RELIGION: B’nai Avraham celebrates liberation of Rabbi who founded Chassidim

Congregation B'nai Avraham - photo by Josh Ross

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Chabad Chassidic Jews celebrate 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev as a day of liberation for founder and spiritual leader. It was on this (Hebrew) date in 1798 that Rabbi Schneur Zalman, the founder of Chabad Chassidism, was liberated from prison in czarist Russia. Congregation B’nai Avraham will mark this date and honor the memory of the Alter Rebbe, author of The Tanya and Shulchan Aruch, on the 200th anniversary of his death with a Farbrengen on Sunday, December 2.

The word “Farbrengen,” from the Yiddish, means “joyous gathering.” 

Rabbi Moshe Feller of St. Paul, Minnesota, will be the guest speaker at the Farbrengen, hosted at Congregation B’nai Avraham, Brooklyn Heights’ Modern Orthodox synagogue. The program begins at 5 p.m. and a light dinner will be served. Readers wishing to RSVP may call 718-596-4840, ext. 18, or email Rabbi Aaron Raskin is the spiritual leader.


Rabbi Aaron Raskin is acclaimed in Brooklyn for the variety of educational programs he leads, for example, one that began last week titled, “Thank G-d for Making Me A Woman.”  A new program on the Kabbalah starting this week (Wednesday, Nov. 28) points out, “There are 7 billion people in the world, but there’s only one YOU.”

This series focuses on “getting in touch with your innermost self” through the Kabbalah, the mystical dimension of Judaism. “The Kabbalah of You: A Guide to Unlocking Your Hidden Potential,” runs for six Wednesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m.  The cost is $65. For more information, phone Congregation B’nai Avraham at (718) 596-4840 or contact the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute via their website,

The other series, “Thank G-d for Making Me A Woman, which runs on Mondays through Dec. 24, “explores the role of Jewish women. Why are they the crown of creation, and why only they are able to bring the world to its perfection?,” according to an announcement for the program. Different weeks focus on certain mitzvoth, such as lighting the Sabbath candles, baking challah. Another segment in the series, referring to the monthly ritual cleansing, is titled, “Mikvah: Why Not a Hot Tub?” (Dec. 10); and another segment examines, “Can women be counted for a minyan, or wear a tallit or tefillin?” There is no pre-registration for this series, which has already begun.
This class is also available by phone and can also be viewed on Readers wishing more information may send an email to or (718) 596-4840 x11. Congregation B’nai Avraham is at 117 Remsen St. in Brooklyn Heights.


Chanukah events

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, begins at the close of Shabbat on Saturday, Dec. 8. The backdrop for Chanukah is the Holy Land during the Syrian-Greek occupation of the Holy Land. The villain was the evil and insane king Antiochus Epiphanes, who issued a series of cruel edicts prohibiting what was sacred and required of the Jewish people living there, destroying Torah scrolls and threatening the destruction of the (second) Temple.  Judah the Maccabee formed an army to protect and defend the temple. The name given to him, Maccabee, is actually an acronym/word formed "Maccabee," a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, constituting the phrase, “Who is like You, O G-d.”

Part of this saga includes the Dedication of the Temple after it had been purged of the occupiers. It is here that one finds the most familiar part of the Chanukah story: the small cruse of olive oil that lasted eight days, which the Jews understood as God’s continued protection. The Chanukah story also deals with the Jewish community’s resistance of assimilation into the dominant culture of its day.

Congregation B’nai Avraham will participate in a community-wide celebration of Chanukah at Borough Hall, featuring Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. He is co-sponsoring the party with Chabad of Brooklyn Heights. The event takes place in front of the Brooklyn Courthouse, near Borough Hall, on Monday, Dec. 10 at 5 p.m. The traditional foods for Chanukah are latkes and donuts because great quantities of oil — symbolic of the aforementioned miracle — are used in frying these goodies.


Congregation Mount Sinai’s Introduction to Judaism presentation on Sunday, December 2, will offer a thought provoking and stimulating exploration of Life Cycle Ceremonies. Rabbinic Intern Seth Wax will lead this class, open to all, starting at 5 p.m.

Congregation Mount Sinai is at 250 Cadman Plaza West in Downtown Brooklyn. Call (718) 875-9124 for more information.


Update on program cancellation

Progressive Temple Beth Ahavath Sholom in Borough Park and Temple Israel Reform Congregation of Staten Island had planned a Shabbaton for Dec. 1. That event has been postponed until next spring due to damage that the host congregation in Staten Island suffered because of Hurricane Sandy.

* * *
Advent programs

The Christian season of Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. 2. Traditionally a season of expectation and penitence, Advent prepares the faithful both for the miracle of the Incarnation, in which Christians believe the Word of God became human in the form of Jesus Christ, the anointed; and for Jesus’ return when all creation will be made perfect.

Several Brooklyn churches are offering Advent programs

“Understanding the Christmas Story – A Bible Study for Advent” is the theme of a four-part series at First Presbyterian Church. This study invites participants to explore more deeply the story of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and kings and the animals in the stable where Jesus is believed to have been born.

