With Our Thanks:

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Hon. Marty Markowitz
Hon. Michael C. Nelson
HealthPlus Amerigroup
Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund,
in honor of Preston Robert Tisch

See the video and BELIEVE!

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Jewish, Muslim Communities Break Bread Together in Brooklyn

Published in the Brooklyn Eagle – August 5, 2014

Dinner Brings Together Communities for Ramadan And ‘The Three Weeks’ of Bein HaMeitzarim

Members of Brooklyn’s Jewish and Muslim communities broke bread together at a unique multi-cultural dinner on Thursday, July 24 at Congregation Mount Sinai.

The Ramadan Iftar dinner coincided with the Jewish period of Bein HaMeitzarim (The Three Weeks) and gave participants the chance to get to know each other and explore a religious tradition that may have been unfamiliar to them. The event featured music and dancing by Jewish and Turkish performers.

The importance of brotherhood and learning about each other’s traditions was the evening’s theme.

Continue reading Jewish, Muslim Communities Break Bread Together in Brooklyn

Growing up in the Williamsburg Housing Projects

by Joe Dorinson

I grew up in the Williamsburg Housing Projects and lived there from 1939 to 1960. To qualify for residence in this FDR crafted New Deal experiment in public housing, you had to be poor.

That didn’t bother my lifelong friends, Irving, Ivan, Mike, Vinny, Bernie, Richie, Leslie, Barbara, Howie and me because we were all poor. Fineshmecker snobbery did not appeal and we thought everyone was in the same boat. Not so. Most of my friends went to religous after-school programs in Talmud Torahs. Some, like Irving, attended Torah Vidas Yeshiva.

My secular left-wing family sent me to shule zeks und dreisik (School 36) where I learned Yiddishkeit: language, history, literature, culture, and core values. En route to school, we were often accosted by young thugs, mostly Irish, who threatened to beat the hell out of us and sometimes their fists matched their words. Every Halloween brought mini-pogroms to our neighborhood as those “dear hearts and gentile people” would fill socks with chalk and bean every Jewish child they could find on that hateful day. Lucky for me with my turned up nose, I looked Irish and escaped their wrath. When they yelled “Christ killers!” at us, I cringed in fear and reacted with indignation.

I never killed anyone except for a few mosquitoes and some flies. Besides, I later learned that Jesus was originally a member of our tribe who rose from a humble carpenter’s job and made it “big” in a new religion. Symbolized as “the Prince of Peace,” he certainly would not have approved of the pogroms waged in his name to avenge his death at the hands those cruel Romans.

So one day, when I decided to play hookey, i.e. stay home from shule situated on Manhattan Avenue, four blocks from our apartment at 165 Scholes Street, a miracle occurred. The usual assemblage of pogromchiks gathered to harass my friends. And a hero–no, a heroine emerged to defend our faith. She was a feisty, well-built girl named Rochelle Zannet. With a devastating right cross, she bloodied the nose of their gang leader. His band dissolved in shame. They never bothered us again. Who needed Superman or Shimshon h’agibber (mighty Samson) when we had a Jewish Wonder Woman? Rochelle succumbed to illness a few years ago according to her sister Alice Kalischman, but in “this heart of mine,” a Brooklyn Jewish female champion lives–forever young and tough as nails.

Coney Island Life

Submitted by Roberta Ann Afflitto

At a time when I was experiencing loss and sadness, I moved to Coney Island. It took me a while to make friends, but when I did – every day became an adventure. We would walk down Surf Avenue, moving to the uplifting sound of the carousel. We’d ride it and attempt to catch the golden ring to earn another ride. The aromas of grilling hot dogs and French fries made us quicken our steps to reach Nathan’s. The crunch of that first bite gave our tastebuds a salty, yummy treat. Then on to play games such as skeetball.

Continue reading Coney Island Life

Tuesday Nights In Summer

On the seventeenth floor in Luna Park,
Neighbors would gather just after dark.
Many beliefs and nationalities,
We shared our delicious specialties.
Everyone talked, had fun and cared,
A little part of our lives were shared.
Continue reading Tuesday Nights In Summer

Brooklyn’s Oldest Synagogue Celebrates Model Seder

Apr 04, 2014 by Tanay Warerkar, Greenpoint News


Rabbi Joshua Fishman and congregants Courtesy Martin Needelman

Brooklyn’s oldest Orthodox and Williamsburg’s last non-Hasidic Orthodox Synagogue, Congregation Beth Jacob Ohev Shalom (CBJOS), will hold its first-ever model Seder this Sunday to mark the upcoming celebration of Passover.

The model Seder is a way for the Rodney Street Synagogue to reintegrate the Jewish community in North Brooklyn and specifically to reach out to the influx of people who have recently moved into the neighborhood, as well as to introduce the Jewish culture, history and traditions to those who might not necessarily be devout practitioners of the faith.

