Archive for the tag 'religion'


From a recent pet blessing in Bensonhurst. (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Saint Edmund’s Roman Catholic Church is hosting a Blessing of the Animals and pet adoption event in honor of the Feast of Saint Francis, the patron and protector of animals.

The pet adoption event is being done in coordination with Kensington’s Sean Casey Animal Rescue, who will have puppies, kittens, dogs and cats for adoption beginning at noon. The blessing of the animals begins at 1pm. Both events take place in the church’s driveway on Avenue T, between East 19th Street and Ocean Avenue.

It’s entirely free to have your animals blessed, and it’s not just for pets: children can also bring stuffed animals. If animals are unable to attend (well-behaved animals only, the church asks) you can also bring a photo, collar, toy or anything else. They’ll also say prayers for deceased pets.

Each pet and caretaker will receive a memento of the event to bring home, and be entered into a free raffle. There will also be pet treats and food from Bargain Bow-Wow pet shop.

More information can be found here.



Photo by Jane Roitman

A Queens assemblyman has asked the Department of Consumer Affairs to look into regulating swastikas and other offensive ads from taking to the skies after beachgoers were shocked this weekend by the appearance of a swastika-towing plane flying over the sands.

The banner, shown above, was flown on Saturday by the International Raelian Movement, a quasi-religious organization that says they’ve cloned humans and they believe extraterrestrial scientists made life on Earth. The group flies the banner over New York City beaches annually to “rehabilitate” the image as a sign of peace and unity. Although it wasn’t intended to be anti-Semitic, locals were outraged that the passion-stirring icon would fly over one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors.

In addition to Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and Coney Island, the banner toured over the Rockaway and Long Island beaches.

CBS reports on the effort to make sure the Raelians won’t be back next year:

Assemblyman Phil Goldfelder, D-Queens, told [reporter Alex] Silverman he is asking the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs to look at regulating swastikas in the sky and other offensive ads, which he thinks can be done without opening a constitutional can of worms. He’s also considering introducing legislation.

“There’s been a lot of precedent about regulation on signage in public places, and I think that we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect our families,” Goldfelder said.


A fringe religious group that believes extraterrestrial scientists created life on Earth is today flying a large swastika banner over Brighton Beach and Coney Island, outraging residents in one of the world’s largest communities of Holocaust survivors.

The plane was spotted by beachgoers flying between Coney Island Avenue and Brighton 15th Street around noon. With a symbol of a Star of David interlaced with the swastika, and a message that reads “卐 + ☮ = ❤,” the banner is commissioned annually by the International Raelian Movement in an attempt to “rehabilitate” the symbol to it’s pre-Nazi-era meaning of peace. It flew over the beach in previous years, sparking headlines - and outbursts from upset residents.

This year is no different.

“A plane was flying with this sign over the beach today, not once but twice it went past  the beach. Beaches filled with families and children. This is an inhumane action and must be stopped,” wrote tipster Jane Roitman, who sent in the photo above.

Another tipster called in to say that the group is being beyond insensitive, given the area’s dense population of Holocaust survivors and the current inflamed tensions between Israel and Palestine.

“I was dumbfounded by it. My grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and everyone [in Brighton Beach] knows someone whose family was affected by the Holocaust,” said Loren Azimov. “The timing could not be worse with everything going on in Israel and Palestine; it’s as bad as it has ever been.”

Azimov said there are other ways to try to rehabilitate the symbol without being so offensive, and that he’d like to see either the banner grounded.

“The First Amendment is not an acceptable reason [to let it fly.] What if it was rehabilitation of slavery? People would be up in arms,” Azimov said, adding that he’d like to see pressure on the company the organization chartered to refuse them access to the skies in the future.

It wouldn’t be the first company to decline the Raelian’s business. The group sought an expanded international campaign for what they’re calling Swastika Rehabilitation Week this year. When they approached a major Canadian billboard company, they were turned away.

“The company representative said many people would see our ad as offensive and inflammatory, so they wouldn’t post it,” said Thomas Kaenzig in a press release. Kaenzig is a planetary guide, the title for a top-ranking clergymember. “So this poses a real catch 22. How can the world be reeducated about the truth of this symbol if we can’t get the word out to show people?”

