2003-02-08 / Letters

Promoting Racial Harmony

Promoting Racial Harmony

Local religious and civic leaders met at the 100 Precinct on Tuesday, February 4, to address issues of interfaith harmony in the community. This was in direct response to the harassment incident, which took place in Belle Harbor on the evening of January 25. Rabbi Levi Dicker, the Dean of the Mercaz Hatorah Yeshiva on Beach 129 Street, and Mgsr. Martin Geraghty, Pastor of the St. Francis de Sales Parish, attended the meeting. Rabbi Dicker had already initiated conversations with Msgr. Geraghty about the episode. Police officials from the Hate Crimes Task Force, along with Captain Talamo of the 100 Precinct, hosted the meeting. Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. participated as well as a representative from the office of Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer. Barbara Larkin, President of the Belle Harbor Property Owners Association was also present. The event was not discussed because police investigations are still underway. All were present to express concern for the victims of any hate crime.

Task Force member Sgt. Fanning spoke of the serious nature of bias crime and the severe laws that apply to it in New York City. He emphasized the importance of communicating this information to the community, especially to those who might be tempted to engage in harassment of anyone from another faith, race or nationality.

Rabbi Dicker said that he had informed the Yeshiva students of the seriousness of this matter and the disciplinary response of the Yeshiva to any students who would ever become involved in such a divisive event. Msgr. Geraghty called a special meeting of the seventh and eighth graders at the St. Francis School to remind them that hey have a responsibility to respect the dignity of every person.

Rockaway has a history of very active Catholic-Jewish relations. The Rockaway Catholic Jewish Relations Council sponsors a "Brotherhood-Sisterhood" Essay Contest each year, and every school on the peninsula is invited to participate. The winners are invited with their parents to an award ceremony at St. Francis de Sales School Hall.

The Rockaway and Five Towns Clergy Conference also holds annual events in effort to bring together members of all faiths. Last Thanksgiving, we gathered at Temple Beth-El on Beach 121 Street. Participants at the meeting called for even more communication and contact between groups, and presented opportunities for young people to get to know one another. The meeting ended with all parties committed to more and better communication within the Rockaway community.



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