Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program at North Shore Hebrew Academy marks 22 years

Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program at North Shore Hebrew Academy marks 22 years
Back row from left, Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Kobrin, NSHA Head of School; Cantor Yitzy Spinner, Ashkenazic Megillah Instructor; Dr. Paul Brody, Megillah Program initiator, holding Megillah case; NSHA Middle School 2024 Megillah Readers, in Purim costumes, proudly unfurling the "Dr. Paul Brody Megillah"; at far right, Rabbi Simon Basalely, Middle School Judaic Studies Principal and Sephardic Megillah instructor. Photo credit: NSHA Photo File

Twenty-eight middle school students of Great Neck’s North Shore Hebrew Academy – both Ashkenazic and Sephardic – joined together, on Purim Day, to chant the “Gantze Megillah,” (Scroll of Esther), at its Cherry Lane campus, in a program initiated in 2001 by Dr. Paul Brody – now called the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program,” upon his retirement two years ago.

Cantor Yitzy Spinner instructed the Ashkenazic students and Judaic Studies Middle School principal, Rabbi Simon Basalely and teacher Shmuel Bitton, instructed the Sephardic students this year.

Each student read from the Megillah (Scroll of Esther) that was purchased by the NSHA, named the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah,” upon his retirement, to be used by all student readers on Purim Day festivities.

Purim is the annual celebration of the salvation of the Jewish people by the Persian Queen Esther, who was Jewish, who beseeched her husband King Achashverosh (Xerxes), at the behest of her uncle Mordechai, to nullify the evil decree of the Persian Prime Minister Haman, who had planned to annihilate all the Jews.

The holiday, which this year was celebrated on Saturday evening, March 23 and Sunday, March 24, is particularly significant on the Great Neck peninsula, which has one of the largest concentrations of Persian Jews in the world.

The Ashkenazic NSHA students donnedBrody’s maternal grandfather’s century-old Tallit (Prayer Shawl).  It was Brody’s grandfather, Rabbi Jacob Brown z”l, who convinced him to read the “gantze [entire] Megillah,” after Brody learned the initial Megillah trope at the Cantorial Training Institute, now the Belz School of Jewish Music, of Yeshiva University.

The Megillah Readers Program has served as a paradigm for other Yeshivas and Day Schools. Several of Brody’s 400 NSHA students have “lained” (chanted) the whole Megillah by themselves, or shared the reading with one or two other alumni, at various synagogues, nursing homes or private individuals’ homes, especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year, on Purim night at the Great Neck Synagogue, Russell Mendelson, whom Brody instructed in 2007, as a NSHA Middle School student, chanted the “Gantze Megillah,” in a parallel Megillah Reading service led by Dr. Brody, and again on Purim morning.

 Among this year’s NSHA readers who had siblings taught by Dr. Brody in previous years, were Sam Herz (Riley ‘22) and Justin Levian (Ryan ‘14).

Brody himself has chanted the “Gantze Megillah” for 52 years, including 30 years at the Great Neck Synagogue, first reading it in 1973 at Rabbi Fabian Schonfeld’s zt”l Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills.

In 1985, while smuggling Judaica to Jewish “refuseniks,” he read the Megillah illegally at the Great Synagogue of Leningrad, at great peril. “Better Re(a)d than Dead,” he figured! The “Gabboyim” (Sextons) were rumored to be members of the KGB!

A detailed Proclamation, declaring June 15, 2022 as “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Day,” in “fitting recognition and heartfelt appreciation for the dedicated service of Brody to the residents of Nassau County,” was issued by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, at the 2022 NSHA Middle School Graduation Exercises.

A proclamation was also issued by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to Brody, lauding him for his major accomplishments and “outstanding service.”

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