Inaugural ‘Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program’ Marks 21 Years


    Students Chanting the ‘Gantze Megillah’ (Scroll of Esther), at Great Neck’s NSHA

    Twenty-seven Middle School students of Great Neck’s North Shore Hebrew Academy (NSHA), both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, joined together on Purim Day to chant the “Gantze Megillah” (Scroll of Esther), at its Cherry Lane campus. This stems from a program initiated in 2001 by Great Neck Estates resident, dermatologist Dr. Paul Brody, now called the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah Readers Program,” upon his retirement last year.

    From the left: Cantor Yitzy Spinner, Megillah Instructor; Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Kobrin, NSHA Head of School; Dr. Paul Brody, Megillah Program initiator, holding Megillah case; Instructor Shmuel Bitton, tallest in back row; NSHA Middle School 2023 Megillah Readers, proudly unfurling the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah”; at far right, Rabbi Simon Basalely, Middle School Principal. (Photo credit NSHA Photo File)

    Cantor Yitzy Spinner of the Great Neck Synagogue, assisted by Shmuel Bitton, instructed the students this year. Each student read from the beautiful Megillah that was purchased by the NSHA last year, named the “Dr. Paul Brody Megillah,” 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. She beseeched her husband, King Achashverosh (Xerxes), at the behest of her uncle Mordechai, to nullify the evil decree of his Prime Minister Haman, who had planned to annihilate all the Jews. The holiday, which this year was celebrated on Monday evening, March 6 and Tuesday, March 7 is particularly significant on the Great Neck peninsula, which has one of the largest concentrations of Persian Jews in the world.

    In 2001, Dr. Brody observed that no young people knew 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, his students have chanted Megillat Esther in a unique student-led service for their schoolmates, faculty, and families on Purim Day, even if Purim landed on a Sunday! Only during COVID-19, in 2021, was this unique Yeshiva program was stalled.

    The Middle School students are instructed in the fine art of cantillation and the meticulous notes and melody of chanting the Megillah. The Megillah Readers Program has served as a paradigm for other Yeshivas and Day Schools. Several of Dr. Brody’s students have lained (chanted) the whole Megillah by themselves, or shared the reading with one or two other alumni, at various shuls (synagogues), nursing homes or private individuals’ homes, especially helpful during the pandemic. Three of this year’s readers had siblings taught by Dr. Brody in previous years, including Joey Kroll (Danny and Sammy), Jake Zuckerman (Ben and Ethan) and Sam Sonnenklar (Noah).

    Dr. 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” (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 Dr. Paul Brody to the residents of Nassau County,” was issued by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, at last year’s NSHA Middle School Graduation Exercises. A Proclamation was also issued by NYS Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli to Dr. Brody, lauding him for his major accomplishments and “outstanding service.”

    —Submitted by NSHA

    Leave a Reply