2008-01-18 / Columnists

Chatting with Chapey

Fourth Annual Rockaway Catholic Jewish Council Dinner
Commentary by Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey, Democratic District Leader

The Rockaway Catholic Jewish Council (RCJC) recently held its 4th annual dinner at the West End Temple. Over 150 people were in attendance. The dinner was chaired by Dr. Geraldine Chapey and Renee Freeman, the co-chairs of the RCJC.

We are fortunate in our community to have religious leaders who work tirelessly to encourage good relationships and a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. Many of our religious leaders came to the dinner and spent the evening. Dr. Geraldine Chapey introduced the clergy (in alphabetical order): Rabbi Allan Blaine, Monsignor John Brown, Father Lou DeGaetano, Rabbi Marjorie Slome and Rabbi Boaz Tomsky. I thank them for their outstanding leadership and for their vision in promoting tolerance, cooperation, civility and interfaith events.

Twenty-two years ago the Rockaway Catholic Jewish Council was formed to promote interfaith understanding and tolerance. The RCJC was formed by Rabbi Allan Blaine, Rabbi Joseph Weiss and Father Jack. They recognized that religious believers of Catholicism and Judaism can establish bonds that form a strong community. With the establishment of this connection people find strength, comfort and support from one another at all times. It provides a guideline for us to reach out to help our neighbors.

I would like to thank Rabbi Allan Blaine for being a founder of the RCJC - a vital and important organization in promoting harmony in our neighborhood. He and his wife, Suzanne, work tirelessly to maintain open levels of communication. They are creating a foundation for a broader understanding, better relationships and extensive dialogue between the Catholic and Jewish people in our community. They are conveying a consistent and powerful message that improves our opportunities for dialogue and interaction.

Rabbi Blaine addressed a meeting of the RCJC on the very important topic of the separation of church and state. Rabbi Blaine is an in- depth scholar whose writings and presentations are an inspiration to everyone. Rabbi Blaine addressed us on the same day December 6 2007, that Mitt Romney, a candidate for President, felt compelled to address the nation concerning his religious faith and the separation of church and state. Romney's speech echoed the thoughts and language used over forty years ago by then candidate for President, Senator John Kennedy when he spoke about his religion. Kennedy stated that "I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters - and the church does not speak for me" (John F. Kennedy's address to the greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960). Romney in his December 6 Faith Speech voiced his similar position. "Let me assure you that no authorities of my church or any other church for that matter, will ever exert influence on presidential decisions. Their authority is theirs, within their province of church affairs, and it ends where the affairs of the nation begin." In light of this public statement by a presidential candidate Rabbi Blaine was addressing an important and vital issue in our community and in our nation. Rabbi Blaine made note of many current events in which religion played a role. He highlighted the example of the Teddy Bear teacher. Ms. Gillian Gibbons, a teacher in the Sudan, was thrown in jail and faced significant jail time and 40 lashes with a cane for allowing her students to name a Teddy Bear - Mohammed. It was claimed that the bear was named after the prophet - Mohammed. However, the teacher denied this and claimed it was part of a writing project and her students named the bear after a popular student in the class named Mohammed. This highlights the importance of the issue of the separation of church and state. Many thanks to Rabbi Blaine for his thoughtful and thought provoking presentation on the separation of church and state. In addition, I would also like to thank Father Paul Landolfifor his important and insightful contributions to our meetings. Dr. Fred and Thelma Frieden also provide our group with informed and researched presentations which are very much appreciated.

Stanley and Elaine Gelda, and Judge Timothy and Mary Dufficy were honored at the RCJC dinner for their outstanding contributions to interfaith harmony in our community. The RCJC and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall presented citations to the honorees. The Gelda's and the Dufficy's were honored in recognition of their valued support of the programs offered by the RCJC.

Monsignor John Brown and Father Lou DeGaetano from St. Francis DeSales are reaching out to make our interfaith connection an integral part of our social community fabric. They recognize that religious believers of Catholicism and Judaism can maintain their own beliefs while coming together to find areas of mutual agreement. It is very important that Monsignor Brown and Father Lou are building bridges to bring people together. They are working to form new friendships and to strengthen existing ones. They are concerned, thoughtful and purposeful religious leaders who are dedicated to the goals of the RCJC. Through their leadership, brotherhood and sisterhood in our community is thriving.

We were fortunate to have the RCJC dinner at the beautiful facilities at the West End Temple. I would like to thank Rabbi Marjorie Slome, Chaya Kirshen, the President and Noni Signoretti, the House Chair Person for making us feel welcome. Rabbi Slome brings to our community a strong and sincere commitment to promoting interfaith activities. She works to unite people.

The West End Temple has announced that its facilities are open to the public for functions. Outside caterers are welcome and must be approved by the house committee. The community rooms are large and spacious. They have two large parking lots that are readily available. Call the temple and schedule your event.

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