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June is a month with many celebrations and culminations.

gether we will see seven of our teens graduate in a Coming of
Age ceremony on June 8th. We are so excited to have taken
our Coming of Age program to a new level with Nirvani Bisses-
sar as the new teacher for our teens. By the time this newsletter
hits the press their celebration will be ours to remember. These celebrations have
become such a cornerstone of our community, when we honor our youth into their
early adulthood and pay homage to their declarations of values and ethics. Congratu-
lations Jamie, Irene, Lucas, Layla, Aria, Maia, and Jolene!

In May the Board of Trustees, had a day-long retreat as part of our approach to stra-
tegic planning. This gave the board time to learn and to think with a big picture view,
allowing us to step out of the day-to-day concerns of managing BSEC.

Overall, we are seeing healthy development. We have six new members this season.
Our committees are each taking on programs and activities that are beginning to
show signs of growth. (Other articles in this newsletter tell those stories more.) We
are trying hard to figure out exactly how we can make our building more accessible.
We welcomed back Lisel Burns as a member, who was our Clergy Leader for many
years and will continue to always be our Leader Emerita. We have a Task Force dedi-
cated to the New Leader Search. Over the coming year we can trust their search to
also contribute to our own self-awareness as a community.

As part of a concerted effort to grow our congregation and thereby, our efficacy, we
have decided to place emphasis on membership and communications. This summer,
the board will create a Task Force to help each committee integrate activities and
programming towards these ends, both within the Society and with the broader world.
If you have interest in this work, please speak to me or Jone. We anticipate that there
will be at least one representative from each committee on this task force, as well as
a few members-at-large. Likewise, we have plans for a group to begin to meet to ex-
plore issues of race and diversity for our congregation and to offer strategies and ac-
tivities that will help the continuation of developing our diverse community.

We have donated our space to FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic
Equality) and the Brooklyn Food Coalition for events of their own as ways to build
alliances through the gift of the beautiful space that we have to share.

June 22
will be our Member Meeting. We will have an abbreviated Platform that
day, a healthy lunch, and a meeting planned for 12:30-2:30. There are three positions
open on the Board and so far we only have two people running for them; me
(Rebecca Lurie), and Laura Duffy, who has years of membership activity behind her
and has not yet served on the board. If you have interest in growing your leadership
skills and contributing your time to our Board of Trustees, please let us know. There
is also a position on the Sunday Committee for a member-at-large. If planning for and
organizing platforms is something that interests you, again, let us know.
-Rebecca Lurie
Ethically Speaking

53 Prospect Park West
at 2nd Street in Park Slope
June 2014
Guiding Free Thinkers Since 1907

The Brooklyn Society
for Ethical Culture
Jone Johnson Lewis
Interim Clergy Leader

Damal Edmond
Administrative Director

Board of Trustees
President: Rebecca Lurie
Vice President: Janice Novet
Treasurer: Tom Castelnuovo
Pledge Secretary: Kim Brandon

Donna Minkowitz
Warren Miner


The Brooklyn Society for
Ethical Culture

A humanistic, religious and
educ at i on al f el l o ws hi p
promoting knowledge, love and
practice of ethics-centered
living. As a diverse and
welcoming community, we
assist each other in developing
ethi cal i deal s, expl ori ng
choices, navigating our life
journeys, and working to
realize a more just and
compassionate world.

BSEC belongs to a federation
of Ethical Culture & Ethical
Humanist Societies and/or
Fellowships in the U.S. known
as the American Ethical Union.
Ethically Speaking, June 2014, page 2

Its official: we are now Ethics for Children. With our new name we have welcomed new friends
and have begun reaching out to the community with a new brochure, an updated webpage and
a presence at local street fairs.

And the kids have been busy! Themes from this
season include: stories, empathy, environmental
awareness, and taking action for social justice.

A few highlights:

Visits from the Five Boro Story Project who followed up their intergen-
erational event with a special workshop just for kids where we shared
stories about our neighborhoods.

An investigation of bullying from a variety of angles. This included
workshops with local storyteller and teacher Robin Bady who helped us
express feelings and thoughts on what it means to bully, why people bully
and how to handle a bully. Jone also taught a class on how parts of our brains (like the amygdala) play an important
role in how we deal with fear, anger and other emotions around bullying.

A trip to Prospect Park Residences where we did a question/answer exchange with five
seniors. The kids got to hear some incredible stories from our oldest living generations.
Topics ranged from technology to the Civil Rights Movement.

