Your front-page coverage of a recent altercation that occurred between students of a Catholic and a Jewish school in our neighborhood (The Wave, Jan. 30, 2003) was, to say the least, most unsettling.
Many Rockaway residents feel that they live in a neighborhood that is a model of good relations among people who represent a whole variety of ethnic backgrounds. When the Rockaway Catholic-Jewish Council came into existence in 1979, there were problems, which demonstrated the need for an interfaith organization such as RCJC. Since then we have worked diligently to bring about greater understanding and respect for all who make their home on this peninsula.
Not too long ago one of our successes was brought home in the "Candlelight Vigil" which we co-sponsored with the Rockaway/Five Towns Interfaith Clergy Council. At that event, some 1500 people of Christian, Jewish and Moslem faiths came together to pray in commemoration of the tragic events of 9-11 and flight 587. And if space permitted, we could cite dozens and dozens of other successful programs in interfaith affairs.
But in contrast to your unsettling student story, we would like your readers to know that next May 18, the RCJC will conduct its Nineteenth Annual Brotherhood/Sisterhood Awards breakfast. At that time, students from schools all over the Rockaways will read compositions that reaffirm their desire to live in peace and harmony with one another. What a far cry from a small minority of students who harbor sentiments that could plunge us into an abyss of disunity that is rampant in so many other parts of the world today.
We cannot, must not, let forces of ignorance and narrow-minded thinking corrupt what has been accomplished. We urge parents, teachers and the media to exert their best efforts to protect our children from falling prey to intolerance and bigotry.
Hopefully, The Wave will never again have to grace its front page with a story about such a disheartening neighborhood occurrence.
DR. JOHN RUSSO
Rockaway Catholic-Jewish Council