Continue reading Brooklyn’s Oldest Synagogue Celebrates Model Seder

For Sandy victims in Brighton Beach, Purim story has a double meaning

Rabbi Josh Minkin (in foreground) holds the microphone, while colleague Malka Shagaraeva wears the crown. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services

Rabbi Josh Minkin (in foreground) holds the microphone, while colleague Malka Shagaraeva wears the crown. Photo courtesy of the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services

The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services on March 17 treated the Brighton Beach community, which was seriously affected during Hurricane Sandy, to a festive Purim party at Tatiana restaurant on Brighton Beach Avenue as part of the UJA-Federation’s Post-Sandy Community Outreach Program. The program provides emotional and spiritual help to members of the Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Staten Island who have been seriously affected by the hurricane.  The free program, which is offered in both English and Russian, is unusual because it combines pastoral with psychological counseling. Continue reading For Sandy victims in Brighton Beach, Purim story has a double meaning

Sheepshead Bay

Submitted by Adam Cohen, October 1, 2013 - engrave12@yahoo.com

My family grew up in Brooklyn including my parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents. I was dubbed a first generation New Jerseyan by many of my family members. As you could imagine, we spent a lot of time in Brooklyn. My parents would take my sister and I into Brooklyn on a whim and show us where they grew up, met, and dated. They liked to show us places like Jan’s, Seniors, Lundy’s, and what used to be Brighton Beach Baths. I loved these nostalgic trips down my parents’ memory lane.

During Yom Kippur, the whole family would meet at my grandparent’s on Neptune Avenue across from Lincoln High School. This is a tradition that started at 3003 Avenue X in the 1950′s and lasted until 2008. My grandfather, uncle, and father, including myself would walk to Temple Beth Abraham for services before we would break the fast. This walk to and from the synagogue is my most treasured memory of my time spent with my family in Brooklyn.

In 2009, my grandmother passed and the tradition was broken. I cannot tell you how much I miss not only the walks to and from Beth Abraham, but the amazing feeling of being with my family in a small apartment breaking fast in Brooklyn. We recently cleaned out that very apartment that played a huge role in my childhood. Over the course of three weeks, we picked apart 60 years of memories closet by closet, picture by picture. I cannot tell you how difficult it was to hold back from completely breaking down.

Aside from Yom Kippur, one Brooklyn memory that stands out is when I knocked on my father’s old apartment (the one he grew up in, 3003 Avenue X in Sheepshead Bay). My father and grandfather were sitting in the car, and the woman living there actually welcomed us in. It was incredible to see both of their faces as they looked around an apartment they hadn’t been in for almost 30 years. Lastly, my parents always speak about their childhood in Brooklyn as being this magical place to grow up (1950′s). I wish for a few minutes I had the ability to go back in time and experience Brooklyn during that time period.


Growing up in Gravesend

Submitted by Steve Slavin

gravesend2Back in the 1950s there were dozens of Reform temples scattered throughout what we called Flatbush. The closest to where I lived was Temple Ahavath Sholom, which we always called “the Avenue R Temple,” since it was on Avenue R and East 16th Street in the heart of Gravesend. There was also a Conservative synagogue on the corner of Homecrest and Ave T, Beth El Jewish Center.

Almost every Jewish child in those years attended Talmud Torah, an after school Hebrew program. My friends and I attended Hebrew school two afternoons a week. The idea is that we learn enough Hebrew to get us through our Haf Torahs at our bar mitzvahs. Temple Ahavath Sholom, which dated back to 1909, was torn down in the early 1950s and a very modernistic new one was built in its place. In fact, my bar mitzvah, on September 6, 1952, was the first one at the new temple. In the late 1970s, the Hebrew school building and the temple were purchased by Prospect Park Yeshiva, and it became a very well regarded Orthodox Jewish girls’ school — a Bais Yaakov. I enjoy telling my Orthodox friends that mine was the first bar mitzvah at their school. How could that possibly be, they wonder?

Growing up on East 18th Street, just a block off Kings Highway, my friends and I often walked around the neighborhood, played in Kelly Park on Ave S, or walked down the ‘Highway.” To me, nearly every older person had a Jewish accent. In fact, I was 10 or 11 before I realized that my name was not actually pronounced “Stivy.” My friend, Chuck, who was a great mimic, would have us in stitches talking with an accent. In fact his grandfather, who was in his late 80s would say, “His accent is better than mine.”

I should mention that PS 153 was on the corner of E 12 and Ave T and PS 255 on Ave S and E 16th St, just across the yard from Cunningham. Cunningham had a sizable Jewish population. Gravesend was almost entirely middle and working class Jewish, with a sprinkling of Italians, Irish, and Greeks. At James Madison High School, on Bedford Ave and Quentin Road, and drew almost entirely from an area of about four square miles.

