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Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

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Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies


The mission of the Saint Leo University Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS) is to build mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation among Jews, Catholics, and all people of good will by providing opportunities for interfaith education and dialogue.

Inspired by Nostra Aetate, a declaration by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) that provided a new and positive framework for the Catholic Church's relationship with the Jewish people, CCJS facilitates theological study and dialogue among Christians and Jews at the scholarly level, in the classroom, and in the local community.

The center was established in 1998 through the joint efforts of Saint Leo, the American Jewish Committee, and several principal founders, including Rabbi A. James Rudin, senior interreligious advisor to the American Jewish Committee; Dr. Arthur F. Kirk Jr., president emeritus of Saint Leo University, Bishop Emeritus John J. Nevins, the Diocese of Venice; and Bishop Emeritus Robert Lynch, the Diocese of St. Petersburg. Given Florida's growing and diverse population, these leaders recognized the need in the state for an academic center devoted to the biblical and theological study of Catholic-Jewish relations and interreligious dialogue, as emphasized by the Second Vatican Council.

CCJS remains the only academic center of its kind in the Southeast.

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Upcoming Events

Spring Semester 2024

How do Jews and Christians relate today? How have they related in the past? What are the challenges facing Jewish-Christian relations? Join Rabbi David Maayan and Dr. Tapie for the first session in a three-part series on Jewish-Christian relations today. The aim of the series is to discuss how to move beyond tolerance toward a deep appreciation and respect for the other.

Beyond Tolerance (a three-part series):
 Monday, January 29, 2024 | Monday, February 12, 2024 | Monday, March 11, 2024
"Attendees are welcome to register for any or all dates."


Thursday, February 29, 2024 | 1:00pm - 2:30pm Eastern Time

Zoom webinar open to the public

How can we acquire deeper understanding of the other in the context of conflict, war, and disinformation? Are there principles that enable fruitful dialogue about difficult topics in the face of rising antisemitism and polarization? How can we sustain dialogue in moments of crisis? This webinar program features a panel of leading scholars who will address the current political crisis and tensions in Jewish-Christian dialogue directly. The aim is to identify solutions and guiding principles for dialogue in times of crisis with recognition of the challenges of this moment. The webinar will be moderated by Dr. Matthew Tapie and Rabbi David Maayan.


Dr. Karma Ben-Johanan

Dr. Karma Ben-Johanan teaches modern Christianity and Jewish-Christian Relations in the Department of Comparative Religion at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She completed her PhD in the Zvi Yavetz School of Historical Studies at Tel Aviv University. Ben-Johanan is a historian of modern theology and religion, focused on interreligious tensions and dialogue especially between Christians and Jews after the Holocaust. She is the author of Jacob's Younger Brother: Christian-Jewish Relations after Vatican II (Harvard, 2022).


Rev. Dr. Yazid Said is Senior Lecturer in Islam at Liverpool Hope University, England. He is a Palestinian-born Anglican priest and an Israeli citizen. Said studied Classical Arabic and English Literature at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and Christian theology at the University of Cambridge. After being ordained an Anglican priest, he completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge on the medieval Muslim theologian Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111). Said is the author of Ghazali’s Politics in Context (Routledge 2012 & 2017), and co-editor of The Future of Interfaith Dialogue: Muslim-Christian Encounters through A Common Word (Cambridge, 2018).  


Dr. Peter Ochs

Dr. Peter Ochs is the Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies at the University of Virginia, where he has served since 1997. Ochs is an influential thinker whose interests include Jewish philosophy and theology, modern and postmodern philosophical theology, pragmatism, and semiotics. He is the author of numerous articles and scholarly books, including Religion without Violence: The Practice and Philosophy of Scriptural Reasoning (Cascade, 2019), and Another Reformation: Postliberal Christianity and the Jews (Baker Academic, 2011).



Dr. Gavin D'Costa

 Dr. Gavin D'Costa is the Emeritus Professor of Catholic  Theology at the University of Bristol, England, and a visiting  professor of Interreligious Dialogue at the Pontifical  University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Rome. D'Costa was  born in Nairobi, Kenya and completed his education in  England. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles  and books including Vatican II: Catholic Doctrines on Jews  and Muslims (Oxford, 2014), and Catholic Doctrines on the  Jewish People after Vatican II (Oxford, 2019). D'Costa also  advises the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.  


Thursday, March 21, 2024 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm | Congregation Rodeph Sholom - 2713 Bayshore Boulevard, Tampa


Rabbi Dr. Shai Held
A dramatic misinterpretation of the Jewish tradition has shaped the history of the West: Christianity is the religion of love, and Judaism the religion of law. Rabbi Held recovers the heart of the Jewish tradition, offering the radical and moving argument that love belongs as much to Judaism as it does to Christianity.  Rabbi Dr. Shai Held will discuss how love is foundational and constitutive of true Jewish faith, animating the singular Jewish perspective on injustice and protest, grace, family life, responsibilities to our neighbors and even our enemies, and chosenness. Rabbi Held's presentation is based on his new book, Judaism is About Love that will be published this March. A question and answer session will follow the presentation.

