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Temple Isaiah Stony Brook

Temple Isaiah, 1404 Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook will host an event titled How Sweet It Is!, a perfect activity for those with memory impairment and their caretakers, on Sunday, Aug. 19 from 2 to 4 p.m. Participants will relive favorite memories of the 1950s with a sing-along, souvenir photos, soda fountain and snacks. Free and open to all. For more information or to RSVP, email Iris at idschiff@optonline.net or call Penny at 631-751-8518.

By Rita J. Egan

William Shakespeare once compared a good deed to a candle’s beam, writing it shined in a weary world.

The power of a good dead is something members of Temple Isaiah’s Social Action Committee have known for decades. For the last 20 years, they have organized a cleanup at West Meadow Beach in Setauket, according to Iris Schiff, the committee’s chairwoman.

Once calling the volunteer opportunity “Mitzvah Day,” the group has now dubbed it “Good Deeds Day” occurred April 15. But the Stony Brook temple usually celebrates it later in the month when days are a bit warmer. Schiff said this year the Stony Brook temple invited congregants of Setauket Presbyterian Church to join them. On April 29, after a communal brunch at the synagogue, a handful of volunteers headed to the beach.

“We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

— Barbara Curtis

Barbara Curtis, a member of Setauket Presbyterian who organized church volunteers, was on hand with bag in hand.

“A good deeds day brings our faith communities together in the very best way,” Curtis said. “We are hoping that other faiths will join with us in the future.”

Rev. Mary Barrett Speers, pastor of Setauket Presbyterian Church, said in an email the beach was the perfect spot for the joint community project.

“I personally love the idea because all God’s children share God’s earth,” Barrett Speers said. “We all love West Meadow Beach, and right after Earth Day, what better way is there to celebrate our beach than by caring for it?”

Schiff said the beach was in excellent condition, and after a couple of hours of cleaning up, they only had about a half a dozen bags filled with bottle tops, balloons, cans and random pieces of plastic.

She said the cleanup wasn’t the only good deed of the day. In the morning, children from the temple painted and decorated wood crates and donated them to Setauket Presbyterian Church’s Open Door Exchange, an outreach program which redistributes furniture to those in need. A few families also volunteered with Great Strides Long Island, Inc.at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island, a nonprofit organization that helps developmentally disabled children ride horses.

After the beach cleanup, Schiff said she felt good about the day.

“Everybody was just right on the same page and feeling the same way,” she said. “I’m really hoping that next year we’re able to expand this and bring in some of the other faith communities.”

A WARM WELCOME Cantor Marcey Wagner in her office at Temple Isaiah Photo by Donna Newman

By Donna Newman

Spirituality has new resonance at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook.

It comes in the voice of Marcey Wagner, who joined the Reform Jewish congregation last July, filling the dual roles of cantor and education director. The congregation will officially welcome her with an installation ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 29.

“I embrace the idea of new beginnings,” Cantor Wagner said during an interview in her temple office, “and I look forward to joyful things.”

Cantor Marcey Wagner in her office at Temple Isaiah Photo by Donna Newman

Wagner said she is pleased that many of her friends and colleagues gathered over her career will be present to celebrate and that the installing officer will be Dr. Cindy Dolgin, former head of the Solomon Schechter School on Long Island.

The addition of Cantor Marcey, as she likes to be known, is truly a joy according to her co-workers. Interim Rabbi David Katz views her as a valuable asset — both in the sanctuary and in the classroom.

“Cantor Wagner brings her vibrant nature to the bimah [clergy platform] and years of experience to the position of educational director,” he said. “She is a great addition to our staff, bringing beauty to our worship and creativity to our school.”

Temple Administrator Penny Gentile also sings Wagner’s praises. “It is a pleasure to work with Cantor Marcey,” said Gentile. “She is such a vivacious person — so full of energy that it’s absolutely contagious. I’ve heard so many positive comments from the Hebrew School students and their parents. She is truly a team player with a gift for identifying and nurturing strengths in everyone. And what a beautiful voice!”

Although ordained as a cantor, Wagner said she has not been “on the bimah” (i.e., she has not held a cantorial position) for eight years. Instead she has been focused on teaching, but she said that returning is like putting on a comfortable pair of shoes.