A social justice action project to help Anne-Marie and the other folks we met at Pros-
pect Park Residences. This was led by Nirvani Bissessar and the Coming of Age teens.
Each teen mentored two younger kids in how to write letters to politicians, make protest
signs, and draft petitions to speak out against the residences unjust evictions. They gath-
ered nearly 400 signatures with their own hand-made petitions!

The Coming of Age teens also led a "speed deed" table at NYSEC to document the
feminist voice. They worked with an organization called Breaking Walls to fight stereo-
types of youth in Brooklyn, using their voice through poetry and film documentary. And
they participated in the annual AIDS Walk. The teens are currently learning and question-
ing what it means to be a member of Ethical Culture.

Meanwhile, the 3-7 year-olds learned and played with Simba: ex-
ploring their freedom to think for themselves, their responsibility to treat
others fairly and kindly and their ability to learn from everyone through
group circles, stories, games, songs and art-projects.

All in all, its been an inspiring and energizing few months. Im so proud
of these kids!
-Lea Bender, Director

Congrats Coming of Age Grads 2014!
James Brennan
Irene Duffy
Layla Devlin
Aria Devlin
Lucas Kohn
Maia Engstrom
Jolene Lower

Friends, Allies, Competition, Heretics?

- A Note from Jone-
All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Summer Sunday Programming: Friends, Neighbors and Allies of Ethical Societies

June 29: Colloquy. TBA

July 13: Other American Humanisms. Interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis will explore the extent to which we consider our-
selves, in Ethical Culture, humanists, and how we are like and different from other American humanist groups.

July 20: Our Close Neighbors. Jone Johnson Lewis will look at liberal Christianity, some forms of Judaism and Unitarian Universal-
ism as neighbors on the religious spectrum.

August 10
International Humanism -Paulo Ribiero

August 17
: Ethical Culture at the United Nations Martha Gallahue

August 23: Colloquy. Rebecca Lurie will facilitate a colloquy on endings as also the start of new beginnings...together we will explore
this for all the joy, sadness and living in between.
Ethically Speaking, June 2014, page 3
Bayard Rustin wrote an essay in the 1960s about the ten-
dency, in religion and politics, to make our closest
neighbors our enemies. Thus, in online postings, I some-
times see the immense vitriol between atheists and agnos-
tics pretty close neighbors, youd think, with more in com-
mon than different. America is a very sectarian culture
the tendency is that if one disagrees a little bit, one forms a
new sect.

Theres an old religious joke that takes various forms.
Heres one version: A person was walking over a bridge
one day, and saw someone standing at the edge of the
bridge, looking ready to jump. The first person ran over to
the second: No, dont jump! Why not, said the second,
I have nothing to live for. (1) Are you religious? (2)
Yes. (1) I am, too. Are you Jewish or Christian? (2)
Christian. (1) Are you Catholic or Protestant? (2)
Protestant. (1) Are you Lutheran or Baptist? (2)
Baptist. (1) Are you Northern Baptist or Southern Bap-
tist? (2) Northern. (1) Are you Northern Baptist Church
of God or Northern Baptist Church of the Lord? (2)
Northern Baptist Church of God. (1) Are you Northern
Baptist Church of God Original or Northern Baptist Church
of God Reformed? (2) Northern Baptist Church of God
Reformed. (1) Northern Baptist Church of God Reforma-
tion of 1897 or Northern Baptist Church of God Reformed
of 1917? (2) Northern Baptist Church of God Reformed of
1917. (1) Die, heretic, die! and pushed the other person
off the bridge.

An old political ballad started, Bill Bailey belonged to every
radical party / That ever came to be / Till he finally decided
to start his own party / So he wouldnt disagree.
And of course, theres the commercial concept of the
market niche find a unique place in the marketplace of
Americans have tended to be very sectarian. A small dif-
ference, and we split off. And sometimes, as Bayard
Rustin warned, we put our energy into arguing about those
small differences. At the same time, its true that in differ-
ences, we often see ourselves more clearly. Exploring
similarities and differences and seeing them more as a
continuum, rather than either/or, heresy or orthodoxy can
help us see ourselves.

