Community Voices

Neighbors in Religion: Holiday in Missouri a time to count blessings

Hello, my friends. As I write this, I am still in Ozark, Missouri, where I woke up to icy roads and closed schools. And I realized how blessed I am to live in sunny (well, usually) Miami.

But I am also blessed to have spent Thanksgiving here in Missouri, where the lifestyle is so different from where I come from. Although I was born in the country (Williston, Florida), I am a city girl from my heart.

Last year, when I was here for Thanksgiving, someone mentioned having a goose for the holidays. I said I’d never tasted goose.

And wouldn’t you know it — Roddy Clark (my grandson’s granddad) had cooked my goose (literally) when I went over for Thanksgiving dinner! I was surprised that I liked the taste. Wasn’t so sure that I would.

That’s not the only good thing that happened to me in Ozark/Mansfield. During my time here, I have found myself in settings where I am the only black person in the room. Even when I went to church last Sunday, I was the only black in the congregation.

Yet, I never felt out of place. Even last week, when the Ferguson incident caused uprisings in cities across the country, my extended family here in Ozark and Mansfield simply went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I really appreciate that.

So, on Thanksgiving, I sat at the kitchen table chatting with Teresa Clark (my grandson’s other grandma), while she put the finishing touches on her wonderful cornbread stuffing. I turned to look out the door, and, one by one, family members started to arrive. Some came bearing their own specialties — homemade goodies made with love.

I smiled and thought to myself, “Yep. We really are cousins under the skin. And while our lifestyle is somewhat different, you know what? I’m really loving it.”

Spiritual health

Temple Israel of Greater Miami, 137 NE 19th St., will present bestselling author and LGBT activist Jay Michaelson at 10:15 a.m. Sunday, who will speak on “What is Spiritual Health.” This public event will be in the synagogue’s Bertha Abess Sanctuary.

Michaelson is an ordained rabbi and Jewish kabbalist who also practices Buddhism and meditation. According to information from the synagogue, “he brings together scholarly rigor and a personal commitment to spiritual practice and personal growth.”

During the first part of his presentation, Michaelson will talk about “Getting Serious About Your Spiritual Health.” The talk will end about 11:45 a.m. and will be followed by a Q&A session and light lunch buffet.

Participants may continue with the second portion of the program, which will start about 12:30 p.m. At the second half of the session, Michaelson will move from the intellectual and theoretical to the practical and experiential as he leads a “Spiritual Health Workout.”

Michaelson is a newspaper columnist and author of five books. He holds a Ph.D. in Jewish Thought from Hebrew University; a J.D. from Yale Law School; a B.A. from Columbia, and nondenominational rabbinic ordination.

The cost is $18 for advance registration and $25 at the door, and free for Temple Israel members.

If you plan to go, register by calling the temple office at 305-573-5900.

Season of the ‘Messiah’

The Miami Messiah Choir will perform two concerts this holiday season and you are invited.

The first concert will be at 5 p.m. Sunday at Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Ave. and will feature soprano Michaela Emanuel Ortiz; mezzo soprano Alexis-Symone Howard; alto Afrikkanitha Massini; tenor Acneal Williams; and bass Kayus Dare.

The program will also feature Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School Chorus directed by Shenita Hunt; the American Senior High School Chorus and Jazz Band directed by Dennis Campos; and the Ambassador Choral from Florida Memorial University directed by Melvin White.

On Dec. 13, you are invited to worship at Miami Temple SDA, 9175 SW 44th St., where the choir will perform portions of the Messiah during the worship service.

Then, at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 14, the final concert of the season will be sponsored by the Historic Hampton House Community Trust at the Church of the Incarnation at1835 NW 54th St.

The free event is called “2014 Bridging Classics of the Past with Classics of the Future” and will feature guest artist Nicole Yarling, a jazz vocalist and violinist; the 2014 Community Mass Choir and Orchestra; Florida Memorial University Chamber Ensemble and the Ambassador Chorale. Dr. Nelson Hall is the conductor and Cynthia “Chelle” Reed is the concert master.

The soloists are: soprano Jean Collahouza; alto Denise Anderson; tenor Josef Spencer and bass Carl DuPont Jr.

‘Who is a Jew?’

The question of “Who is a Jew?” was once much easier to answer, according to Florida International University’s Jewish Studies Initiatives. Then came the discovery of such communities as Bnei Menashe in northeastern India. Such communities have changed the long-running debate of “Who is a Jew” from individual heritage, to the claims of entire groups, to a connection with the Jewish people.

At 7 p.m. on Dec. 8, Galit Shashoua will discuss the issues in a talk titled, “Messianic Religious Zionism and the Lost Tribes: The Case of the Bnei Menashe.” Shashoua is a professor at FIU and her lecture will also examine Bnei Menashe’s “paradoxical status” in world Jewry. She will explain how that, on one hand the state of Israel is typically inclusive, but initially rejected the group; while on the other, the Orthodox rabbinate, traditionally much more exclusive, has accepted Bnei Menashe as genuine Jews.

Shashoua’s talk is a part of FIU’s Mondays at the Museum series. Admission is $10 for the public and $5 for museum members. It’s free for students with valid ID. To RSVP, call 786-972-3175 or email:

‘Carols of the Bells’

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church, at 38 NW 57th Ave., invites the community to a “Carols of the Bells’ concert at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6.

The program will feature traditional Ukrainian Christmas carols and other songs of the season to include Shchedryk, the English Carol of the Bells in its original Ukrainian.

The concert is free but donations will benefit the church’s building fund will be appreciated.

Call Donna Maksymowich-Waskiewicz at 954-434-4635 for more information. You may also email her at:

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 2000 NW 150th Ave., Suite 1105, Pembroke Pines, FL 33028, fax it to 954-538-7018 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.