Religion Newsbriefs for April 22

Interfaith Scholar-in-Residence Will Explore Judaism’s Bond with the New Testament

The importance of the New Testament to Jews and Christians alike sets the theme for the 17th annual Interfaith Scholar-in-Residence Program with the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and Grace Church (an Episcopal parish with strong bonds to the synagogue).

This year’s Scholar-in-Residence is Marc Zvi Brettler, Ph.D. The program, during the weekend of May 10-12, begins with Friday night Shabbat services at the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue. Grace Church hosts the second and third segments, with a luncheon and Dr. Brettler’s presentation on Saturday; Dr. Brettler will take the pulpit at Grace Church on Sunday, May 10. One difference in this year’s Scholar-in-Residence weekend is that the 11 a.m. Sunday service will be held in Grace Church’s Guild Hall, due to a major restoration project in the sanctuary.

Dr. Brettler’s presentation, at 6:30 p.m. Shabbat liturgy, is titled “Why Should Jews Read The New Testament?” He will continue this theme in depth at the 1 p.m. Lunch-and-Learn on May 11, with his talk on “The New Testament, The Hebrew Bible And Rabbinic Literature: Convergences and divergences.” Sunday’s presentation will be “The Jewish Roots of the New Testament.”

Marc Zvi Brettler earned his Ph.D., master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University, where he is now the Dora Golding Professor of Biblical Studies. He is also former chair of the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies there. In addition to Brandeis, he has taught at Yale University, Brown University, Wellesley College and Middlebury College.  He has also taught in various adult Jewish education settings, including the Wexner Heritage Program, the innovative Me’ah program in Boston, and has served as scholar-in-residence for the Foundation for Jewish Studies in Washington DC.  

Brettler is actively involved in many aspects of Jewish communal life, and has served on the board of Boston’s Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center and Gann Academy—the New Jewish High School.  Dr. Brettler he has published and lectured widely on metaphor and the Bible, the nature of biblical historical texts, and gender issues and the Bible. He is co-editor of the Jewish Study Bible, published by Oxford University Press in 2004.  

That book has won a National Jewish Book Award, as was called “a masterpiece” in a review in the Times Literary Supplement.  His How to Read the Bible (Jewish Publication Society), which has been called “an eye-opening journey through a familiar text, a fresh look at an old story,” was the award winner in the Judaism category of the Best Books 2006 Book Awards.  A slightly revised version was published in paperback by Oxford University Press as How to Read the Jewish Bible.  He is co-editor with Amy-Jill Levine of The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press), the first book of its type, and is co-author of The Bible and the Believer: How to Read the Bible Critically and Religiously (Oxford University Press).  Other books are Biblical Hebrew for Students of Modern Israeli Hebrew, published by Yale University Press, and The Creation of History in Ancient Israel and Reading the Book of Judges, published by Routledge. He served as an associate editor of the New Oxford Annotated Bible, and has contributed to all ten volumes of My People's Prayer Book, a commentary on the siddur, which won a National Jewish Book Award in 2008.  He also wrote the section on “Our Biblical Heritage” in My People’s Passover Haggadah.
           
Brettler has written for
The Forward, has appeared on the Television series “Mysteries of the Bible,” was heard on the National Public Radio show “All Things Considered,” and was interviewed on “Fresh Air” by Terry Gross.  While serving as a senior research fellow at the Mandel Leadership Institute in Jerusalem, he began writing a commentary on Psalms 91-119 for the Jewish Publication Society Bible Commentary.  He is committed to applying innovative methods to classroom teaching, including teaching via the internet, and is the recipient of the Michael A. Walzer Award for Excellence in Teaching and the Keter Torah Award from the Boston Bureau of Jewish Education.  He has spent recent sabbaticals studying, teaching, and lecturing in Israel, England, China, and Japan.

All three events are free and open to the community. Those wishing to attend the Saturday Lunch and Learn should call the Grace Church office at 718-624-1850.

The Brooklyn Heights Synagogue is at 131 Remsen St. Grace Church is at 254 Hicks St.

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Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Launches Ad Campaign to Reach Diverse Crowd

Apparently Converse’s “Chuck Taylor” sneakers are a favorite choice of footwear of both the Pope and Jesus Christ.