Today, the neighborhood, which we called “Kings Highway,” is still predominately Jewish, albeit with a sizeable number of Russian Jews and Orthodox Jews and here are even more synagogues, most of them Orthodox. There are also many Asians, mostly along Ave U. One warm spring evening I was walking down the Highway behind three teenage girls wearing stylish jeans. I was able to overhear some of their conversation. It was in Russian. But other than the unfamiliar language, they could have been identical to the girls who strolled down the highway more than 50 years ago.

This was the neighborhood where I grew up.

“The Romeos” – Feeding on Memories


Published: NY Times, July 18, 2013
“There’s something historical about us,” says one of the Romeows, a crew of septuagenarians that generally meets every Wednesday in Brooklyn for dinner and conversation. He’s right, and history should record their weekly — but rare — achievement more often. Thank goodness this gentle, affectionate documentary does it.
There’s nothing flashy about “The Romeows” the film or the Romeows the men, but what they’ve created — their life’s art — matters. It’s sitting around a restaurant, eating family style, every Wednesday, just to talk. (Romeows stands for Retired Older Men Eating Out Wednesdays.)
Continue reading “The Romeos” – Feeding on Memories

Pat Singer Is the Mother of Brighton Beach

By Tanya Paperny Published February 22, 2013, The Jewish Daily Forward

Located on the main stretch of Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach Avenue, among numerous Russian delis, Russian-language bookstores and a shuttered Russian travel agency, the Brighton Neighborhood Association stands out. Its window is one of the few on the block with signs predominantly in English, and it’s one of the few storefronts near the elevated tracks of the B and Q trains that doesn’t actually sell anything.

This doesn’t stop people — and definitely not elderly Russians — from strolling through the glass front door, unannounced, on a regular basis. Some mistake the office for a thrift store and start lifting up, one by one, the porcelain and enamel elephants, gifts from friends and other tchotchkes on the desk of Pat Singer, founder and executive director of BNA, a not-for-profit social service agency in Brighton Beach, a neighborhood that stretches for one mile along the Atlantic coast.

Singer has to break into her limited knowledge of Russian to shoo them away: “Not magazin, this office! Not for sale, nooo! Get your hands off my desk!”

Singer, the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants from Odessa, is a community leader in this predominantly Russian-speaking neighborhood: “I’m called ‘the Mother of Brighton Beach,’ but I’m a bad mother, because I can’t communicate with my children.”

Continue reading Pat Singer Is the Mother of Brighton Beach

Brooklyn’s Jews have a Love Affair with Mah Jongg

Mah jongg! That’s the call of a winning hand! Since the 1920s, the game of mah jongg has ignited the popular imagination with its beautiful tiles, mythical origins, and communal spirit. Come learn the history and meaning of the beloved game that became a Jewish-American tradition.

Mah jongg is much more than a game: it is a carrier of fantasy, identity, memory, and meaning. Three bam, two dot, flower, five crack, dragons, winds! The tiles, lined up against racks as four players sit around card tables concentrating heavily on making a viable hand and winning the game.

From early 20th century Shanghai, where Jewish men and women first began playing to Brooklyn, mah jongg is a popular game played in senior citizen centers, community centers and in private homes, mah jongg.  The game spread to the United States., becoming extremely popular among Jews from New York to California. The American version is slightly different than the Chinese. American sets have 152 tiles in four suits. In the early days, tiles were made of ivory, then bakelight and today different plastics and materials are used. The rules of the game are determined by the National Mah Jongg Association.

Jewish actors like Eddie Cantor and Woody Allen refer to their mothers playing mah jongg.

Continue reading Brooklyn’s Jews have a Love Affair with Mah Jongg

Mikvah is the first to open in brownstone nabe

By Natalie Musumeci
The Brooklyn Paper

The first mikvah ever in Park Slope finally opened after more than five years of construction.

The three-story William and Betty Katz Center for Jewish Life, on 15th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, was celebrated with a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, drawing dozens of observant Jews and shutting down the street to traffic for several hours. The project has been controversial with neighbors since its inception.

A mikvah, which literally translates as “pool,” is a Jewish ritual bathhouse and an integral part of the religion, said Rabbi Shimon Hecht, leader of Congregation B’nai Jacob on Ninth Street. He also heads the Chabad of Brownstone Brooklyn, which built the mikvah.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said, adding that building a mikvah even takes precedence over building a house of worship.

The pristine, spa-like, facility is designed for observant Jews to partake in a ritual process of purification and cleansing, in a solitary and ultra private manner, by immersing themselves in specially constructed pools. The new mikvah has baths for men on the first floor and separate baths for women on the lower level. It’s available only by appointment.

