Twenty-seven Middle School students of Great Neck’s North Shore Hebrew Academy (NSHA) — both Ashkenazic and Sephardic — joined on Purim day to chant the “Gantze Megillah,” in a program initiated in 2001 by Dr. Paul Brody.
Upon Brody’s retirement last year, the event was named the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program.” Cantor Yitzy Spinner of the Great Neck Synagogue, assisted by Shmuel Bitton, instructed the students this year.
Each student read from the megillah purchased by NSHA last year and named the Dr. Paul Brody Megillah.
In 2001, Brody observed that young people did not know how to read the megillah, and he instituted a program at the NSHA Middle School, eventually instructing approximately 400 seventh and eighth-graders over 20 years, who have chanted Megillat Esther in a unique student-led service for their schoolmates, faculty and families on Purim Day. Only COVID-19, in 2021, stalled this unique program.
The Middle School students are instructed in the fine art of cantillation and the meticulous notes and melody of chanting the megillah. The program has served as a paradigm for other yeshivas and day schools. Several of Brody's students have lained the whole megillah by themselves, or shared the reading with one or two other alumni, at various shuls, nursing homes or individuals' homes, especially helpful during Covid-19.
Brody himself has chanted the “Gantze Megillah” for 51years, including 29 years at the Great Neck Synagogue, first laining 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” were rumored to be members of the KGB.