Rabbi Dr. Shai Held is a philosopher, theologian, and Bible scholar. He is President and Dean at the Hadar Institute. Rabbi Held earned a PhD from Harvard University in Religious Studies. He received the prestigious Covenant Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, and has been named multiple times by Newsweek as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America and by the Jewish Daily Forward as one of the fifty most prominent Jews in the world. Held is the author of Abraham Joshua Heschel: The Call of Transcendence (Indiana University Press, 2013), and a two-volume collection of Torah essays entitled The Heart of Torah (Jewish Publication Society, 2017). You can read more of his work at

(No fee, but registration is required.)


Tuesday, April 16, 2024 | 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm |

 Christ the King Catholic Church 

821 South Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa


Dr. Ventresca

Dr. Robert Ventresca will share excerpts from the Vatican’s newly opened Holocaust-era archives to examine the role of Catholic institutions and individuals, including the Vatican itself, in various forms of rescue during the Holocaust.  New findings from the archives show that the lessons of history are complex, and challenge us to consider the social, geographical, and institutional factors that influenced the moral choices of Catholic religious leaders and laypersons during the Holocaust. 

(No fee, but registration is required.)


Faculty of the Center

Dr. Matthew Tapie, Director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

Matt Tapie

Dr. Tapie is Associate Professor of Theology, and Director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, Florida. His teaching and research interests are in the thought of Thomas Aquinas, Judaism and Christian theology, and Catholic-Jewish relations. From 2012-2014, Dr. Tapie was a Visiting Assistant Professor of Theology at The Catholic University of America, and was appointed a research fellow at CUA's Institute for Interreligious Study and Dialogue. He has also taught Christian Ethics at Georgetown University, and Loyola University Maryland.

As Associate Professor of Theology at Saint Leo University, Dr. Tapie teaches courses in the graduate theology program in the Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion, and in the undergraduate core curriculum. As director of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies, he oversees the center’s research fellow program, guest lecturer programs, and interreligious dialogue initiatives.

Dr. Tapie is the author of Aquinas on Israel and the Church (Pickwick/Wipf & Stock, 2014), which was the focus of a special session at the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 12, 2016. He is co-editor of Reading Scripture as a Political Act: Essays on the Theopolitical Interpretation of the Bible (Fortress Press, 2015); and The Business of War: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Military-Industrial Complex (Cascade, 2020). Dr. Tapie has also published peer-reviewed articles in the European Journal for the Study of Thomas Aquinas, The Bulletin of Medieval Canon Law, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, and the Journal of Moral Theology.

Dr. Tapie is Series Editor of the Judaism and Catholic Theology series with The Catholic University of America Press. He is a member of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' dialogue with Modern Orthodox Judaism. He serves on the Advisory Board of the journal, Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations. Dr. Tapie served on the leadership team of the Catholic Theological Society of America's Consultation on Judaism and Christianity from 2018-2021. In 2016, Dr. Tapie was appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Committee on Ethics, Religion, and the Holocaust.

Rabbi David Maayan, Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought and Assistant Director of the CCJS

Rabbi David Maayan

Rabbi David Maayan comes to Saint Leo University from Boston College where he was an instructor of Judaism and Christianity in Dialogue for the past academic year (2021-2022). He has an extensive teaching background in academia, secondary education, and community settings. He served as an instructor at Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, Hebrew College Rabbinical School, in Newton, MA, and at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo in Jerusalem, Israel, in addition to his work at Boston College. He has taught extensively on the Hebrew Bible, Talmud and rabbinic literature, Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, and Hasidism, incorporating historical, philosophical, and comparative religious perspectives. He also has an interest and background in multiple religions including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, though his work is especially focused on the complex interrelationship between Christianity and Judaism.

Maayan has taught on New Testament texts and Christian theology in relation to Jewish theology and practice, with a particular interest in the Trinity, theological anthropology, and theological reflections on love, embodiment, and suffering. This background informed his course on In-Depth Reading of the Talmudic Passage on ‘Sufferings of Love’ (Yissurim shel ahavah), and the yearlong graduate seminar Altruism (Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Perspectives), and Our Responsibility for the Other: An Interreligious and Interdisciplinary Investigation, which he co-taught with a Christian and a Muslim instructor.

Maayan graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in religion with a focus in Jewish mysticism from Oberlin College in Ohio, earned his master’s in Jewish studies from Hebrew College, and is a doctoral degree candidate in comparative theology at Boston College. In addition to training with a number of influential rabbis in America, he studied in rabbinical seminaries in Israel for six years, including Bat Ayin Yeshiva, Mir Yeshiva, and the Joseph S. Gruss Kollel of Yeshiva University in Jerusalem. His rabbinical ordination took place in Jerusalem in 2004.

Rabbi Maayan also has pursued interfaith dialogue and friendship throughout his life. He has participated in interreligious dialogue groups in Boulder and Snowmass, CO, Sharon, MA, as well as Paderborn, Germany, and Jerusalem, Israel.

