FAQs

The following are Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about The Center for Catholic/Jewish Studies with corresponding answers:

How did the Center come about?

In 1997, Saint Leo University and the American Jewish Committee undertook a project to promote a collaborative partnership between Judaism and Catholicism. The Center was established at Saint Leo University in 1998 through a formal Memorandum of Agreement between the University and the American Jewish Committee as a 501c3 nonprofit institution.Founded to promote interfaith dialogue on contemporary problems and to address historical conflicts, as well as to educate the communities on the philosophical and theological understandings of the two faiths and their impact on modern society, the Center was the brainchild of Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice, Rabbi A. James Rudin, national director of interreligious activities for the American Jewish Committee and Dr. Arthur F. Kirk Jr., President of Saint Leo University. In 2013, The Center became a fully integrated part of Saint Leo University.

What is the Center's Mission?

The purpose of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies is to promote the understanding and appreciation of Catholic and Jewish traditions along with their mutual interplay through conferences, town hall meetings, interreligious dialogue and sharing of both adults and young people, etc.

Is this cooperation between Catholics and Jews in Florida a recent thing?

No. For Saint Leo this Catholic-Jewish partnership goes back to its founding roots. In 1894 Saint Leo began a ten-year effort to establish a Jewish colony within the Catholic enclave of San Antonio, Florida. Bishop John Moore endorsed the project as did Father Charles Mohr, O.S.B., head of the Benedictine Abbey that founded the college. Although the full colony was never developed, Father Mohr did help a number of settlers to find homes in San Antonio.

Who Is the Public You Serve Today?

Among the thirty or so centers around the country dedicated to Jewish-Christian concerns, we are the only one south of the Washington, D.C. area. As does Saint Leo University, we serve the Southeastern United States but especially the Tampa Bay and Sarasota-Venice regions of Florida. Along with our sponsorship from the national American Jewish Committee, we have very close working ties with the West Coast Florida Chapter of AJC. We are also fostering closer ties with the AJC Chapters in Boca Raton/West Palm Beach and in Miami. As part of our expansion and in collaboration with other programs at Saint Leo University, we are reaching out to the other five Catholic dioceses in Florida and to the two in Georgia, their bishops, and faithful. Interestingly enough, the Jewish and Catholic populations in Florida are growing substantially. The Roman Catholic community is now the largest faith community in Florida.

Why does the Center concentrate on Catholic-Jewish relations?

Men and women from other Christian communities, Muslims, and others are always welcome to participate in any of the activities of the Center. Presently, we are focusing on Catholic-Jewish relations for a number of reasons. First, the longer we work together, the more we appreciate how our traditions, commitments, and sense of one another make working together a very natural and harmonious experience. Second, the Vatican II document on relationships with non-Christian religions, Nostra Aetate, opened up new paths to dialogue and understanding on both sides. After nearly two thousand years of hostility and misunderstanding between us, we are dialoguing with one another and even embracing one another in friendship. Yet more needs to be done to face some of the more subtle hurts and blindness between us. So for the time being, the Center is concentrating on healing the past while walking together into a future, where we hope to be models of interreligious affirmation and cooperation.

How Can I Support the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies?

You can tell others of our mission and different events we are sponsoring-either announced here on the website or in the Eternal Light Newsletter. It is amazing how many people are interested in Catholic-Jewish relations but never notice announcements. Third, the Center is a non-profit 501-C-3 organization and gladly accepts donations from individuals as well as from corporations. Money donated gives us a cushion in our daily operating expenses and allows us to be available to do things with young people and others whose finances are limited. In the future we need to expand our library and make it more accessible as well as offer scholarships to young adults interested in Catholic-Jewish relations.