New Director at Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

October 09, 2009

New Director at Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies CCJS Director Linda Taggart left, with assistant Jane Bracken, seated.

The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University has a new director, Linda Taggart, a longtime former board member of the center and a continuing adjunct professor of theology and religion at the university.

Taggart reports to Father Anthony Kissel, Ph.D., who serves as associate professor of theology and religion, and chair of the department. She also works closely with the governing board of CCJS, which is legally established as a non-profit organization. This arrangement reflects the special relationship CCJS enjoys with Saint Leo. The university not only physically hosts the center with faculty office space in deChantal Hall, SLU helped launch the center as a collaborative project with the American Jewish Committee in 1998. The mission of the center is the build “mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation among Jews, Catholics and all people of good will by providing opportunities for interfaith education and dialogue.'

Taggart is well-qualified to guide the center, said Ruth Maas, CCJS board chair. “Linda’s knowledge and wealth of experience as an adjunct professor at SLU, as well as her passion for the center and its mission, make her the right person at the right time to lead us.'

Part of Taggart’s role in her new position, Kissel added, will be to “develop courses that support the Center’s mission of furthering mutual respect and understanding between Catholics and Jews,' as she continues her classroom teaching role. Taggart has specialized in teaching academic courses in the Hebrew Bible, and on the study of women in Jewish, Christian and Islamic Scriptures.

“It’s a privilege to be involved in growing and facilitating the activities of the center,' Taggart said.

With the help of Jane Bracken, assistant to the director, Taggart has already established a modest but growing library of texts, films, maps and other academic resources in the center office for use by faculty and students. And Thomas Poynor, assistant director of the graduate program for theology at the university, will work with the center 10 hours a week to help incorporate new instructional technology into some of the new academic courses Taggart will be developing.

Individuals studying at the university are one of the four constituencies the center tries to reach and engage. Taggart likes to think of the center as reaching “the four ‘C’s,' with its programs and resources, she said, “clergy, congregations, classrooms, and the community-at-large.'

For instance, in the past, the center has sponsored dialogues on faith traditions, involving Christian and Jewish clergy, and open to congregations of both faiths. As an adjunct professor, Taggart, along with Professor Tyson Anderson, taught “Abrahams’ Tent: Christians and Jews in Dialogue' which was open to both undergraduate and graduate students. This course featured visiting lectures by local rabbis and priests from the community. CCJS programming can be open to the community at large to reach individuals who have an interest in interfaith exchanges, but haven’t previously known where to turn. Taggart wants to see such dialogues continue and flourish, and help the center mature into the preeminent center for Catholic-Jewish studies in the Southeast. An active roster of activities is already in place for the winter months.

For more information, consult the Web site for the center, www.centerforcatholicjewishstudies.org, or phone (352) 588-8597.