Dan Kerr, on left, passes the baton to Herb Mones. Photo from Dan Kerr

Herb Mones was recently elected warden at historic All Souls Church in Stony Brook.  He succeeds Dan Kerr who served the maximin of two consecutive terms as the senior elected lay leader of the church.  Herb was formerly installed in his new leadership role by Father Tom Resse at the Sunday service on Feb. 4.

Photo courtesy of Daniel Kerr

Outgoing Warden Dan Kerr noted, “It is time to pass the leadership baton to someone else, and Herb is a great choice.”  Herb has served in many leadership roles throughout our community over the decades, including president of the Three Village Civic Association, Chair of the Friends of the Greenway, President of the West Meadow Conservancy, and Chair of the Greening of 25A. He continues his thirty plus years on the Board of the Three Village Civic Association as the Chair of its Land Use Committee.

Reflecting on his new role, Herb said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to serve a warm and welcoming congregation that is rich in history, tradition, and spirit. My hope, and prayer, is to advance our mission: All Souls is a Christian community in the Anglican tradition. We strive to be mutually supportive of the personal spiritual journey, respecting the individuality of all, and accepting the value of meeting people where they are on that journey.”

The Stanford White designed church at 61 Main Street in Stony Brook is open every day for prayer and reflection.  In addition to its Episcopal services on Sunday, All Souls offers Interfaith Morning Prayer every Tuesday at 8:00am and an Interdenominational Rosary on Wednesday at Noon.  Its monthly outreach events include Saturdays at Six concerts, Second Saturdays poetry readings and Native American Drumming. 

Members of Bethel AME Church were welcomed at a special service honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Pictured front row, third from left is Rev. Lisa Williams; back row, third from right is Rabbi Joshua Gray. Photo by Lloyd Newman

By Donna Newman 

A Friday night service at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in advance of the official Monday holiday. The congregants of the Bethel AME Church of Setauket, led by Reverend Lisa Williams were invited to join the celebration.

The Church members got to experience a complete Reform Jewish Friday night service in which Rev. Williams participated with two readings from the prayerbook “Mishkan Tefilah” and delivered a powerful sermon that combined the philosophy of MLK and references to the week’s portion of the Torah that Rabbi Gray read, “Parsha Va’Era.” (Exodus 6:3) Va’Era translates in English to “and I appeared”, the first word God speaks in the parsha.   

The service ended with a powerful rendition of the anthem “Rise Up” by Andra Day sung by Rabbi Gray and cantorial soloist Meghan Gray, accompanied on the piano by Dan Fogel. A fitting and emotive send-off to the “Oneg,” where there are refreshments, and time to meet and mingle.

The post-service refreshments and other aspects of the event were coordinated by Social Action Chair Iris Schiff and her committee.

“The service was so beautiful and poignant,” Schiff said. “It was one of those times you could feel that all who were present had full hearts and were surely enriched by the experience.”

After the service, Temple Board Member Andrea Barbakoff sat in conversation with some of the Bethel guests.

“The members of Bethel AME Church were all very friendly,” Barbakoff said, “and they were eager to learn more about us, about Judaism, and about our traditions.”

One guest was especially interested in Temple Isaiah’s Torahs, according to Barbakoff. It was mentioned that one is a Torah on loan that had been rescued during the Holocaust. Long-time temple member and local historian Mort Rosen was able to relate the scroll’s history and how it came to be at Temple Isaiah.

“Several guests, after asking if they could possibly schedule a time to come back and get a close up look,” said Barbakoff, “were grateful when Rabbi Gray graciously offered to take them back into the sanctuary, where he opened the scroll for them to view. It was definitely a moving experience for us all.”

Rabbi Joshua Gray has made interfaith connections an important part of his rabbinate. The Thanksgiving Interfaith Service was held at Temple Isaiah in November.

“Jewish efforts toward ‘tikkun olam’ (repairing the world) must start with coming together and confirming that we share common values and goals,” said Rabbi Gray, “and that we must work together to create the world we wish to inhabit.” In the immortal words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience.”

METRO photo

By Rabbi Aaron Benson

Rabbi Aaron Benson

There would be no miracle of Hanukkah, the eight-day festival which begins this Thursday evening, without there first being darkness.   

Hanukkah is meant to be a time of joy. It is not a major holiday, still it is a time to play games, give gifts and enjoy foods fried in oil, reminiscent of the miracle at the heart of the holiday.  

