‘Being Human in the Face of Inhumanity’ Is Theme of St. Francis College Event


Rabbi Joseph Potasnik. Photo courtesy of Congregation Mount Sinai

St. Francis College, continuing a strong interfaith educational tradition, welcomes Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Cantor Shira Lissek for its annual Yom HaShoah commemoration on Thursday, April 16, at 11:10am in the College’s Founders Hall.

Also called Holocaust Remembrance Day in English, this observance’s Hebrew name means destruction or catastrophe. The commemoration’s full official name in Hebrew, “Yom HaShoah v’HaGevurah,” is translated as the “Day of [remembrance of] the Holocaust and the Heroism.” It is commemorated on the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan, which falls between Passover and Israel Independence Day.

Rabbi Potasnik will speak on the topic “Being Human in the Face of Inhumanity.” Cantor Lissek will offer personal experiences from her family history and a collection of songs, including: “El Maleh Rahamim” (A Memorial Prayer for the 6 million); “If the World had Cried,” and Hatikvah (the Israeli National Anthem). Accompanying her on piano will be Oran Eldor.

Rabbi Potasnik is currently executive vice president and former president of the New York Board of Rabbis, the largest interdenominational body of its kind. He is the rabbi emeritus of Congregation Mount Sinai, where he served as spiritual leader for 42 years.

Rabbi Potasnik is also co-host of Religion on the Line, WABC 770 AM’s longest running talk radio program, which airs every Sunday morning from 7:30 to 10:30.  Rabbi Potasnik has served as Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department, the Fraternal Order of Police, and the New York Press Club, maintaining a high profile in public affairs in the city.

Cantor Lissek is Assistant Cantor at Park Avenue Synagogue and a third-generation hazzan. She is also a concert artist, operatic soloist and educator. She has taught at SAJ, The 92nd Street Y, and The New Shul in Manhattan. Cantor Lissek has performed leading roles with prestigious opera companies and orchestras, including the Seattle Opera, and won praise from the New York Times for her performance in the title role of Handel’s “La Griselda.” She previously served for six years as Cantor of Congregation Mount Sinai in Brooklyn Heights.

St. Francis College’s Founders Hall is at 180 Remsen St. in Brooklyn Heights.

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The previous evening, on April 15, Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope is set to host the Brownstone Brooklyn Yom HaShoah Commemoration. Yom HaShoah, as with other Jewish holidays, festivals and observances, begins at sundown.

For many years, clergy and congregants from synagogues around the borough have joined forces to remember. The evening will include contemplative music, memories, reflections from survivors and rabbis and thought-provoking discussion. A reception follows. Participating synagogues, as of press time, include Congregation Mount Sinai, East Midwood Jewish Center, Kolot Chayeinu: Voices of Our Lives, Park Slope Jewish Center, Union Temple of Brooklyn, Kane Street Synagogue and Temple Beth Emeth v’Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek.

The Tom Kolar Holocaust Education Fund sponsors this event.

This Yom HaShoah program runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Congregation Beth Elohim is at 274 Garfield Place, just east of 8thAve., in Park Slope. Admission is free.

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