“It’s a major component of the Jewish community,” he said. “You need a mikvah because Jewish purity is dependent on a mikvah. You cannot build a family without a mikvah. And if you don’t have a family then you cannot build a community.”

Continue reading Mikvah is the first to open in brownstone nabe

Ron Schweiger, new president of the Society of Old Brooklynites

Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2013 5:17 pm | Updated: 5:23 pm, Wed May 8, 2013. on Home Reporter News

By Theodore W. General

Brooklyn’s official historian Ronald Schweiger was just elected as the 48th
president of the Society of Old Brooklynites, which dates back to when Brooklyn was an independent city and the third largest in the nation.

Schweiger, who is also the president of the Brooklyn College Alumni Association, joins a long list of distinguished Brooklynites who have served at the helm of the borough-wide civic organization. They have included former Brooklyn city mayors, members of Congress, state senators, banking and business executives, attorneys, newspaper publishers, military leaders and writers. Among their ranks are two highly regarded women, one a DAR regent and the other an ASCAP song writer and civic leader.

Schweiger, a retired school teacher, has been a life member of the society and a past member of the board of directors. He succeeds Ralph Perfetto, who worked as the Brooklyn ombudsman for former City AdvocateBetsy Gotbaum. Back in 2001, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz appointed Schweiger to the non-salaried position of borough historian.

Other officers re-elected for another term were Michael Spinner, president and CEO of Sunset Park-based Spinner Industries as first vice president; Ted General, columnist for this paper and a local civic leader, as second vice president; Sherman Silverman, a retired airline consultant, as treasurer; Holly Fuchs, a member of Community Board 8 and a retired banking supervisor, as corresponding secretary; and Linda Orlando, a retired court stenographer and area community activist, as recording secretary.

Additionally, re-elected for three year terms on the society’s Board of Directors were Robert Daniels,Ellen Haywood, Rev. Dr. Sylvia JordanWilhelmena KellyRalph PerfettoPeter Spanakos and James Tillmon.

Author of “The War of the Roses” reminisces his youth in Brooklyn

By Warren Adler
For Brooklyn Daily Eagle – may 23, 2013

It is remarkable that Brooklyn has become synonymous with cultural ferment, artistic innovation and an unstoppable surge of gentrification that is attracting a growing horde of super achievers. Although these two strains of environment changers are often in conflict with one another, both are prospering, radically changing the reputation of the borough from what was once an object of both pride and ridicule to one of the most culturally dynamic places in America.

The fact that I no longer recognize it as ‘my Brooklyn’ does not in any way impugn its current significance, but looking at it from the vantage point of the Brooklyn of my childhood and youth, roughly within a sixteen year span from 1932 to 1948, I can only conclude that the present, despite its glorious trappings of culture and prosperity does not come close to the wonder, excitement and exultation that captured my adolescent soul and never let go of it.

I have recapitulated those old Brooklyn days in a number of my novels like Funny Boys, Banquet Before Dawn and theNew York Echoes short story collections, which offer the most details of that halcyon experience, but allow me to open the spigot of memory with some brief images of that bygone moment of urban joy.

My life in Brooklyn was lived betwixt two neighborhoods, Brownsville and Crown Heights, both Jewish enclaves then.  Irish and Italian neighborhoods were contiguous. Of course, there were other Brooklyn neighborhoods for every ethnic group under the sun, racial, national and religious. There were also wide economic and class distinctions easily identified by house sizes and the usual trappings of wealth.

In my Brooklyn days these other places seemed to reside in another country, perhaps another planet. We were very aware of our boundaries by look, smell, dress, religion and customs and we knew that when we crossed those lines we had invaded a somewhat hostile foreign land.

Continue reading Author of “The War of the Roses” reminisces his youth in Brooklyn

JCH of Bensonhurst

Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst
Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst

Steven Margolis
Branford CT

I have several remembrances going back to the 60′s of  my time at the JCH of Bensonhurst. I am from New Haven – the New  Haven JCC and the “J” had a fierce basketball rivalry. I was  captain of the New Haven JCC varsity basketball team. When I stepped off  the bus after the two and one half hour ride from New Haven I saw a  building that the first New Haven JCC must have looked like. I grew up at a modern JCC building built in the 50s. I only saw pictures of the Legion  Avenue building that the modern/architect designed one replaced. At first   the Bensonhurst Brooklyn “look” was overwhelming – it was unfamiliar  and off-putting. It wasn’t until years later did I realize it was the   real-deal. When I stepped in the front door of the JCH of Bensonhurst  I was at an immediate  disadvantage. While trying get my game face on loads and loads of kids,
Continue reading JCH of Bensonhurst