In ancient times, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem had been defiled and when the Jews took it back from their oppressors, they found only enough oil to light the sanctuary’s special candelabra, the menorah, for one day.  Since the menorah must always be lit, the Jews did so, and miraculously, the oil burned for eight days during which time more oil was procured. 

But even more important than the oil, the miracle couldn’t have happened if there hadn’t been darkness at first.  

This year, Hanukkah occurs in a time of hatred and war for Israel and the Jewish People. It is a time of suffering for the innocent people of Gaza. It is a time in which Islamophobia has caused violent and deadly attacks on American Muslims; college students in Vermont and a little boy from the same part of Illinois where I grew up. Not to mention all that divides Americans from each other, too. 

This is a Hanukkah of much darkness. 

But it is only out of darkness that light, that miracles can come. 

I am reminded of the final scene from the first season of the HBO series, True Detectives. The two protagonists are discussing the fight against evil, the war between darkness and light. One of the two argues that looking in the night sky, there is far more darkness than the tiny points of light we see, “it appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.” The other objects, saying, “You’re looking at it wrong, the sky thing … once there was only dark. You ask me, the light’s winning.”

If good people, Jews and non-Jews, can resist the vast darkness that surrounds us and bravely light one little light, we, all of us, will create a miracle. May such a miracle, one that brings understanding and peace, be kindled for us all soon. 

The author is the rabbi of  North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station.

Participants from last year's concert. Photo from Daniel Kerr/All Souls Church

Historic All Souls Church, 61 Main Street, Stony Brook invites the community to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas as it joins with eleven other faith communities to present its annual Lessons and Carols Christmas concert on Saturday, December 9 at 6 p.m.  

Heidi Schneider will be the featured soloist this year.

The free concert will feature Stony Brook University soprano Heidi Schneider and tell the story of the Nativity in scripture and song.  Heidi’s solos will include “Ave Maria,” “Silent Night,” and “Away in the Manger.” 

Local guitarist Bill Clark and his Brave Trio will also perform “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Hallelujah,” and “What Child Is This?”All attending will be invited to sing “Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels” as All Souls organist Dan Kinney plays the church’s 1855 Tracker Organ.

The readings will be done by clergy and lay people from The Stony Brook School, Caroline Church, Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, Messiah Lutheran Church, St. Gerard Majella RC Church, Stony Brook Community Church, the Three Village Church, Religious Society of Friends in St. James, the Little Church of Smithtown Landing, St. James RC Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook.

There will be a 15-minute intermission and refreshments will be served. All Souls Church collects food each week to feed the hungry at the St Gerard Majella’s food pantry. Please bring a can of food to donate (“Lend a hand, bring a can”). 

Please call 631-655-7798 for more information.

Children hold up menorahs they made at a Menorah Lighting event in a previous year. File photo by Seth Berman

By Heidi Sutton

Hanukkah begins at sundown on Thursday, December 7 and ends on the evening of Friday, December 15 this year. Here are some menorah lighting ceremonies, parades and celebrations in our neck of the woods.

Commack/Dix Hills

— Chabad of Mid-Suffolk, 318 Veterans Hwy., Commack presents a Grand Menorah Parade to The Chai Center, 501 Vanderbilt Parkway, Dix Hills on Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. The grand menorah lighting and Chanukah Party will follow at The Chai Center with doughnuts and latkes. RSVP at

— Join the Suffolk Y JCCC, 74 Hauppauge Road, Commack for a Menorah Lighting and Shine a Light on Anti-Semitism event on Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. 631-462-9800

East Setauket

Village Chabad, 360 Nicolls Road, East Setauket will host a Chanukah Car Parade and Grand Menorah Lighting with a Chocolate Gelt Drop on Dec. 10 starting at 4 p.m. with latkes, donuts, music, Johnny Peers & The Muttville Comix dog show and more. $10 per person in advance at, $15 at the door. 631-585-0521


Join the Town of Brookhaven for a Menorah Lighting at Town Hall, One Independence Hill, Farmingville on Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. followed by entertainment, hot latkes and donuts. 631-451-6100


The Greenlawn Civic Association will host a Menorah Lighting Ceremony and Hanukkah celebration at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn on Dec. 11 at 6 p.m.


Chabad of Huntington Village will host a Grand Menorah Lighting at the Huntington Village Winter Wonderland at Main Street and Wall Street on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m. 

