Williamsburg business owners host progressive Shabbat services

Allyson Stone (left) and Leah Fink (right) attended B’nai Brooklyn’s second Shabbat service.
Photo courtesy of B’nai Brooklyn

A pair of Williamsburg moms and business owners have launched a progressive new Shabbat service with the help of an unlikely benefactor — The Roman Catholic Church! 

Leah Fink and Allyson Stone launched their new Shabbat service, called B’nai Brooklyn, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Havemeyer Street on Nov. 15, and the collaboration between faiths has since blossomed into a thriving religious community, according to Fink. 

“We were blown away by the reaction,” said Fink, an educational consultant and owner of ClassesAt.

The women created B’nai Brooklyn to address the need for a more progressive Reform Jewish synagogue amid the area’s large Orthodox community, but they struggled to find a venue until Fink’s father, Danny, suggested the church where he attends a 12-step program as a potential fit. 

And after Fink and Stone approached the church’s pastor, Monsignor Jamie Gigantiello, they found their days of wandering at an end. 

“It’s nice to see our two communities working together,” said Stone, who owns Stoneshine Ventures, marketing strategy company.

The progressive Jewish community in Williamsburg gathered at the Roman Catholic church for a Shabbat service.Photo courtesy of B’nai Brooklyn

B’nai Brooklyn’s first service attracted around 80 congregants, but that number nearly doubled to 150 attendees in time for their second Shabbat in January, and the pair attributes their success to the fun and creative approach they’ve taken to the traditional Jewish synagogue services, which does not segregate men and women, unlike more traditional congregations. 

At their most recent Shabbat program, Rabbi Matthew Reimer of the Jewish Community Center of Brooklyn led a 25-minute service that was followed by a pizza party catered by Williamsburg Pizza, owned by Fink and her husband. The event was also sponsored by Norm and Elaine Brodsky, Spirit Animal Wine Shop and Belgian Boys.

B’nai Brooklyn is in the process of developing a strategy for the future. Although dates have not yet been set, they plan to meet monthly at 5:30 pm at 1 Havemeyer St. in Brooklyn.

And while Stone and Fink are thankful for the church’s help,  the pair don’t want to overstay their welcome, and B’nai Brooklyn hopes to find its own community center space sometime soon. They are currently accepting donations. To donate, or for more information visit bnaibrooklyn.com.