Azimov has been calling elected officials and government agencies, but to no avail. One prominent leader in Brighton Beach’s Russian-Jewish community told him that he should “consider writing a letter to the leadership of this org and kindly express compelling reasons not to fly this in our area.”

The Raelians may not be so receptive to Azimov’s rationale. Aside from brushing off similar complaints in previous years, the group appears to have a tenuous grasp on reality.

Raelism dates back to the 1970s and is the world’s largest UFO religion, believing that space scientists created life and have been popping in for visits throughout human history (with increased frequency in recent years, as evidenced through all the UFO sightings in the past century). Buddha, Jesus and other religious figures are all believed by the group to be messengers of the extraterrestrials. The group is attempting to build an interplanetary embassy to welcome extraterrestrials, and have been denied land in Israel because of their prominent use of the swastika.

The group also operates Clonaid, a company developing human cloning. The company claimed to have cloned the first human in 2002. There was no evidence that the claim was anything more than a publicity stunt, and the group has since been derided as cult led by a sex-crazed leader.

UPDATE (3:28 p.m.): Councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island and part of Brighton Beach, and is also the grandson of Holocaust survivors, called Sheepshead Bites to express his outrage.

“It isabsolutely disgusting and an egregious act of hate and intolerance. Whatever this hate group is, it’s an unacceptable act. I’ve asked the police department to investigate how this happened and how it came to be,” he said.

Treyger said he’s received numerous calls from constituents offended by the banner. He has also reached out to the mayor’s office and the City Council speaker’s office, which he said were receptive to the concerns. He said authorities are trying to determine if the plane and advertising campaign are in violation of any laws, and are also attempting to identify the company chartered to fly the banner.

The local pol said the group’s attempt to restore the symbol as one of peace and unity has little chance of success, and the group should stop its “outrageous” approach.

“Try asking someone who witnessed their loved ones murdered under that symbol if they’ll view that symbol as anything but murder and pain,” he said. “There’s no place for this here in this country.”


Photo by Rob Erichsen

Shuttered for more than two years, the former Burger King location at 2481 Knapp Street has been converted into a temporary prayer space for local Muslims to observe Ramadan.

The Muslim American Society has taken over the space with a one-month lease, allowing them to celebrate one of the religion’s most important holidays near their homes. The group sought out a temporary place of worship while their permanent location, 2812 Voorhies Avenue, nears completion.

“The [Voorhies Avenue] building wasn’t going to be ready for Ramadan, and they need a facility, so they rented that place. They have a lease. They have all their paperwork. They’re only there for one month,” said Kenan Tashkent, the 61st Precinct’s liaison to the Muslim community. Tashkent met with the mosque’s congregants and leadership yesterday, and noted that the Voorhies Avenue location remains a few months away from completion.

Paper signs have been taped up in English and Arabic at the Knapp Street storefront. The interior has been carpeted, with a curtain separating prayer spaces for men and women, as is tradition.

“They were very nice, very cooperative. They told me everything. They’ve got all of their paperwork and they don’t need to disturb  the neighborhood or anything. It’s their holiday,” he added.

Ramadan began this past Saturday, June 28, and ends on July 27. It’s the most sacred month for Muslims, marking Muhammed’s first revelations. It is observed by fasting, donating to charity, prayer and recitation of the Quran.

Local Muslims, of which there is a large community in the Kings Bay and Plumb Beach areas, as well as around Voorhies Avenue, have long sought to establish a local mosque. After raising funds, they submitted plans to construct an Islamic community center at 2812 Voorhies Avenue in 2009 – a proposal that saw vehement, and sometimes racially motivated, opposition from neighbors. After court battles, they won permission from the city to move forward and it has been under construction ever since.

Prior to establishing a local site, area Muslims had to travel to Brighton Beach, Bath Beach or head further north in Brooklyn to attend a mosque. More than just miles away, many of the institutions are far over capacity, causing overflows onto sidewalks and streets during high holidays like Ramadan – which the mosque organizers hope to reduce by establishing a local site.

Organizers from the mosque could not be reached for this article.

The burning of the chametz. Source: Dudy Tuchfeld / Flickr

The burning of the chametz. Source: Dudy Tuchfeld / Flickr

Beginning next week, in advance of the Jewish commemoration of Passover, there will be special Sanitation collections for residents who live within Community Board (CB) 15. You can find out if you live within the boundaries of CB15 by clicking on this link.

