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VIDEO: Simchat Torah in Brooklyn Heights

Brooklyn Daily Eagle – Oct. 17, 2014

Remsen St. became a block party on Thursday night as members of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and Congregation B’nai Avraham spilled out onto the street to dance with Torah scrolls. They were celebrating Simchat Torah (or Joy of Torah). Simchat Torah marks the cyclical tradition of reciting the closing verses of Deuteronomy, which is the fifth book of Moses, and then starting over with the opening verses of Genesis. Rabbi Serge Lippe of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue is pictured as he recites the closing verses of Deuteronomy during Simchat Torah. The New York Klezmer Ensemble accompanied the dancers at Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, which is Reform branch. By contrast, at the Orthodox Congregation B’nai Avraham, the men and women dance separately, and sing without musical instruments. Either way, everyone rejoices in the Torah.

Enjoy this video by Dipti Kumar:

Pedi-Sukkah Parade Peddles Through NY

 

 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Oct. 7 2014

pedi-sukkohsNEW YORK — In this photo provided by Chabad.org, 10 Chabad-Lubavitch teens on “pedi-sukkahs” ride down Fifth Avenue in New York on Monday. The pedi-sukkahs, are modified pedi-cabs with a Sukkah — a hut-like structure covered with bamboo — attached in the back. The goal of the parade is to create awareness for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a seven day, biblically mandated holiday ends after nightfall on Oct. 15. The pedi-sukkahs were designed by Brooklyn teen Levi Duchman.

Luna Park Set to Host Large Sukkot Spectacle

By Francesca Norsen-Tate, Religion Editor – Brooklyn Daily Eagle 10/7

This group of children enjoyed last year's Sukkot at Luna Park. Photo courtesy of Luna Park

This group of children enjoyed last year’s Sukkot at Luna Park. Photo courtesy of Luna Park

Jews around Brooklyn find innovative, fun ways of celebrating the joyful festivals. This year, Brooklyn’s famous amusement park at Coney Island will be transformed into a Sukkot Spectacle.

Sukkot is the festival of booths. Taking place in autumn, Sukkot celebrates trust in God and the gathering of community. Luna Park in Coney Island is preparing to host a Sukkot Spectacle for one of the most joyous holidays in the Jewish religion.

Sukkot begins at sundown on Wednesday, Oct. 8, and lasts until Oct. 15. From Oct. 12 to 14, Luna Park will be transformed into a Sukkot Spectacle, complete with rides and games for the entire family, and will include a huge Sukkah, featuring kosher food from HMS Glatt Kosher Caterers.

Luna Park is home to the newest roller coaster to be built in Coney Island, the Thunderbolt, as well as the historic Cyclone roller coaster, which celebrated its 87th anniversary this year. In addition, the park features more than 50 attractions that cater to every age level – from the classic Wild Tea Party to the new pendulum-swinging Luna 360.

Kosher Meets Hipster

American Millennials follow Jewish dietary laws at nearly twice the rate of Baby Boomers, perhaps finding the ancient laws fit well with contemporary concerns about sustainability.

gotmatzoOn July 11, 1883, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise held a historic gathering in Cincinnati: the ordination of the very first class of rabbis of Reform Judaism, a modernized version of the faith.

But Wise’s lesser known contribution to Jewish American culture lies in the four-course spread served at the banquet afterwards: little-neck clams on the half shell, salade of shrimp, soft-shell crab, and frog legs in cream sauce.Thrilling as it was offensive, the dinner that went down in history as “The Highland House Affair” ushered Judaism into modern American culture—aside from a symbolic omission of pork, everything from the air of gourmet French cuisine to the sweetbreads screamed rejection of Jewish dietary law and Old World culture.

130 years later, some parts of the Jewish community are going through another modernizing shift—but this time, in trendy pop-up restaurants and artisanal craft-food production. With their embrace of sustainable—and slightly hipster—food culture, Millennial Jews are shaping a blossoming culinary movement, and bringing non-Jews along with them.

Continue reading Kosher Meets Hipster

Obsessions, From Street Food to Rooftops

exerted from NYTimes, Oct 3, 2014

Mano Hirsch at his shop in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, is featured in Laura Silver’s book, “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food.” Credit Courtesy of Pamela Hirsch

Mano Hirsch at his shop in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, is featured in Laura Silver’s book, “Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food.” Credit Courtesy of Pamela Hirsch

In Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food(Brandeis University Press), Ms. Silver, an accomplished food writer inspired by the replacement of Mrs. Stahl’s knishery in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, by a Subway sandwich shop, explores the origins and evolution of the “pillow of filling tucked into a skin of dough.”

Her book brims with nostalgia (including the lyrics to the Samuel J. Tilden High School alma mater), a recipe for Mrs. Stahl’s signature potato pie, a guide to where to still get a good knish and a bow to the beloved comestible’s universality (think empanadas, samosas, gyoza and calzones).

“So ingrained was the knish in New York life that its name doubled as a litmus test for authentic New Yorker status,” Ms. Silver writes. “Mispronunciation” — the “k” in “knish” is not silent — “could trigger the same response as a cold knish: disappointment, revulsion and a jabbing sense of missed opportunity. Or perhaps worse. An icy knish can at least be reheated.”

In interviews with former customers of Gabila’s and Shatzkin’s and Yonah Schimmel’s, Ms. Silver writes, “the more I mentioned knishes to Jews of a certain age, the more stories I discovered lodged just beneath the skin.”

 

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

modelseder

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


By DAVID DeWITT

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