STAMFORD—Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and Rabbi Jay TelRav of Temple Sinai in Stamford, delivered some memorable and inspiring breakfast conversation at this morning’s Celebrity Breakfast to benefit New Covenant Center in Stamford.
An estimated 700 guests went online to join the “virtual” breakfast that was live-streamed courtesy of NBC studios in Stamford.
Seated at an anchor desk usually reserved for sports analysis the Bishop and the Rabbi reflected on profound questions including the impact of the pandemic on faith, the mystery of evil and the unprecedented challenges faced by so many during the crisis.
In his introductory remarks, Mike Donoghue, newly named executive director of Catholic Charities, said that those who missed the breakfast live-stream can watch it online (www.newcovenantcenter.org), and that there’s still time to make a donation to help New Covenant Center reach its $150,000 goal to help feed the hungry, homeless and growing number of unemployed in the Stamford area.
“I’m proud of our work here at New Covenant Center, an interfaith project with many different religions working together helping our neighbors in need.”
Donoughue said that NCC is open 365 days a year and depends on the generosity of 800 volunteers. He said he was grateful to the NCC staff “who are running into the fire every day to help the most vulnerable while most of us are sequestered at home.”
The Bishop began the conversation by thanking Rabbi TelRav and the congregation of Temple Sinai for their long-time service to New Covenant Center through preparation of monthly meals and for preparing and serving the meal on Christmas day.
He and the Rabbi then traded thoughts on spiritual challenges raised by the pandemic and the need to engage young people in their faith traditions.
“There are more questions than answers now on most people’s minds because of the uncertainties we live with. The old normal is gone,” said the Bishop noting that that suffering and death has caused people to re-examine their own lives.
Rabbi TelRav agreed, “There aren’t going to be satisfying answers,” but he added that the pandemic has led people to search for new and deeper meaning in their lives.
“Where is God in all of this, where do I see his face, his presence,” Bishop Caggiano said that people have ask him. “It’s a question that provokes us to look deeply into our own hearts. We all believe god does not abandon his people in times of challenge.”
Noting that the pandemic has leveled everyone’s sense of security, the Rabbi said, “To a large extent it’s an absolute shock to realize that I too am a have-not… This horrendously bad situation teaches us to make the most of meaning.”
Rabbi TelRav said that he has seen a remarkable translation of biblical teachings put into action in the last couple of months as people of all faiths reach out to help each other.
Both religious leaders discussed the difficulty of temporarily being unable to conduct public services where people can worship together.
The Rabbi said the fact that people haven’t been gathering in the synagogue is “a reminder that we are all subject to a system more powerful than what we thought we could control.” He said that social media has been helpful, but that people long for the richness of personal relationships.
“We have private prayers but we want communal prayer in both our traditions,” added the Bishop, who noted that the diocese is planning a phased-in return to public worship, which fulfills “the human desire to be one with God and one with each other.”
The Bishop said he was heartened by the desire of young people to serve, but that organized religions have often “failed to give a compelling reason for young people to be part of a community of faith.”
The Rabbi added that young people tend to break away and rebel, but that the pandemic may lead them to appreciate their faith. “This might be the sea change that helps our young people see what our traditions have to offer—messages that stand the test of tradition.”
John Gutman, executive director of New Covenant Center, said that since the onset of the pandemic, NCC has gone from serving 175 meals a day to 700 to those “who are hungry, homeless and jobless.
In addition to serving a growing number of hungry, NCC has also had to move much of its operations outside the building in order to safeguard the health of guests and staff, he said.
However, he said that social distancing and the need to wear masks is part of the reality of the need to “create a safe environment while serving those in need.”
During the virtual breakfast the New Covenant Center “Founders Award” was presented to Sally Kandel Kelman of Stamford , a long-time NCC volunteer and board member, and a member of the of Temple Sinai congregation.
In his greetings to the breakfast Stamford Mayor David Martin said that as a Mayor he has been blessed with “strong, well-run charities serving people in the community, who can thing we in government can’t do.”
He said that New Covenant Center “is among the very best During this crisis they have done more with less than almost anyone else,” meeting increased demand at a difficult time. “NCC has made a huge difference in our community.”
To make an online donation, visit www.newcovenantcenter.org/donate. Checks can also be mailed to: New Covenant Center, 174 Richmond Hill Ave., Stamford, CT 06902. For more information, contact Leisa Hinds-Simpson email@example.com or 203.964.8228