Deb Riitano has been active in the Capital Region interfaith movement for more than 30 years. Currently, she is Commissioner of the Albany County Department for Aging. She is the former Executive Director of the Capital Area Council of Churches.
Deb has coordinated many interfaith vigils in response to bigotry, violence and the results of terrorism. She has been part of many interfaith events in the Capital Region including the Palm Sunday event "From Fear to Friendship: A Service of Reconciliation between Christians and Jews,” "The Anne Frank in the World Exhibition” at The College of Saint Rose, "Theresienstadt” an art exhibit that served as the dedicatory event of the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary, “Hidden Children of the Holocaust” exhibition.
Awards: The Schenectady Interfaith Award, the Jewish Federation Community Relations Award, the Muslim Women’s Gala Award, The Woman of Vision Award from the YWCA, the Carlyle Adams Interfaith Award, and the Pillars Award, the highest award given by the Jewish Community.
Deb has a B.S. in Business and a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology from the College of Saint Rose.
Deacon Walter Ayres is Director of Catholic Charities Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. He also serves as a deacon at St. Mary’s and Sacred Heart parishes in Albany, and is a member of the Action and Program Commission of the Capital Area Council of Churches.
He is a recipient of the Reverend Carlyle Adams Interfaith Award from the Capital Area Council of Churches. He writes a blog about politics and religion for the Albany Times Union: Faith in the Public Square.
For more than 20 years, he was the spokesman for the New York State Ethics Commission, which investigated allegations of unethical conduct in the Executive Branch of State government. Prior to joining the Ethics Commission, he served as the corporate spokesman for AT&T in upstate New York. Earlier in his career, Mr. Ayres was employed as a reporter in Binghamton and Indianapolis, and served as a staff member in the New York State Legislature.
Rob Kovach is President & CEO of Jewish Federation of Northeastern New York. While Rob majored in Accounting on his way to earning his CPA license, these days he relies more on his coursework in world religions while minoring in both Jewish Studies and Religious Studies. His activity in interfaith work earned him an Outstanding Achievement in Interfaith Philanthropy award from City & State Reports in 2016.
Leaving only for college and graduate school, Rob is a life-long resident of the Capital District.
Rob’s inspiration for interfaith work comes from the great rabbinic teacher Hillel, who asked in Ethics of the Fathers, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”, but then quickly added, “and if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”
Monshin Paul Naamon
Rev. Monshin Paul Naamon is the Jushoku (Abbot) of the Tendai Buddhist Institute, Jiunzan Tendai-ji, Tendai-shu New York Betsuin, Jushoku of the California Tendai Monastery, and Secretary General of the Japanese Tendai Buddhism in North America.
Rev. Naamon is active in Social Justice Issues as well as interfaith dialogue. He is published and a speaker on Buddhism, Asian studies, and bio-medical anthropology.
Rev. Naamon was educated at the University of Buffalo, University at Albany, and Taisho University, Tokyo, Japan. Additionally, he was a Research Scholar at Federal University of Brazil Research Hospital, Bahia, Brazil and University of Tokyo School of Medicine, Japan. His Tendai Buddhist priest training was in Japan at Taisho University, Tokyo, Enryakuji, Mt. Hiei, and Tamon-in Temple, Chiba, where he was ordained in 1992. Monshin retired as an Interdisciplinary Professor at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Asian Studies and Human Biology.