Next Monday, April 14, all of CB15 will receive regular garbage and recycling collection. You should place all your garbage out for collection on Sunday evening, April 13, after 5:00 p.m. Recycling and regular garbage need to be separated.

For your convenience, a public Dumpster will be located at the following locations on the morning of Monday, April 14, and will be removed before nightfall:

  • James Madison High School Sports Field on the south side of Quentin Road between East 27th Street and East 28th Street
  • In front of 2810 Nostrand Avenue, corner of Kings Highway and Nostrand Avenue

Burning Chametz

People in charge of burning Chametz (food deemed unkosher for Passover), either in front of a home or a synagogue, must ensure that the fires are small and controlled so that the Fire Department does not need to be called to respond to an “out of control fire.” Here are some rules that must be observed for the burning of chametz.

  • All fires must be supervised by a mature, responsible adult
  • No paint thinner, aerosol cans, sprays, lighter fluid or any other flammable liquids are to be used to ignite the fire. These items have caused accidents and are extremely dangerous
  • Water, fire extinguishers, or sand should be readily available at the site of the chametz burning
  • Do not burn chametz enclosed in aluminum foil
  • Chametz should be put at the curb in plastic bags. This will eliminate the necessity for retrieving and washing out garbage cans
  • Do not park cars on smoldering embers

Your cooperation in following the schedule and observing these safety precautions will expedite the pickup. The chametz burning should end at 11:36 a.m., Monday, April 14.

A Stipula fountain pen. Source: Wikipedia

A Stipula fountain pen. Source: Wikipedia

A Jewish writing group is forming at the Beth El Jewish Center of Flatbush, 1981 Homecrest Avenue at the corner of Avenue T. The group will function according to the principles of the New York Writer’s Coalition, encouraging the exchange of creative ideas and constructive criticism.

All are welcome to participate. The group will meet Monday evenings at 8:00 p.m. in the synagogue’s daily chapel. Participants are requested to bring a pad or notebook and a pen.

For more information, call (718)-375-0120.

Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

For decades a battle has raged between parents, religious leaders and politicians over the question of allowing prayer in schools. Councilman Lew Fidler may have come up with a solution that attempts to bridge the gap between those who believe and those who don’t.

According to CBS New York, Fidler has put forward a resolution that calls for students to observe a mandatory, albeit non-denominational moment of silence, either before or after the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Like most attempts to legislate the behavior of children, Fidler’s idea has split critics and divided parents.

TriBeCa resident Christi Wood spoke to the seemingly benign nature of the proposed resolution. She told CBS New York that she thinks “it’s a good idea. They can kind of think about whatever they want. We live in a crazy, fast-paced city, so a moment of silence, I think it is a good idea. I’d like to have one.”

Julie Antoinette thought the measure was a waste of time.

“I disagree with it. I just think that if they need to have a moment of silence [do it] at their own time. How many hours in a school day? They have 12 other hours to do it on their own private time.”

While a resolution from the City Council can’t force the Department of Education to enact a mandatory moment of silence, Fidler hopes that a near-unanimous council resolution puts pressure on them to do so.

“Hopefully, if it passes the council and it passes unanimously, or close to unanimously, the Department of Education will understand that there is a school of thought out there that believes that this should be policy,” Fidler told CBS.

We were wondering what our readers think of making children observe a mandatory moment of silence everyday at school.

Do you think it’s good for children to have a moment to silently meditate, pray or just relax quietly? Do you think the idea is too rooted in a religious mind-frame and has no place in public schools? Or do you think the idea is just dumb and a waste of time?

Let us know.


Representative Jerrold Nadler is facing some criticism from Jewish groups today over his stance on the recent Congressional legislation that allowed for FEMA money to be spent on the repair and rebuilding of synagogues, churches and other religious houses of worship damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to an editorial by the Jewish Press.

Yesterday, we reported that the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to approve the use of federal funds to help Sandy-stricken houses of worship of all faiths. The passing of the act is likely to face some friction in the Senate and the courts as it brings up important questions regarding separation of church and state.

Nadler was a vocal leader of the opposition to this bill, arguing that the use of taxpayer money to fund the reconstruction of religious buildings was unconstitutional. His stance did not go unnoticed by the Jewish Press, arguing that the legislation made “common sense.”

