, and fear and hope are its two wings. When the head is healthy, then the two wings will fly well. So, when one loves God, one can have both hope and fear of God. When the head is cut off, the bird will die. When either of its two wings is damaged, then the bird becomes vulnerable to every hunter and predator. So if you let go of your fear or let go of your hope, you become prey to influences that take you away from your true destiny of God.”

Presenting the Jewish perspective on hope, Rabbi Weintraub said, “We are encouraged to think about a future that will be radically different and radically more perfect than the world today. Maimonides described this as ‘a world where oppressive hierarchies are gone…where inequality is gone, where falsehood and war and poverty are removed from the world, where people can study Torah with no obstacles, where the righteous are rewarded, they’re not persecuted, where Israel can be restored to its homeland, where truth and goodness rule.” An instinct, really, about Judaism “No matter what’s going on in the world today, we can imagine and we’re moving towards a radically better future.”

He then presented five elements in Judaism that he believes sustain such hope: Righteous conduct “that we really try to express taking our hopes, aspiration, our thoughts, and putting them into actions in the real world. The Torah has hundreds of these commandments whose goal is really to eradicate inequality. Judaism sought to put compassion into work in social relations. Just as on a spiritual level, we believe that all souls come from One Soul, so, on economic and social levels we are all cells sharing one organism. The Rabbis therefore put into practice Gemilut Chasadim, an intricate web of laws and relations promoting lovingkindness. By mandating and institutionalizing the practices of say, visiting the sick or comforting mourners, or extending hospitality to wayfarers or generous loans to the impoverished, the Rabbis built a web of mutuality, reciprocity and lovingkindness in society.”

Rabbi Weintraub said of the second element, “I think our hope is sustained by encouraging a great tolerance of contradiction. There is a great gap in what we see in the world and what we aspire to, what we hope for, what we pray for. We pray for redemption, and wholeness and peace; and we look around the world and we see a great deal of inconsistency and contradiction. I think one of the things I’m most proud of in my heritage is that rather than try to deny or remove that sense of contradiction, the rabbinic tradition really tries to embrace it—to say it’s okay to live with that paradox all that time.”

He pointed out that the third element the emphasis on time—the noting of the hours of the day and the week, “apart from helping us to stop and reflect on the source of our blessings; is also a way to let people know that, as we move on in life, our time is not being defeated. We don’t have to be worried about the march of our years. Everyone is filled with precious and spiritual possibilities. Likewise, the Amidah is the climax and center of the daily prayer service. In the Amidah: we pray for personal:  faith, wisdom, health, sustenance, justice. But as we pray for those personal things, we are reminded of the purity of our origins, and reminded of the Messianic future, when these blessings will be fully realized.  So our personal prayers draw us out into this perfect, Messianic future.”

The fifth element, said Rabbi Weintraub, is eternal hopefulness. “the idea that the Messiah—(example) associated with this perfect, whole, just, peaceful time of bliss. I speak about it that way. There is a sense, though, that that this Messianic era, person, being, could come at any time. So every person has to live with the sense—today—that I have a responsibility for the coming of this Messiah. No matter what we see around us, corruption, oppression, that we contain the seeds of the Messiah. Any one of us might be the Messiah!”

The Rev. Muncie dovetailed on Rabbi Weintraub’s presentation. “The Christian tradition owes everything to our Jewish mothers and fathers. The Hebrew scriptures undergird so much of what the Christian tradition has embraced and still find meaningful.” Quoting Isaiah 11:6, Fr. Muncie said, “‘The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.’ And of course, we had read that into those texts, that little child, as the long-awaited Messiah who is, for the Christian tradition, personified in Jesus. Which means, that, for Christians, Christ is the hope. And that this personified hope, Jesus and Israel’s Messiah, has put this in a very tense and creative place. Tense, in the sense that we are elaborating hope in terms of Israel’s tradition and our own; and our own experience as a faith community that the Messiah has come and the world has not changed. So, 2,000 years of Christian history is an ongoing struggle with what is the meaning of hope in this present time?”