Kings Park

The Kings Park Chamber of Commerce hosts a Menorah Lighting/Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Veterans Plaza, 1 Church Street, King Park on Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. Enjoy holiday music selections followed by invocation and welcome remarks from the chamber with hot chocolate and cookies. Held rain or shine. 631-269-7678

Lake Ronkonkoma

Take part in a Menorah Lighting at Raynor Park, 174 Ronkonkoma Ave., Lake Ronkonkoma on Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. Hosted by the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce. 631-963-2796

Port Jefferson Station

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Menorah Lighting at the Chamber Train Car, corner of Route 112 and Nesconset Highway, Port Jefferson Station on Dec. 7 from 4 to 5 p.m. 631-821-1313.

St. James

The community is invited to the St. James Menorah Lighting Ceremony at The Triangle, Route 25A and Lake Ave., St. James on Dec. 7 at 5 p.m., Dec. 8 at 4 p.m. and Dec. 9 to 14 at 5 p.m. Includes light refreshments. Nonperishable food donations accepted for the local food pantries. 631-584-8510


The Town of Smithtown and Chabad of Mid-Suffolk will hold its annual Menorah Lighting Ceremony at Town Hall, 99 West Main St., Smithtown on Dec. 11 at 5 p.m.. 631-360-7512

By Donna Newman

Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook invites the community to an Authors Roundtable on Saturday afternoon, October 28, at 1 p.m. The event features a panel of six published authors from the congregation who will speak about their books and answer questions. Rabbi Joshua Gray will be the moderator. A reception is planned afterward where attendees may mingle, enjoy refreshments, and purchase books.

It is said that after the Romans conquered their homeland in 70 CE and destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem, Judaism transformed from a religion of temples, priests, and sacrifices to one that emphasized reverence to scripture, its associated symbols, and rituals, and became The People of the Book. That appellation was later also applied to followers of Islam and Christianity, the other Abrahamic religions, as all three are rooted in — and connected by — the belief that Abraham was their first prophet.

Ancient scripture’s value and importance fostered a foundation for the written word and it’s not surprising that books are a natural extension for adherents of the three religions.     

Carole-Ann Gordon is a book-enthusiast who founded the temple’s monthly Book Group more than two decades ago. She was its first facilitator and is now its current facilitator, following a long interim of service by Anita Gaffan. Aware of the many authors in the congregation, and desiring to celebrate their creativity, she started thinking.

“It occurred to me that we’ve never given the authors in our congregation an opportunity to share their talents,” said Gordon. “I thought it would make an interesting and entertaining afternoon. Rabbi Josh agreed as soon as I mentioned it — and I was delighted when he volunteered to be the moderator.”

She enlisted the input of one of the congregant authors to plan the event.

“Carole-Ann approached me with her Authors Roundtable idea,” said novelist Gary Kamen, who had similar thoughts. “We merged our concepts and created a format that allows each author a brief presentation time, followed by a Q&A and refreshments. Each of the authors will donate a portion of their book sales to the temple.” 

Participating authors are Temple Isaiah’s two Rabbis Emeriti:  Adam Fisher (liturgy, stories, and poetry) and Stephen Karol (Jewish perspectives on death and the world-to-come); Gary Kamen (Western historical fiction); Dr. Stuart Plotkin (non-fiction: dinosaurs and podiatric advice for hikers); Dr. Arnold Katz (medical text and poetry); and cancer survivor Cynthia Braun, whose memoir about her treatment is upbeat, wise, and full of resourceful advice.

“Temple Isaiah is blessed to have so many talented authors whose combined works represent incredible diversity in their subjects and styles,” said Rabbi Emeritus Stephen Karol. “It is our pleasure to share this blessing with the community.”

Free and open to all, you must preregister to attend. Please do so by email to [email protected] or telephone the temple office at 631-751-8518.

By Aramis Khosronejad

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson held its 62nd annual Greek Festival last week, Aug. 24-27.

This local tradition puts Greek food and cultural customs on display. Among the wide variety of festivities offered through the festival were carnival rides, store tents selling trinkets, authentic Greek food, traditional Greek folk dancing and live music. 

In addition, the raffle held each year has grown increasingly popular, now representing one of the largest raffles in the Suffolk County area. The first prize was a 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic, and there were four other cars among the many raffle prizes.

The church is home away from home for many Greek descendants throughout the area. The idea for the church was established in 1956 by a small band of Greek immigrants looking to construct something to resemble their home country and culture. After years of raising the money necessary to build a church, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption opened its doors for the first time in 1959.

