VOL 124 NO. 15
The way of the future
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
InterReligious Council will honor Bishop Thomas Costello and Rabbi Daniel Jezer
Bishop Thomas Costello and Rabbi Daniel Jezer will be honored on May 17 at the 23rd annual InterReligious Leadership Award Dinner for their many years of leadership of the Central New York community. “They’ve been pillars of the InterReligious Council from the very beginning,” said Renee McCaffrey, Director of Development for the InterReligious Council.
Originally named the Syracuse Area InterReligious Council, the InterReligious Council has been in existence since 1976. “Bishop Cunningham laid the groundwork for the council,” said Bishop Costello. “He assertively emphasized the ecumenical impact of the Vatican Council.”
Bishop Costello is a founding father of the InterReligious Council and has served on the council’s Cabinet of Faith Leaders for nearly two decades. The Cabinet of Faith Leaders is an advisory group comprised of 22 faith leaders from different faith communities in Central New York. They meet regularly, acting as a moral voice in the community, empowering members to struggle with issues of exclusion and injustice in the world. The members discuss issues that affect the community, help with interfaith dialogue and use their expertise in facilitating interfaith services. “It’s a think tank,” remarked Bishop Costello. “It gives our leaders the opportunity and time to talk with one another. Our relationships are very important. I’ve been pleased to represent our church.”
Last November, Bishop Costello was the keynote speaker at the InterReligious Council’s first annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. He told those in attendance that their presence at the service recognizes the values they hold in common and simultaneously respects differences in belief. He explained that interreligious dialogue is not only essential for keeping nations at peace, but also necessary for the survival of the world.
The dinner is being co-chaired by Sidney and Suzanne Devorsetz and Anthony and Eileen Oliva. Because of the admiration, respect and affection the Olivas feel for Bishop Costello, they felt honored when they were asked to co-chair the dinner. “He has a powerful community presence and shows genuine concern, reverence and compassion for all people in Central New York,” said Eileen Oliva. “He is a person of great strength, courage and conviction. He’s also a gifted, eloquent speaker whose message reaches all ages.”
Rabbi Jezer has been actively involved with the InterReligious Council since 1986. “I see one of the major roles of a rabbi as applying Jewish religious values to the relationships between people,” said Rabbi Jezer. “The InterReligious Council gave me the opportunity to do that.” He served as board president of the Council in 1997 and 1998, and was a board member for more than 10 years. He was recently elected vice president of the Cabinet of Faith Leaders, where he continues to serve alongside Bishop Costello, representing the Syracuse Rabbinical Council.
Rabbi Jezer feels enlightened through his involvement with the InterReligious Council. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” remarked Rabbi Jezer. “It’s helped me grow in understanding people of different faiths as well as my own Judaism. I would hope that the work of the InterReligious Council and participation in the activities of the InterReligious Council remain high on the agenda of the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish Community and all people of good faith.”
Rabbi Jezer felt honored to be chosen as a recipient of the leadership award. “I was thrilled and excited,” said Rabbi Jezer. “I have particularly admired the work and character of Bishop Thomas Costello.”
Celaine Hershdorfer, a member of the Congregation of Beth Shalom-Chevra Shas, has fond memories of working with Rabbi Jezer the last 20 years. “Rabbi Jezer is a very compassionate person,” said Hershdorfer. “He’s very caring about the community and the world in general.”
The InterReligious Council’s mission is to be a community in which the religious bodies of the area relate to each other and to the wider community as people of God, working together for justice and the common good of all people. The council attempts to strengthen the community by fostering religious, racial and ethnic harmony.
Bishop Costello feels that this mission has never been more important than it is today. “Many of the problems in our society today are rooted in religious misunderstandings,” said Bishop Costello. “Until we confer with each other, they won’t get resolved.”
Through its seven programs, which are Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism, Covenant Housing, Ombudsman Program, Pastoral Care, Senior Companion Program, Southeast Asian Center, and Refugee Resettlement, the InterReligious Council provides compassionate care, advocacy and service to many Central New Yorkers in need. Bishop Costello explained that these programs offer an opportunity for the different faith communities in the area to come together.
In honoring Bishop Costello and Rabbi Jezer at the Leadership Award Dinner on May 17, the agency is also celebrating its longstanding tradition of providing the environment in which these two leaders could come together and build a relationship based on friendship, respect and admiration.
To purchase tickets to the dinner, contact the InterReligious Council’s Development Office at (315) 449-3552, ext. 112.