“I didn’t realize how much I missed it,” she said. “The audition felt like coming home.” Wagner said she loves seeing the children and hearing their voices and their laughter. For her it makes a synagogue come alive, which is why she has pursued education along with cantorial duties.

“Cantors spend more hours teaching than singing,” she said.

Wagner has been involved in all facets of Jewish education — teaching students from preschool through senior citizens. Before coming to Temple Isaiah she served as director of Youth and Family Education at Temple Israel Center in White Plains, New York. Her career included four years as principal of the Lower School of the Schechter School of Long Island and a decade as cantor and educator at the Jewish Congregation of Brookville in Nassau County.

Wagner received her investiture as hazzan (cantor) from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, at which she also earned a master’s degree in sacred music with a concentration in education. She was selected to attend The Principals’ Center leadership seminar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The board of directors at Temple Isaiah unanimously approved Wagner’s hiring and has been extremely pleased with her performance to date.

“Cantor Marcey is a breath of fresh air,” said President Jay Schoenfeld, “both on the bimah and in the religious school. Her energy is boundless and her warmth is evident in all the connections she’s already established with congregants, lay leaders and community members. A collaboration with Rabbi Katz to offer children’s services for the High Holy Days — open to the public and free of charge — demonstrates her devotion to Judaism. We are delighted to have her at Temple Isaiah.”

Cantor Marcey is delighted, too, and said she already knows she’s found a new home.

“It’s wonderful meeting people and seeing how warm and welcoming [the Temple Isaiah] community is,” she said. “I’m planning on staying a long time. I’ve been impressed with everyone’s organization and efficiency; I have a very positive feeling about this place. Everything has lived up to my expectations. It’s exciting when there’s a path to go on and you have congenial, capable partners with whom to make the journey.”

Wagner is committed to shaking things up, she said, to prove that Hebrew school can be fun. To elucidate she described last month’s opening session of the school program. Using a film clip from the movie “Babe’” in which the title character, a piglet, arrives at the farm, she led a discussion about new beginnings, which are exciting and scary — and complicated. The unconventional, unkosher protagonist, she said, was intended to make people think — and laugh. The session included students alongside their parents, and Wagner said she made sure everyone present took away at least one new bit of knowledge, to encourage discourse.

“One of the strongest ways to promote Judaism,” she said, “is to provide a venue for parents and children to discuss the important questions; to have the important conversations.”

Misuzu Tanaka. Photo by Denis Gostev

The Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council in conjunction with Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook recently announced its line-up for the fifth season of the Triad Concert Series.

The classical music series opens with a performance by the Washington Square Winds, a woodwind quintet from New York City, on Sunday, March 5. Formed in 2009, the group will perform chamber music by Shostakovich, Reicha, Taffanel and more.

Above, the Washington Square Winds; back row, from left, Casey Cronan, Gregory Weissman; front row, from left, Elyssa Plotkin, Caryn Toriaga and Allison Nicotera. Photo from Paula Plotkin

On Sunday, March 19, (date corrected from print version) Christina McGann, Jingwen Tu and Hsin Chiao Liao will be performing works by Beethoven, Bloch and Brahms on violin and piano. The series will conclude on Sunday, April 30 with a performance by Misuzu Tanaka. The pianist will perform works by Mozart, Prokofiev, Bach and Rachmaninoff.

“I am very proud and excited to share what is in store for our community with Season 5 of the Triad Concert Series,” said Paula Plotkin, chair of the series and GPJAC board member. “When you come to one or all of our classical concerts, you leave behind your worries and stressors of the day and are transported to a wonderful world of music and culture,” she added.

All concerts begin at 3 p.m. at Temple Isaiah at 1404 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook. A reception with light refreshments and a “meet and greet” follow each performance. CDs will be available for purchase. Tickets for adults are $15 in advance, $18 at the door; $10 seniors 65 and older and students high school age and older, children ages 15 and younger are free. A $40 series ticket for all three shows is also available.

To purchase tickets in advance, send a check to GPJAC c/o Plotkin 15 Oxford Drive, Port Jefferson Station, NY 11776 or visit www.gpjac.org and click on PayPal. While on the Triad page of the website, click on the link next to each concert description to hear the musicians perform. Questions? Please call Paula at 631-902-1584.

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