‘You can’t separate the culture from the faith or the faith from the culture in Greek history.’

– Father Elias Lou Nicholas

Now, the church community consists of a tight-knit network of Greek families, many of whom hold fond memories of the church in their childhoods. The church comprises roughly 700 families today, a far cry from its small numbers when it first opened its doors.

Father Elias Lou Nicholas is the priest, or “proistamenos” (one who presides in the Greek language), at the church. He was raised in the very same church in which he preaches now. 

In an interview, Nicholas highlighted the rich culture of Greece and the thoroughly interwoven faith of the Greeks, noting the profound history of this heritage. 

“You can’t separate the culture from the faith or the faith from the culture in Greek history,” he said. “The culture and the faith are intertwined.” 

Nicholas also noted the architecture and art of the church, explaining how the church is designed to evoke the feeling of “ascending into the heavens.”

For Nicholas, the Greek Festival holds significance for the community, church and local Greek culture. In Greek, the word “philotimo” carries symbolic meaning, especially in the context of these festivities. Nicholas explained that it is not the easiest word to translate. 

“‘Philo’ means friendship,” he explained. “What [“philotimo”] does mean is that the Greek people have a love for life and want to share that with people.”

George Voulgarakis, first vice president of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption and the principal organizer of the Greek Festival, has supervised the planning of these events since 2009. 

He noted how the festival’s popularity has steadily increased each year, with more and more people attending and cultivating interest in the spectacle.

Voulgarakis added how the festival “signifies the community getting together and unifying and making it a beautiful event.” 

He also pointed to the festival as a means to connect to the religious calendar. “It’s pretty much the festival of the assumption,” he said. “We’re celebrating the assumption.” Aug.15 is the feast of the Assumption. 

For him, Voulgarakis said, the festival mainly “symbolizes community.”

The Timothy House property on North Country Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

Residents in the Village of Head of the Harbor and the surrounding area were again able to express their opinions Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. regarding a proposed church at 481 North Country Road. This meeting was held after press time.

The Russian Orthodox Monastery of the Glorious Ascension, also known as the Monastery of Saint Dionysios the Areopagite, has owned the historic Timothy House since 2018 and is proposing a plan to construct a house of worship on the property and a 36-space parking lot. A special-use permit is needed to proceed with any construction.

At the June 21 village meeting, Joseph Buzzell, the monastery’s Melville-based attorney, explained that the proposed church building, with a planned maximum occupancy of 282 people, would not be a parish church but a monastery church. He said while people outside of the monastery at times decided to worship with the monks, the monastery is not looking to expand its congregation. 

Currently, the monks hold services inside Timothy House. According to village code, land, buildings and major landscaping on either side of 25A, also known as North Country Road, are declared a historic area if they extend to a depth of 500 feet within the village. In addition to the village code, covenants and restrictions were placed on the deed by historian and previous owner Barbara Van Liew in 1973 and 1997.

At previous village meetings, while some residents said they had no concerns, others were worried that the construction of a church and the addition of a parking lot may degrade the historic integrity of the property and the landscape.

In a phone interview, Buzzell said the monastery is not modifying the Timothy House. He said the monks have already paid more than $340,000 in maintenance and repairs on the structure.

Buzzell said the plans for the church had been changed twice to move it from the front of the property toward the back. He said there would be no widening of the driveway and no new lighting. However, he said the entrance posts would have to be moved farther apart.

He said the monks respect the historic integrity of the home and property, but he feels those who are against construction “don’t seem to want to take into consideration what’s been done,” he said.

The lawyer added that the monastery being awarded the special exception permit is important.

“This action ensures the preservation of the house,” he said, adding Van Liew wouldn’t want to see the house put at risk.


In a July 20 letter to Mayor Douglas Dahlgard from Robert O’Shea, village building inspector, posted on the village’s website, the letter writer said he met with Father Vasileios Willard, deputy abbot, at the Timothy House for a tour. 

He said Willard pointed out some trees he would like to be removed, which O’Shea wrote an arborist will be submitting a report on the condition of the trees. In the letter, the building inspector stated that the grounds were properly maintained according to village and state codes.

Inside the house, new water heaters, waterproofing of basement walls and structural repairs in the basement, first and second floors were among the new work done, according to O’Shea. 

He wrote the structure was in “good overall condition and is well maintained.”

The State Historic Preservation Office also reviewed the monastery’s plans and found there would be no adverse effects on the property, but many, including village historian Leighton Coleman III, said they are concerned because a representative from SHPO didn’t visit and survey the property.