The program was scheduled to start on Tuesday, Nov. 27, and it continues the next three Wednesday evenings (Dec. 5, 12, and 19) from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Thurman Room. The series will include conversations on the Christmas stories in Matthew and Luke, including:

Plymouth Church invites the community to start “Warming Up for Advent” with a Christian Spiritual Development Class.

The Rev. David Fisher, senior minister, and Rev. Al Bunis will lead “Warming Up for Advent” on four Wednesdays: Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12, and Dec. 19. They will guide participants through the Lectionary Bible texts for Advent, exploring their meaning and resonance while offering insights into the planning of the following Sunday’s sermon.

A light dinner will be served at 6:30 followed by the presentation at 7 p.m. Attendance at all meetings is not required! One is welcome to drop in for just one or as many as you can.


Assumption Roman Catholic Church’s advent reflection series focuses on Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Titled “Mary of Nazareth, Who is She Really?” the series will utilizes the groundbreaking book, Truly Our Sister, A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saint,  by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ. The author is a Theologian & Professor at Fordham University.

Sister Bernadette Sullivan, Franciscan Sisters of the Poor (FSP) will facilitate the series, held on Fridays:  Nov. 30, Dec. 7, 14 and 21, following the 8 a.m. Mass. This program will meet in the Assumption Parish Auditorium. For more information and to RSVP: call Sister Bernadette Sullivan at (718) 935-9611.


The Brooklyn Oratory’s Oratory School of Discipleship (OSD) offers a multi-season program on (Re) Discovering the Drama, Beauty & Challenge of Catholicism.

Fr. Anthony Andreassi will lead discussions on some of the central aspects and mysteries of Catholic Christianity such as why God took on human flesh; the human person’s relationship with the divine; the demanding teaching of Jesus; human attempts to prove God’s existence; the reasons that the Church is missionary by its very nature; why and how to pray; and how to understand the Church with all its beauty and sinfulness. The series takes place at neighboring St. Joseph’s High School on Sunday mornings from 9:15a.m. to 10:30 a.m., on Dec. 2, Jan. 6, Feb. 3, March 3 and April 7.

Holiday Fairs and Festivals:

* First Unitarian Church’s popular UniFair will take place on Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the First Unitarian Chapel, Pierrepont Street between Monroe Place and Clinton Street. Offerings will include home-baked goods, boutique selections, decorated and un-decorated wreaths, “gently used” clothing, a huge White Elephant section and lots of small gift items.  A hot lunch will be available.

*  The Brooklyn Oratory’s Christmas Fair 2012: Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 1 and 2, is hosted at St. Joseph’s High School, 80 Willoughby St. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sunday’s hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A popular feature at the fair is Sister Honora’s Famous Oratory Christmas Fair Chili. Local merchants and craftspeople will have goods for sale.

* Assumption’s Spirit of Christmas Gala takes place at Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary Church’s Parish Hall on Saturday, December 8. Tickets are $55 per person.  For information and tickets: visit the Parish Office at 64 Middagh St. or call: (718) 625-1161.

* Assumption Church is one of many around the Diocese celebrating Advent Family Day in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Council. The Advent Family Day runs from 2-4 p.m. on the First Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, and includes activities, entertainment, pizza and other features.

Milestones in Faith: Bethlehem Lutheran Church’s cornerstone placed 90 years ago

Bethelehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.

November is an auspicious month in the history of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Bay Ridge.

The congregation started as a mission when, on Sunday, Nov. 1, 1903 small group of the faithful gathered in the storeroom of Ernst C. Schumacher’s grocery shop at the corner of 51st Street and 6th Avenue in Brooklyn.  They persuaded Rev. Dr. John Holthusen, the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Brooklyn to open a mission and begin organizing a congregation to serve the mostly-German community.  Thus was born the Brooklyn Mission Society’s Bay Ridge mission.

Bethlehem was a largely German congregation that held its services in both German and English. Gradually the demographics changed as the Germans moved away and steady influx of Scandinavians replaced them.  Although also Lutherans, the Scandinavians — largely of Norwegian and Danish heritage — tended to hold services in their own languages and founded their own congregations.  In order to keep its membership numbers steady, the Bay Ridge mission purchased a site further south, on the corner of Fourth and Ovington avenues, in November 1921. The purchase price: $19,000. In order complete the purchase, the mission had to sell its 51st Street property to St. Johannis Swedish Lutheran Congregation, and was temporarily without a home.

The architect firm of Koch & Wagner was hired to draw up plans. Because the congregation had limited finances, the decision was made to build the church building in two stages. Andrew Olson won the contract and construction began Oct. 1, 1922.

Re-enter the shopkeeper, Ernst C. Schumacher, who laid the cornerstone for the new church building on Nov. 26, 1922, 90 years ago this week. During construction, the Bethlehem congregation worshipped across the street at the Grace Methodist Church.


November 27, 2012 - 11:01am



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