This year’s Rabin Peacemaker Award goes to…

Way back in 1979, during a period of tension between African Americans and Jews, Rabbi Amiel Wohl and Rev. Vernon Shannon of New Rochelle started the Coalition for Mutual Respect.

They brought together members of Temple Israel of New Rochelle and St. Catherine AME Zion Church to talk things out and get to know one another better. Before long, many others in New Rochelle were getting involved.

A statement from the new group emphasized that “we are peoples tied together who can achieve more working in concert than in our separate ways.”

The coalition also began to award the annual Yitzak Rabin Peacemaker Award. This year’s honoree is the Rev. Martin L. Nelson, senior pastor of Bezer Holiness Church in New Rochelle.

I had the chance to chat with Nelson, a soft-spoken gentleman, several times over the years at various events. I think I saw him last at an interfaith seder.

He always stuck out to me because you don’t often see pastors from evangelical churches at interfaith events (at least around here). The Protestant ministers are generally from mainline traditions.

According to a press release from the coalition:


Pastor Nelson firmly believes in the church serving and improving the local community by becoming involved. In pursuit of that vision, in 2009 he founded and launched New Life Outreach, a faith-based program that aims to help individuals with harmful addictions as well as provide after care support to those recovering from substance abuse in New Rochelle and surrounding communities.

His passion for and commitment to helping others and improving the community is evident in his contributions through multiple organizations. He currently serves as President of the Interdenominational Pastor’s Council. He is former treasurer of the Inter Religious Council of New Rochelle and is a member of the Coalition for Mutual Respect. He is a New York State certified Chaplin and serves on the Board of Trustees for Isaka Memorial Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides essential services to children orphaned by AIDS in Kenya, Africa.

Born on the island of Grenada, West Indies, he migrated to Antigua where he served as an Officer in the Antigua Police Force, rising to the ranks of Special Agent to the Prime Minister. He received Advanced degrees in Religious Education from Anchor Theological Seminary in Texas and the Manhattan Bible Institute in New York. He is also a graduate of New York School of the Bible and Nyack Mission College. He is currently pursuing a license from Lehman College as a substance abuse counselor.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.