Covenants and restrictions

Among those who have criticized the proposed construction to the property has been St. James-based attorney Joseph Bollhofer, chair of the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals. In an email to TBR News Media, he said, in addition to violating the covenants and restrictions placed by Van Liew, it “would violate various provisions of the village code, having to do with a special exception permit.”

At the June 21 meeting, Buzzell said his clients were not aware of the 1973 covenants, something that Bollhofer said would be part of a title search.

When asked by TBR about the comment, Buzzell said that the 1973 covenants did not turn up in the monastery’s title search in 2018 when the property was purchased. The attorney feels that the 1997 document amended and replaced the 1973 document.

But Bollhofer said the 1997 covenants wouldn’t replace or supersede the 1973 document.

“In every case, where one document supersedes or amends another, it must specifically state that,” Bollhofer said, adding, “Both documents state that they ‘run with the land’ and are binding upon all future owners.”

Traffic analysis

In a letter dated Aug. 2, Aaron Machtay, transportation project manager with Hauppauge-based civil engineering firm VHB, presented traffic and parking recommendations to village counsel Philip Butler after reviewing a traffic statement by Atlantic Traffic & Design prepared for the monastery earlier this year, and a site plan from architect Mark Wittenberg that was dated Aug. 30, 2022.

According to the letter, despite prior testimony that the driveway will remain at its 18-foot width, VHB suggested that the driveway be evaluated to see if it can accommodate two-way traffic. 

The business also suggested that the previous traffic statement was a conservative estimate and “projections for the future activity should be prepared based on the observed demand and compared against thresholds established for a significant impact.”

Among other suggestions, the letter stated that parking observations need to be reconciled “to present the actual peak parking demand expected for the site,” also there should be an analysis for the three-year crash experience on Route 25A, focusing on the three-year period before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Rabbi Joshua Gray with his wife Meghan and their children Cameron and Lena. Photo by Gary Kamen

By Donna Newman

The congregation of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook launches a new direction this summer with a modern approach: Joyful Judaism — and the Temple’s search committee found the perfect spiritual leader to guide this transition. 

“We’re very excited to welcome Rabbi Joshua Gray and his family to Long Island to bring music, spirituality and joy to our lives,” said Temple President Howie Kanowitz. “Upon receipt of the unanimous approval of the search committee, the Temple board and the congregation, Rabbi Josh will serve us as both rabbi and cantor. This is his first pulpit, and we hope he’ll lead our community for a long, long time.”  

A recently ordained rabbi at 36 years of age, he brings to his rabbinate a wealth of life, work, and Jewishservice experiences that makes him uniquely qualified to speak to the inclusive Jewish spirit of today. His life journey began in the theater.

“My beginnings as a professional actor/singer opened my voice and spirit up to endless possibilities that manifest themselves in the way I approach Judaism; musically and full of ‘simcha’ (joy), acceptance andpassion,” said Rabbi Josh. “I am also very family-oriented, as I believe that the voices of children and families ina sanctuary create holiness. My amazing wife, Meghan, is my favorite cantorial soloist, with her incredible voice and spirit. Our children, Cameron (8) and Lena (3), keep us engaged with the youngest of congregants.” 

Prior work experience in Rabbi Josh’s background added an additional skill set to his already impressive resumé.

“In addition to his warmth and approachability, Rabbi Josh has a BA in Psychology from Penn State and has worked in the field of mental health, which we considered to be a bonus, especially in the stressful times in which we live,” said Marge Weiser, co-chair of the search committee.

Working with a Reform and a Conservative congregation in upstate New York, Rabbi Josh designed anddelivered a three-part course on mental health and wellness as seen through a Jewish lens.

In a cover letter sent with his resumé he wrote, “To put it simply, I am a Rabbi who tries to live the spirit of’Hineini’— Here I am!” 

His exuberance for Judaism, scholarship, pastoral care, liturgy, and teaching all ages is abundantly clear. After a time as an independent rabbi providing ritual services, lifecycle events and Jewish education, he says he is ready to be infused with the soul of a community and become a congregational rabbi.

“Every member of the search committee had the same feeling following our very first interview with Rabbi Josh,” said committee member Gary Kamen. “It felt as though it was divine intervention that brought him to us. In Yiddish there is the word  ‘bashert’ which translates in English to ‘meant to be.’ We are delighted to have found each other.”