Dr. Eugene Fisher, Distinguished Professor of Theology

Dr. Fisher earned his doctorate in 1976 at New York University in Hebrew Culture and Education, his dissertation entitled, "'The Treatment of Jews and Judaism in Current Roman Catholic Teaching." Dr. Fisher was appointed as the specialist in Catholic-Jewish Relations for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in May of 1977, a post in which served until 2007. In 1981 he was named Consultor to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, serving in that capacity for 25 years. He has lectured widely throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. In 1995, a book he co-edited with Rabbi Leon Klenicki, John Paul II, Spiritual Pilgrimage: Texts on Jews and Judaism (Crossroad) won the National Jewish Book Award in the Jewish-Christian Relations category.

He has published or edited some 20 books and over 250 articles in the field of Jewish-Christian relations, including: The Jewish Roots of Christian Liturgy, ed. (Paulist, 1990); Interwoven Destinies: Jews and Christians through the Ages, ed. (Paulist/Stimulus, 1992); Faith Without Prejudice: Rebuilding Christian Attitudes Toward Judaism (Crossroad, 1993); Visions of the Other: Jewish and Christian Theologians Assess the Dialogue, ed. (Paulist/Stimulus, 1994); A Prophet of Our Time: An Anthology of the Writings of Rabbi Marc H. Tannenbaum, ed. with Judith H. Banki (Fordham University Press, 2002). He also co-edited with Leon Klenicki the newly published The Saint for Shalom: How Pope John Paul II Transformed Catholic-Jewish Relations (Crossroad, 2011) and edited the forthcoming Memoria Futuri: Catholic-Jewish Dialogue Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow; Texts and Addresses of Cardinal William H. Keeler (Paulist/Stimulus, 2012).

Rabbi James Rudin, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion and Judaica

Rabbi Rudin holds honorary doctorates from Saint Leo University, Saint Martin's University, and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion. In 1968 he began his career as a member of the American Jewish Committee senior professional staff where he served as Director of the Interreligious Affairs Department. He is currently the AJC's Senior Interreligious Adviser and a member of the organization's Board of Governors.

A former chairman of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Rabbi Rudin participated in eleven meetings with Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. He was a guest of honor at the 1994 Vatican Concert that commemorated the Shoah. In April 2008 he was chosen by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to respond to Pope Benedict XVI's address to Jewish leaders in Washington, DC. Rabbi Rudin is the author or editor of seventeen books and since 1991 has written commentaries for Religion News Service. His latest book, is Pillar of Fire: A Biography of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, published in 2015 by Texas Tech University Press.


Laurie Gens, Administrator of Programs and Events

Laurie Gens

Ms. Laurie Gens is the CCJS Administrator of Programs and Events. A recent transplant to Tampa from Chicago, Laurie earned her degree in Hospitality Business at Michigan State University. Over the last thirty years, Laurie has served in a variety of management roles including event, meeting and program planning, hotel and event venue sales and operations, client service excellence, employee training and coaching, retail and, most recently, as the Director of Life Enrichment for an independent Jewish senior living community. You can read more about Laurie’s background here.

Eternal Light Award

Since 1999, the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies' Eternal Light Award is presented to an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the cause of Catholic-Jewish relations.

View Recipients of the Eternal Light Award


Advisory Boards

Dr. Karma Ben-Johanan
Chair in Jewish-Christian Relations, Humboldt University of Berlin

Dr. John Borelli
Special Assistant to the President for Catholic Identity and Dialogue, Georgetown University

Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill
Cooperman/Ross Endowed Chair for Jewish-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University

Dr. Philip Cunningham
Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, Saint Joseph's University

Dr. Eugene Fisher
Distinguished Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University

Rabbi Dr. Shai Held
Hadar Institute, New York

Dr. Kevin Hughes
Associate Professor of Theology and Chair of the Humanities Department, Villanova University

Dr. Matthew Levering
James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine
Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary, and Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University

Dr. Peter Ochs
Edgar M. Bronfman Professor of Modern Judaic Studies, the University of Virginia

Dr. Randi Rashkover
Chair in Jewish-Christian Relations, Humboldt University of Berlin

Rabbi A. James Rudin
James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

Dr. Devorah Schoenfeld
Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford Seminary, and Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt University

 Sr. Roberta Bailey, O.S.B. 

Rabbi Rachel Blatt 

Ms. Dale Brown 

Abbot Isaac Camacho, O.S.B. 

Maureen Cohn 

Douglas Cohn 

Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski 

Dr. Mark Gesner 

Father Michael Jones, O.F.M. 

Brian Lemoi 

Monsignor Frank Mouch 

Iris Pastor 

Dr. David Persky 

Father Len Plazewski 

Joseph Probasco, Esq. 

Bishop Ed Scharfenberger 

Mark Segel 

Rabbi Joel Simon 

Father Kyle Smith 

Dr. Michael Tkacik 

Gail Whiting 

Paul Whiting 

Dr. Fern Aefsky 
Director of Graduate Studies, Education, Saint Leo University

Dr. Stephen Okey
Associate Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University

Dr. Ebony Perez
Department Chair, Undergraduate Social Work, Assistant Professor, Saint Leo University

Contact the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

Laurie Gens, Administrator of Programs and Events
(352) 588-7711
33501 State Route 52 (Mail Code 2460)
Saint Leo, FL 33574