Service of Being Cut Off at the Pass

May 22nd, 2014

Categories: Cut Off at the Pass, Music, Religion


Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Photo: Brett Duke/The Times Picayune

Last Sunday Rabbi Joseph Potasnik and Deacon Kevin McCormack mentioned on their radio program, “Religion on the Line,” that there were no clergy at the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication.

This was an unusual omission, they observed. They reminded listeners of the interfaith memorial service organized by clergy at Yankee Stadium a dozen days after the attack. It was meant to help heal. So what had changed since the citizens of the New York metro area–and the country–craved spiritual support?

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Left, and Deacon Kevin McCormack

I didn’t watch the museum’s opening ceremonies and wasn’t aware of this, though I was surprised to hear it, given that prayers or spiritual thoughts are often a part of memorials at a graveyard.

What came immediately to mind? This scene, a total conjecture: The event planners thought of everything and someone influential came in at the last minute, cut off at the pass their arrangements regarding clergy participation and made a crucial change based on a snap decision. It’s happened to me and to others all the time and in all sorts of ways—not just at events.

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo:

Aaron Copeland [seated] and Leonard Bernstein. Photo:

Leonard Bernstein did it to Aaron Copland. In the Bard College Conservatory of Music notes in Sunday’s program, Peter Laki, visiting associate professor of music, quoted Bernstein writing Copland about the latter’s Symphony No. 3: “Sweetie, the end is a sin. You’ve got to change [it].” Laki continued: “Bernstein proceeded to cut 10 measures from the concluding section.” Laki wrote that the cut version became standard, but that on Sunday the audience would hear the last movement as Copeland wrote it. It was glorious.

Lionel, a fictional character on the British comedy “As Time Goes By” suffers indignity and fits as his script–and life–are cut to shreds and then foolishly built up by a California TV production crew.

Back to real life when John McCain ran for President, Senator Joe Lieberman was his first choice of vice president but the Republican Party axed that plan. You know the rest.

Has something you’ve planned, written or designed been cut off at the pass? What was the result? Why do you think that the clergy of any stripe was omitted from the 9/11 Memorial Museum dedication?

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11 Responses to “Service of Being Cut Off at the Pass”

  1. JPM Said:

    You make a very good point.

    I voted for Obama in 2008 only, and I mean only, because of Sarah Palin. It turned out McCain didn’t drop dead. Just think how much better off we and the country would have been if we had had somebody competent as president those four years?

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The game of “what if” is tricky. I wasn’t a McCain fan for other reasons but his choice of running mate made my decision a no-brainer as it reflected on his judgment. So who knows what kind of a President he’d have been?

  3. ASK Said:

    I’m surprised the families of 9/11, a group now incorporated, did not complain about that…they seem to be complaining about several other issues related to the Memorial Museum…

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Perhaps they might not have known. Their grief must be raw every time their loss smacks their hearts and their focus is elsewhere.

    Many are upset about the trinket shop on what they consider a graveyard and others protested a party that took place there yesterday as they didn’t feel it was a place for such celebrations. Obviously people have a wide range of ideas about the mission and purpose of the museum.

  5. ASK Said:

    I think the organizers and original financial supporters of the museum want it to be a destination and provide a means of support for its upkeep and perhaps future enhancements.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I should visit before writing more but the gift store, if necessary, might be easier to digest across the street. The $24 entrance fee should help as well. They may call the place a museum but it’s also a cemetery.

    The gift store was the topic on a radio program and a caller said he’d been to Pearl Harbor and described the site as deadly quiet plus there were no souvenirs for sale.

    There are those who feel there should have been only a small fountain and some trees–more of a park–and no buildings, museums or anything at all where the Twin Towers stood.

  7. Rabbi Joseph Potasnik Said:

    Thank you for expressing your insightful thoughts. It was truly insulting to exclude clergy without explanation. Very grateful to you.

  8. Lucrezia Said:

    Museums are not houses of worship, and welcome everyone whether or not they believe in a higher power, or powers. It is possible that it was thought best to remain quiet on the subject of religion, since so many of them would have to be represented. That way, no one was left out and no one was insulted. This is a prejudiced remark since not only am I a charter member of the museum, I also feel it did nothing wrong. Bring in the number of clergy to cover all bases, the eulogies could have gone on for days!

    Couldn’t help chuckling at Lenny Bernstein’s mischief at Copeland’s expense, since AC’s works, for the most part, send me running to the hills. Prejudice speaks again, but must admit, he shouldn’t have done it…..(still laughing….)

    As for being cut off at the pass, guess it’s happened on occasion, but it happens to most, unless one is nimble enough to jump out of the way and start swinging!

  9. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Maybe I object to a museum on a gravesite but since it’s there, it isn’t like most museums and its launch should be mindful of its connection to a burial ground.

    As for Lenny, I got the feeling that he was jealous of Aaron, whom I adore. The last movement, the one he fiddled with, was remarkable. I think he wanted to remove some of the thrill…but how do I know? I didn’t know either man.

    I remember a debacle when a then boss, who knew nothing of what was going on and had taken zero seconds to review the plans, changed a crucial one in the middle of an event involving hundreds of people at a conference with many workshops going on at once. He didn’t ask and caused a total mess about which he later complained!

  10. Dcn. Kevin McCormack Said:

    You are right on point!
    Is this yet another example of Religion being escorted out of the market place of ideas?
    Ministers of all faiths were a constitutive part of the events after 9/11, how could they be forgotten so quickly?
    Thank you for your words!

  11. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Deacon McCormack,

    A friend of mine feels that all things spiritual are being discounted these days. I trust it’s not the conscious effort he suspects.

    If there had been a lottery that included one representative of all religions that wanted to participate and two were selected–one for opening and one for closing prayers–it would have worked.

    I’ll stay tuned to your program on Sunday mornings because if the truth of this omission leaks out, you and the Rabbi will tell us about it.

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