In addition to being colorful and comfortable, the “Chuck Taylor” sneakers are the reason why more Catholics are returning to church; that is, according Seth Meyers in his SNL (Saturday Night Live) Weekend Update.

Meyers’ comments reflect what many perceive as a major problem in the Roman Catholic Church today: that most Catholics see the church as archaic and not relevant, nor valuable, to their everyday lives.  This is an attitude that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is trying to reverse, through its new marketing campaign: “All Faces, Everyday Understanding.”

Launched earlier this month, “All Faces, Everyday Understanding” is geared towards reaching a younger, more diverse demographic by showing the cooler and more welcoming side of the Catholic Church.  And one of the main creative pieces is “The Original Hipster.”

Who would have guessed that the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and SNL had similar senses of humor?  Whatever the case, one could say that imitation is the best form of flattery and the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn is thrilled that SNL can help spread its message.

“If you have faith there is never a need to take yourself too seriously; life is so much easier when you have a sense of humor.  Sure we are poking fun at ourselves, but also making clear that in Catholic Churches in Brooklyn & Queens everyone is welcome,” said Monsignor Kieran Harrington, the diocese’s Vicar for Communications.

Keep an eye out for the “All Faces, Everyday Understanding” campaign in Brooklyn and Queens.  The ads are creative, funny, and suggestive of the renewed and relatable atmosphere one can at one of the more than 230 parishes in Brooklyn and Queens.

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Orthodox Christians Will Mark Easter on May 5

Although Passover and Easter were concurrent and have passed for Jewish and Western rite Christians, Eastern Orthodox Christians are still observing Great and Holy Lent.

According to several websites on Eastern Orthodox Christianity and, in particular, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North America, This year, 2013 A.D., and C.E. (Common Era) is a prime example of what happens when Western Easter and Passover coincide. The Vernal Equinox arrived on March 20. The first full moon after the equinox (start of spring) was on March 27. most rites of the Catholic Church and Protestants observed Easter on March 31 However, due to an adjustment in the changeover from the old Julian to the Gregorian calendars, Orthodox Easter cannot be observed any earlier than April 3 in the current calendar—because that date corresponds with the Old March 21.

This year, Orthodox Christians wait another full moon to observe Easter. Great and Holy Week begins on Orthodox Palm Sunday, April 28 this year, and will celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter overnight on May 4-5.

One exception to this general rule, by the way, is the Orthodox Church of Finland. Because it comprises less than two per cent of the population of a predominantly Lutheran country, the Orthodox Church of Finland observes Easter according to the New Calendar for practical reasons. Conversely, in parts the Holy Land, particularly in Ramallah, many non-Orthodox Christian denominations such as the Anglicans and Lutherans, align their calendars to observe Lent, Holy Week and Easter along with the Orthodox Christians there.

Easter will be the same date next year for Eastern Orthodox and Western Christians—April 20, 2014.

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Brooklyn Chapter Organists Give Recital at Plymouth Church

The American Guild of Organists-Brooklyn Chapter presents “A Festival of Organ and Choral Music Performed by Chapter Members” Sunday, April 28. Plymouth Church (57 Orange St. between Henry & Hicks streets) is hosting the recital, which starts at 5 p.m. Admission to this 5 p.m. recital is free and open to the community.

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Brooklyn Pastor Will Appear On TBN Cable Program

Nationally renowned inspirational speaker, Rev. Dennis Dillon, conducted the next segment of his Breakthru to Freedom starting series at the Brooklyn Christian Center on Friday.

Dillon, who is pastor of the Brooklyn Christian Center, will be heard on the “Joy in Our Town” program on TBN, scheduled to broadcast on April 26 at 1 p.m. The Brooklyn Christian Center and Pastor Dennis Dillon were guest audience at the recent taping of the “Praise the Lord” airing on TBN this past week. Another taping took place with Clifton Davis, Rev. J.G. McCann, Bishop Harry Jackson, Dr. Frank Reid, Bishop Michael Blue and Billy Brown.  TBN local programming is broadcast on Time Warner Cable Ch. 98, Cablevision Ch. 134 and Digital TV Ch. 27 in New York & New Jersey. Readers may call 718-638-6397 for additional information or to be a BCC audience member at the next Live studio taping.