If Congress decides that it is in the public interest to bring about large-scale restorations, such as roof and sidewall repair, by what logic can one exclude religious institutions that are in exactly the same position as non-religious entities? After all, religious institutions are entitled to, for example, police and fire protection just like their non-religious counterparts.

While Nadler was on the receiving end of criticism, other politicians, who have been pushing for the bill, like Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz were pleased with its passage in the House, reaching out to his Facebook followers with this message.

 Yesterday the House of Representatives passed the “Federal Disaster Assistance Non-Profit Fairness Act of 2013,” which would allow houses of worship to be included among the non-profit recipients of FEMA relief aid. I’ve been working on this issue with the Jewish Community Relations Council of NY and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to help synagogues and churches apply for FEMA. Houses of worship impact our entire community and desperately need a helping hand to get back on their feet.


The Megillat (scroll of) Esther, which is read aloud every Purim. Source: Wikipedia

This weekend, our area will play host to two Purim celebrations for the entire community. Purim, oftentimes (and erroneously) referred to as the “Jewish Halloween,” tells the story of Esther, the Jewish Queen of Persian, who heroically foiled the plans of the wicked royal henchman, Haman — after whom the delicious hamantashen cookie is named — to murder all of the Jews of ancient Persia.

Congregation Israel of Kings Bay

Congregation Israel of Kings Bay invites area residents to hear a reading of Megillat Esther — the biblical “Book of Esther” (also known as “The Megillah,” the Hebrew word for scroll, upon which the Megillah is printed), immediately following Shabbat on Saturday night, February 23 at 6:45 p.m. (Shabbat ends at 6:20 p.m.)

Following the Megillah reading, there will be a Purim costume party for all ages at 7:30 p.m. There will be Hamantashen, groggers (noise-makers), Purim bags, prizes, a raffle and more. The following morning, on Purim Day, February 24, there will be a second Megillah reading at the synagogue at 8:30 a.m.

Congregation Israel of Kings Bay is located at 3903 Nostrand Avenue on the corner of Voorhies Avenue. For more information, call the synagogue at (718) 934-5176 or email Rabbi Winner at

The Kings Bay YM-YWHA

The Kings Bay YM-YWHA invites the entire community to its Annual Purim Carnival on Sunday, February 24 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The entire day will be filled with festivities for all ages, as the community gathers to sing, dance and celebrate this joyous day.

The celebration will feature exciting activities for the entire family. Children will enjoy rides, sand art, face painting, Purim-themed arts and crafts, carnival games and a costume contest. Free hamentashen cookies and raffle prizes will be awarded.

This Purim celebration is anticipated to be the largest in Sheepshead Bay.

The Kings Bay Y is located at 3495 Nostrand Avenue between Avenues U and V. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call Alina Plotkina at (718) 648-7703 extension 224, email or go to

The House of Representatives voted by a wide margin to approve the use of federal funds to repair and rebuild religious institutions damaged by Superstorm Sandy, according to a report by the New York Times.

Receiving intense lobbying by Catholic and Jewish groups, the bill was passed 354-to-72. Support for the measure was largely bipartisan, while opposition consisted of 66 Democrats and six Republicans. The Times laid out the scope of the bill’s language:

Under the bill, “a church, synagogue, mosque, temple or other house of worship, and a private nonprofit facility operated by a religious organization,” would be eligible for federal disaster assistance “without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious use of the facility.”

According to the Times, FEMA raised serious objections to the bill, issuing a memorandum claiming that its passage represents an “enormous departure” from current law.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who represents parts of Coney Island, Borough Park and Bensonhurst, opposed the bill on grounds that using taxpayer money to fund the reconstruction and furnishing of religious buildings was unconstitutional.

Nadler’s opposition potentially foreshadows a legal showdown between civil liberty groups and religious advocates in the near future:

The American Civil Liberties Union agreed [with Nadler], saying it was a bedrock principle of constitutional law that “taxpayer funds cannot go to construct, rebuild or repair buildings used for religious activities.”

Lawyers at the emergency management agency expressed concern about possible lawsuits by the civil liberties union and others. “FEMA expects that well-financed and aggressive litigation and injunctions would quickly follow enactment of this bill,” agency lawyers said in their memorandum.

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