This summer, well have a series of six programs, begin-
ning and ending with colloquies. In between, weve sched-
uled four programs that will be somewhere between a plat-
form talk and a workshop less structured than the plat-
form meetings September through mid-June on the topic
of Friends, Neighbors and Allies of Ethical Societies. Ill
be there leading the first two. On July 13, Other American
Humanisms will explore the extent to which we consider
ourselves, in Ethical Culture, humanists, and how we are
like and different from other American humanist groups.
On July 20, Our Close Neighbors will look at liberal Chris-
tianity, some forms of Judaism and Unitarian Universalism
as neighbors on the religious spectrum. In August, on the
and 17
, well have guests helping us explore interna-
tional humanisms and other religious and nonreligious
groups were associated with or otherwise close to.

I hope we do this in the spirit of trying to transcend that
American sectarianism seeing these close neighbors as
the allies and friends that they can be, even while compar-
ing and contrasting ourselves to them can help us see
some of the finer distinctions of why our group has a unique
place and purpose in the world.

-Jone Johnson Lewis

Making Our Building a Welcoming
Accessible Space

The Building and Grounds Committee has been meeting over
the last year to fully assess how to make our building accessi-
ble without stairs. We strongly feel the need for an accessible
space that would clearly signal our intention to welcome all. It is
an important aspect of living our values and our ethics. Yet our
status as a historic and landmark building makes significant
changes all the more challenging.

With the help of our Administrative Director, Damal, we sought
bids from several architectural firms asking them to help us
create a design. We learned that there are even more ques-
tions to ask and answer before we can start designing. To pro-
vide access just to our first floor there are three levels to con-
sider: the yard, sunroom and meeting room. Then there is pro-
viding access with dignity as well as beauty. Ramp or lift? How
to provide bathroom access? The bids we received were sim-
ple enough with no clear design or price until we contract for
the services. For the most part, the cost of the architectural
work is built in as a percentage of the construction costs and so
wont be clear until we have the full bid. In addition, any con-
struction will cut into usage of our space for a period of time so
will curtail our rental revenue.

In the meantime, the committee has grown concerned over the
condition of the Societys mounting wall along 2
Street; it was
damaged over the years by the root pressure from nearby trees
before we removed them.

The Committee now proposes that we contract with one of the
firms for a feasibility study that would help us design, prioritize
and price out our options. This will be a line item in our pro-
posed budget at the annual meeting on Sunday, June 22.

If the members agree, the initial cost to the Society will be
about $15,000 for the study. For this sum, the architect will in-
form us on the status of the 2
St. retaining wall plus propose
solutions for handicap accessibility and help us look at the im-
pact of construction on our space use.

The B&G Committee urges members to really think about this
issue, understanding that the costs and implications are high
and the details are sometimes complex.

The committee also recommends that the Society establish a
capital fund and a fundraising strategy to match. We acknowl-
edge that projects of this scope can easily eat away at our en-
dowment and so we need a broad commitment to the enter-

Members are free to review the bids and reports from the archi-
tects at any time, and to join the committee if you wish for more
input. At the member meeting we are proposing the study and
a fundraising effort so we can see this project through.

Rebecca Lurie and Warren Miner
During our April Platform to honor National Po-
etry Month, we created our version of Haiku po-
ems as a gathering exercise. We gave everyone
less than five minutes to practice this Japanese
art form. Here are some of our poems Kim
I love you more than
tacos, chocolate, even more
than each cool inhale
- Gabriella Belfiglio
Bricks studs sheet-rock paint
now cats sun on windowsills
we have made a home
- Marg Suarez
Love transform
s strangely
ountains cannot bar m
y love
gain I see your eyes
- Lujira C
unny and coo
l days
re am
ong m
y favorite

for w
alks and w
- N
Apples, crust roses
an early dinner with friends
baking a pie
- Lisa Servon
ve 5-7-5
cceptance goes far
to open m
y heart to you.
I rest in your love.
- S
arah Z
ia H

g on
er b
ack ro

r lily o
f a
n S

- R
rt G
is h

s o
r th
t g
y s

o yo
ll d
- C
Last night she cam
e back
rooklyn B

brought T
asha to m
- Lisel B
Down in the valley
a big bee kissed a flower you came and kissed more
-Ellen Raider
pring season renew
love blossom
s like the flow
y heart renew
s for you.
- D
enise M
. Felix
ot up this m
ut on m
y Z
ora N
eale hat
and w
rote this poem

Ethically Speaking, June 2014, page 4
Ethically Speaking, June 2014, page 5
ETHICAL ACTION What do we owe the earth?

