How it all began…
In 2006, a spiritually powerful model Passover Seder was celebrated for a primarily Catholic community at SUNY – Old Westbury by Gadi Capela, who at the time was a graduate student in Jewish philosophy. So much was shared that was mutually illuminating for both the Jewish and Christian traditions that the participants believed that Project Genesis needed to be born to benefit a wider audience. Fr. Roy Tvrdik, SMM, the chaplain at SUNY and Director at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island invited the now Rabbi Gadi to the Shrine to do a monthly Torah study beginning with the book of Genesis. Little did we know that it would take seven years to complete this one book!
Our emphasis would be on the Hebrew meaning of the text, which gave access to the vast Oral Tradition of the Jews to participants, while Fr. Roy would interject with Catholic interpretations and insights. As of December of 2013, this phase of Project Genesis has come to completion and the next phase begins. In seven years, many people have been touched by these sessions, which we know has brought great wisdom to our lives as we seek to know, love and serve God better through our traditions.
It has been the grounding principle of this endeavor not to simply ignore our differences, but to respect them and to hold them in trust before God. We deeply believe that the God of Creation has called us all to generate life and to support it in all of its marvelous manifestations. We believe that we need discernment of God’s ways for they are indeed mysterious.
Rabbi Gadi Capela is the rabbi of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island since his ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2012. He is also the President of the East End Jewish Community Council. Rabbi Gadi was born and raised in Israel and moved to New York in 1995 after completing a four-year military service as a lieutenant in a rescue unit.In 2001 he graduated from Yeshiva University, where he studied Business Management as well as Jewish Studies. For eight years he worked as a business analyst and project manager in the banking and consulting industries, while also completing a Master degree in Jewish Philosophy, also from Yeshiva University. In 2006 he created Project Genesis–Jewish-Christian adult education programs, now taught monthly at Peconic Landing.
One of the things that Rabbi Gadi is most passionate about is leading annual interfaith pilgrimages to Israel. He recently returned from a tour with Abrahamic Reunion – a group of spiritual leaders—Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Druze—working together for promoting inter-religious harmony in the Holy Land.
Father Roy Tvrdik
Fr. Roy Tvrdik, SMM, was born on Staten Island in 1957 and raised in Port Jefferson, NY. He entered formation with the Montfort Missionaries and graduated from St. John University in 1979. After initial formation, Fr. Roy entered the chaplaincy for Children’s Hospital, Washington D.C., for 8 years and sold real estate for several of those years.He reentered seminary formation at Catholic University and was ordained in 1993. Assigned to St. Mary Gate of Heaven, Ozone Park, until 1996 where he was made vocation director. During this time he gave Retreats, Parish Missions, and Preparation for Consecration to Jesus through Mary according to St. Louis de Montfort throughout the United States and taught Theology at St. John University from 2001 to 2005.
Fr. Roy was assigned as Director to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island, Manorville, NY in 2005. Here he has developed Young Peoples Initiation and a Men’s Spirituality Man Matters. He facilitates on Cursillo and World Wide Marriage Encounter weekends. He is regularly called for Ministry work and talks throughout parishes on Long Island for Sacramental preparation. Throughout his time here at the Shrine he has conducted a weekly scripture study.
Donald Russo aids in the Project Genesis monthly lectures. Don received a PhD in Religious Education from NYU in 1984 as well as an STL in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. With a fulfilled education in religious studies he went on to teach religion at both a high school level in Brooklyn and University level as an Adjunct Lecturer at Syracuse University, New York.Along with his history in teaching religion, Don has also been active in many consulting positions of religious groups. These include being a workshop leader and lecturer at the Institute for Pastoral Ministry (for the Diocese of Brooklyn), a Member of Board of Directors for the National Council on Religion and Public Edication, Coordinator/Co-Chair of “Religion and Public Policy” and “Jewish-Christian Relations” Conferences at NYU, and Executive Secretary/Board of Directors for Religious Education Association of the U.S. and Canada.