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The Brooklyn Christian Center is also sponsoring “Create Your Own Job” Fair, geared for those seeking self-employment or entrepreneurial opportunities. This workshop starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 26.

Display Tables will be available for Not-for-Profit Business Resource Centers. Exhibit opportunities will be available for businesses with sales or marketing opportunities. Participants are urged to bring resumes for submission or send via email to [email protected]. Call 718-638-6397 to secure your space as an exhibitor or attendee now!

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St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Set To Welcome Bishop Provenzano

It is customary for a bishop —whether Roman Catholic or Episcopal—to visit the parishes in his diocese, to meet with the leadership and to preside at the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The Rt. Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, Diocesan Bishop of Long Island, will visit St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens this Sunday April 21 to celebrate Mass. Bishop Provenzano will be preaching, confirming and receiving new members into the church family. After Mass, parishioners and members of the community will be present at a coffee hour reception in the parish hall there will be a coffee hour reception to meet and Bishop Provenzano. All are welcome to attend. Mass begins at 11 a.m.  St. Paul’s Church is at the NE corner of Clinton and Carroll streets.

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Brooklyn A Cappella Talent Donate Their Music for Old First Church Restoration

Last year, plaster fell from the roof of Old First Reformed Church, one of the oldest faith communities in Brooklyn, dating back to the 17th century. Old First Church, as it is lovingly called, has held fundraisers to finance the repairs. The church hosts several outreach and arts ministries that are vital to the wider community.

Arts At Old First’s next benefit concert features a spectacular musical lineup of local Brooklyn a cappella talent.

Brooklyn’s own Persuasions, the sophisticated harmonies of Vox Bop, Old First’s In-House Adolesaints, Poly Prep’s Unaccompanied Minors and the fiery fiddling of Pitnacree offer the program for this concert, on Saturday, April 26 from 7 to about 10 p.m., although it might run longer according to audience response. All artists are donating their talents, which will benefit the Old First Ceiling Restoration Fund.

Advance tickets: $30 adults, $25 children (12 and under), $35 door.

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MILESTONES IN FAITH

Old First Reformed Church, Dating Back to 1654, Has Rich Architectural History

Old First Reformed Church, which is in the midst of a roof restoration projects, is one of New York City’s original congregations, born with the early Dutch settlers of this country. The congregation’s official name is The Reformed Dutch Church of the Town of Breukelen.

Old First Church was founded in 1654 along with churches in Flatbush and Flatlands by order of Governor Pieter Stuyvesant. The three congregations operated as “collegiate” churches, sharing Domine (Reverend) Theodorus Polhemus as pastor. In 1660 the Breukelen group broke away and had its own pastor, Domine Henricus Selyns, but when he returned to Holland four years later, Breukelen resumed its relationship with the other two churches, one that lasted until 1805. These three original churches celebrated their 350th Anniversary in 2004.

Initially, worship was conducted under the trees, then in a barn. In 1666, the first church edifice, shown above, was built in the town of Breukelen in the middle of a highway, now known as Fulton Street, and on the site where Macy’s (formerly Abraham & Straus) now sits. The church’s burial ground was transferred to the Green-Wood Cemetery.

The church’s growth by 1805 required a larger building, and a building was erected on nearby Joralemon St.

However, within 30 years, the congregation had already outgrown the new building. It was demolished and a yet newer (supposedly larger) building was rebuilt on the same site in 1835. As the land grew more valuable and the congregation grew larger, the decision was made to split and form a satellite congregation. A chapel at 7th Avenue and Carroll St. was completed in 1886, but congregational growth led to the need for a larger building. The present church building, on that same site of 7th and Carroll, was dedicated on September 27, 1891.

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Some new research has emerged (via Old First’s Facebook page) about the architect of present-day Old First Church, George L. Morse (1836-1924). A native of Bangor, Maine, he came to Brooklyn. Some of his other buildings include Temple Bar Building (Court and Joralemon Streets, 1901) and the graceful, moated, Franklin Trust (166 Montague at Clinton, 1891; now apartments).

Other positions related to architecture which he held were as President of the Department of Architecture at Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum and BAM) and a seat as judge on the architectural design committee for the Brooklyn Museum. Morse remained a prominent architect until 1910 when he retired.