On June 22, the Society gets a chance to vote on creating a socially responsible investing policy for our $900,000 in-
vestment fund that would guide us in the process of divesting from 200 fossil fuel stocks and also from other stocks that
may not fit our values, such as military contractors.

At the American Ethical Unions May meeting, the gathered societies voted for the AEU to both divest of fossil fuel
stocks and reinvest them in sustainable energy. Moreover, the resolution called on its member societies and all Ethical
Culturalists -- to do the same. The AEUs financial advisor said such a move would not harm its investments. Indeed,
another congregation we interviewed who enacted socially responsible investment policies said it has not suffered a fi-
nancial loss.

But the Ethical Action Committees resolution, endorsed by the board, calls on the society to do this because it is the
right thing to do, because of the threat to life on our planet and because such action is the higher ground we are en-
joined to seek. We have a moral responsibility to the Earth, to all beings, and
to future generations to do everything in our power to bring about a swift tran-
sition from fossil fuels to a sustainable energy economy to avoid catastrophic
climate change. However, in a compromise, our resolution does not call for
reinvestment of the divested funds into sustainable energy.
Our resolution also creates a task force that will develop a socially responsi-
ble investment policy like those of most other congregations. It would include
the principles of:
Avoidance: developing a No-Buy list of prohibited stocks;
Affirmative investments that promote economic justice, for instance by in-
vesting in a loan fund serving low-income communities;
Advocacy: continue investing in sin stocks that violate our values only if we
commit to active advocacy in shareholder campaigns through such organiza-
tions as the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.
Fiscal responsibility: assess the impact, if any, of this policy on the BSEC
endowment. -Abby Scher
ETHICAL LIVING Brooklyn Ethical Has a Gift Circle!

According to Sacred Economics author Charles Eisenstein, Community is woven
from gifts, writes Charles Eisenstein in Sacred Economics. Since January, the
Brooklyn Gift Circle inspired by Eisensteins writing and sponsored by BSECs Ethi-
cal Living Committee has been convening once per month, in the Library, to weave

Each meeting follows a simple format: First, we each state one or two needs (for
work, objects, skills, services, space, time, connections, and so on). Second, we
each offer one or two gifts (gifts, like needs, may take many forms). Third, we ex-
press gratitude, in particular for gifts received through the Circle (bearing witness to
generosity helps it grow). We leave time at the end for givers and receivers to con-
nect and arrange for gift delivery. This isnt barter, so we arent making exchanges. Rather, were giving freely, in hopes
of creating a flow.

How well has the Circle been working? Heres a sample of gifts delivered so far: basil plants, tool use, a phone cord,
counseling, a handpainted poster, healing bodywork, gardening and career advice, help avoiding eviction, help with
moving and household chores, a job as an arborist. Some gifts have reached beyond the Circle to friends, families, and
organizations we care about. Inspired by the Circle, one member helped a friend secure an apartment; two others wel-
comed newcomers to their block with a note of introduction and homebrew. When ten to twenty of us come together for
any given Circle, we bring not only our own needs and resources, but those of everyone were connected to. Access to
each others networks is itself a gift.

When we share our wants and needs and the stories behind them, when we offer our gifts, we build both knowledge and
trust. We learn to rely on each other. We add fresh strands to the web of relationship upon which all our lives depend.

Please join us for the last Circle of our inaugural series (Thursday, June 26, 7-9 P.M.). All are welcome. Watch the Com-
munity Builder for news of future Circles. Helen Zusman

Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture
53 Prospect Park West
Brooklyn, NY 11215-2629
Guiding Free Thinkers Since 1907
On a Sad Note from JONE

In the 1990s, a dear friend of mine, a young man named Mac Morgan,
then about 30 years old, moved to Brooklyn. I recommended he try out
the Ethical Society. He did. He began attending, was part of a newcom-
ers' circle led by then-Leader Lois Kellerman, and he enjoyed his time at the Society. He
left not long after, moving to England to build a committed relationship there. Sadly, his
life ended last week in a hospital in the UK.

If any of you who remember him want to talk, please email me at
or make an appointment.

JUNE 22nd @ 12:30pm
Thursday, July 10, 6:30pm
Garden Party Fundraiser!

The Brooklyn Society for Ethical
53 Prospect Park West

Help the Eddie Ellis Academy for
Human Justice get off the drawing
boards and into the hearts of
young people affected by criminal