Fr. Muncie related a story about a visit in Cincinnati. South African Bishop Desmond Tutu who expressed his hope for the future of South Africa, based on a postcard the bishop had received from a Sunday school class in Nome, Alaska.

The card read, ‘We pray every day for the end of apartheid in South Africa. We live in God’s hope.’ Bishop Tutu told me, ‘See? There are six children praying in Alaska, in the Arctic Circle! There is no way apartheid that can stand in the land!’”

Fr. Muncie told the audience at Kane Street Synagogue, “hope is, in many ways in the Christian experience, about imagination: seeing what is not yet, what has not yet been revealed, what has not yet been established: the reign of God among us.” Pointing out that the word “hope” does not appear in the Gospels, he said that expression is personified in Jesus. He recounted a story from the Russian Orthodox tradition, from The Brothers Karamazov that contains the famous parable of the woman and the onion.

“It is a reflection on love, mercy and good deeds and mercy, but also on hope, by imagining a future in which others participate in the hope that we have,” said Fr. Muncie. “Hope in God must be hope for the salvation, the deliverance, the redemption, the justice that must come to all people—the whole world—and even to the Creation itself. Because, as we see the planet growing under all the pain that we have inflicted upon it, and how it puts us all in jeopardy, even the Creation is longing for this cosmic hope.”

Dr. Nakagaki, whose perspective is from a non-Abrahamic tradition, said that hope was an interesting new concept for him. Injecting humor frequently into his remarks, he explained that  Buddhism talks about the person’s presence “here” and not “there.” Mindfulness, in the present, is a central part of Buddhist meditation and living practice, including in the details of how one takes food—in contrast with American society’s rush approach, for example.

“Buddhism is also about opening one’s mind to the truth: acceptance of one’s reality, of who you are,” said Dr. Nakagaki. “Instead of hope, Buddhists aim to be free from suffering, grief, avarice and self-centeredness  try to learn everything.”

The forum was then opened to questions, ranging from happiness, suffering and redemption, the hope of earning money, providing well for one’s family, and choosing a value system that is at odds with a materialistic society.

Moderator Henry Goldschmidt (at left) shares one of many of the evening’s humorous notes with panelists, Dr. Kenjitsu Nakagaki,  Fr. Steve Muncie, Rabbi Sam Weintraub and Dr. Sarah Sayeed. Photo by Francesca Norsen Tate

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Workshop Invites Participants: ‘Open Your Heart to Prayer’

As part of its Christian Spiritual Development program, Plymouth Church hosts a workshop titled, “Open Your Heart to Prayer.”

Carl Hodges, a licensed therapist and teacher of psychotherapy, and experienced Plymouth CSD leader, will facilitate a workshop inviting participants to see prayer as a relationship with God.

Opening oneself to prayer can be both easy and hard, and this workshop aims to facilitate that process. The class will explore how to BE in prayer and be comfortable in praying. Different ways of praying will be discussed: praying for oneself, for others, alone, and with others. Participants will also consider how prayer works for those we know and those we don’t know, including those for whom it is hard to pray. The group will also celebrate different aspects of prayer—thanks, worship, praise, faith, help, connection, changing the world.

The Workshop on Prayer takes place Sunday, Nov. 24, at 12:30 in the Reception Room. This event is free of charge and open to the community.


Plymouth Church Offers Next Set of New Members Classes

Plymouth Church’s New Member Class meets Nov. 17 and 24.

The landmark church welcomes those interested in becoming members of Plymouth to participate in its Fall 2013 New Member class. Class sessions will be held on Sundays, Nov. 17 and 24 at 9:30 a.m. in the Reception Room (enter at 75 Hicks Street).

Prospective members should plan to attend both sessions (make-up sessions for those unable to attend one or both meetings will be scheduled). A light breakfast will be served, and childcare provided. At the worship service on Dec. 8, Plymouth will welcome new members into the congregation as all members “own” the covenant in unison as a community. For more information, and to reserve a place at our New Member Class, please contact Amy Talcott at the Plymouth Church office: 718-624-4743.


November 13, 2013 - 10:00am


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