2003-07-11 / Community

Reluctantly, Council Closes Down

By Elizabeth Roth
Reluctantly, Council Closes Down By Elizabeth Roth

The Rockaway Catholic-Jewish Council, after 24 years in existence, has decided to close its doors. Citing increasing overhead and the age of their leadership, the organization, whose aim is interfaith cooperation and understanding, encourages its members to join other, similar councils in different parts of Queens.

Their increasing membership and the improving ties between the religious communities are a testament to their impact on the Rockaway community. The Council sponsors an essay contest on brotherhood, holds monthly meetings, they try to help during incidents of conflict between the two communities, such as an incident last year when yeshiva boys were accused of harassing a group of girls from St. Francis. They are proud of their role in changing the productions of "Passion Plays", performances reenacting the crucifixion of Christ. Many were extremely anti-Semitic. The council motto is "To agree to disagree, agreeably….you have to have dialogue."

Ralph Leinoff; the Jewish co-chairman of the committee explains that in an effort to save the council, "We applied for grant money, but we didn’t have any people who could write a grant." Adding "But in the end it was not the money but the leadership problem." Both Leinoff and the Catholic Co-Chair Dr. John Russo have undergone bypass surgery in the last year. After almost a quarter of a decade working for the council, both need to retire. There is no one to take their place.

In the past two years ago, knowing that they would soon have to leave, the two began an aggressive publicity campaign, sponsoring programs and activities on a variety of topic for all ages. The programs were well attended, and membership spiked a little, but few were willing to become more involved in the actual society.

The council intends to maintain their historical record and database for anyone doing research or who is interested in starting a new organization of the type.

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