Purim marks a milestone for the North Shore Hebrew Academy Middle School in Great Neck — the 18th year that eighth-graders and alumni, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, will chant Megillat Esther for their schoolmates, faculty and families.
The reading will take place during Shacharit in the synagogue on the Cherry Lane campus. The community is invited and a celebratory breakfast will follow the 8 am service.
Over the past 18 years, more than 300 students at the NSHA have been instructed by Dr. Paul Brody (pictured center, wearing his maternal grandfather’s century-old tallis and surrounded by his students). Brody’s grandfather, Rabbi Jacob Brown z”l, convinced him to learn 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 North Shore program was introduced by Brody, a dermatologist by profession, in 2002, together with Rabbi Dr. Michael Reichel, then principal of the Middle School. It has become part of NSHA’s curriculum, potentially enabling students to read the Megillah at various shuls, hospitals, nursing homes and private homes, for those unable to attend public readings.
This year, in addition to 18 eighth graders and four alumni who are reading in the morning, Brody recruited nine recent alumni whom he previously instructed, plus two current eighth graders, to share a Megillah reading on Wednesday, Purim night, at the Great Neck Synagogue.
Another alumnus of the program, Eli Mendelson (‘09), will follow this cadre of NSHA alumni and chant the gantze Megillah at the Great Neck Synagogue’s late reading.
Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin (at right, back row, in photo), the head of school, and Rabbi Adam Acobas (not shown), the Middle School principal, facilitated the students’ hectic schedules to enable adequate review time with Brody. Rabbi Acobas makes the initial recordings for the Sephardic students.
Brody has read the Megillah for more than 45 years. He first lained it in 1973 at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills (YIKGH), reading it there and at Kehillas Aderes Eliyahu (Rabbi Teitz’s shul) until 1993, when he and his family moved to Great Neck. He has chanted Megillat Esther at the Great Neck Synagogue since.
Despite great peril, Brody chanted the Megillah at the Great Synagogue in Leningrad in 1985, where the gabbaim were members of the KGB.
“Better read than dead,” he figured.