image of clocktower on Saint Leo University's campus

Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

Jump to
Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

Mission

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.

Make a Donation

Upcoming Events

Fall Semester 2024 - Full Schedule Coming Soon!

Thursday, September 12 at 4:00 p.m.

Date: TBD

SAVE THE DATE:  Eternal Light Award Dinner - SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 17th | 6:00–9:00pm 

The Eternal Light Award Dinner will take place at Higgins Hall at St. Lawrence Catholic Church, 5225 N. Himes Ave, Tampa, FL 33614, Tampa.  We hope you plan to join us as we strive to build mutual respect and understanding between Catholics, Jews, and all people of good will during an extremely difficult time. 

Registration details and sponsorship opportunities will be announced in the coming months. For more information about the event contact Ms. Laurie Gens, the CCJS Administrator of Programs and Events, at laurie.gens@saintleo.edu or call 352-588-7711.

The Eternal Light Award Dinner will feature Dr. Joseph Sievers, Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature of the Hellenistic period at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome, and the 20th recipient of the Eternal Light Award with a response by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, The Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, and University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt

Dr. Joseph Sievers is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature of the Hellenistic period at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he began teaching in 1991. Since 2008, Sievers has served as a consultor to the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. From 2003 to 2009, Sievers served as director of the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Sievers has authored numerous scholarly publications especially in the fields of Second Temple Judaism and in Jewish-Christian relations. He is the co-editor of such volumes as Good and Evil after Auschwitz: Ethical Implications for Today (2001), co-edited with Jack Bemporad and John T. Pawlikowski; The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome (2007) co-edited with Philip A. Cunningham and Norbert J. Hofmann; Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (2011), co-edited with Philip A. Cunningham, Mary Boys, Hans Hermann Henrix, and Jesper Svartvik; and The Pharisees (2021), co-edited with Amy-Jill Levine, and published in both English and Italian. You can read more about Dr. Sievers here.

Dr. Amy-Jill Levine is the Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace, and University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt. Dr. Levine's numerous publications include The Jewish Annotated New Testament (co-edited with Marc Brettler); The Pharisees (co-edited with Joseph Sievers), and Jesus for Everyone, Not Just Christians (2024). Dr. Levine was the first Jew to teach New Testament at Rome's Pontifical Biblical Institute. 

Faculty of the Center

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

Matthew.Tapie@saintleo.edu

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

David.Maayan@saintleo.edu

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

Eugene.Fisher@saintleo.edu

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.

Staff

Laurie Gens, Administrator of Programs and Events

Laurie.Gens@saintleo.edu

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

2024 Award Recipient:

Joseph Sievers to Receive the 2024 Eternal Light Award

Joseph Sievers

The Scholarly Advisory Board of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies has selected Dr. Joseph Sievers as the 20th recipient of the Eternal Light Award. The Eternal Light Award is presented to a scholar who has made significant contributions to Catholic-Jewish studies.

Dr. Joseph Sievers is Professor Emeritus of Jewish History and Literature of the Hellenistic period at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he began teaching in 1991. From 1966-1971 Sievers studied at the University of Vienna (Universität Wien), where his Dissertationsprüfung was in Jewish Studies. From 1972-1981 he studied at Columbia University in New York, where he earned an M.A., and M. Phil, and a PhD in ancient history and Jewish Studies. He then earned a Bachelor of Theology at the Pontifical Lateran University. Sievers also earned a Licentiate in Fundamental Theology (an STL) from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Additionally, has also worked in Religious Studies at the Instituto Internazionale Mystici Corporis, Loppiano (in Florence). Sievers studied intensive modern Hebrew at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He took courses in Talmud at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Sievers has taught at the Pontifical Institute Ratisbonne in Jerusalem, Fordham University in New York, At Queenborough Community College, New York; Queens College, New York; Seton Hall University in New Jersey. And, in Rome, at The Pontifical Lateran University, Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, Tersesianum, Pontificio Instituto di Spiritualità, The Pontificia Università Urbaniana, and numerous other institutes in Italy. He was also elected visiting scholar at Wolfson College, Oxford University.

Since 2008, Sievers has served as a consultor to the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. From 2003 to 2009, Sievers served as director of the Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University. His service on editorial boards includes: The Journal of Jewish Studies, Rivista Biblica, Studies in Christian Jewish Relations, and the SIDIC (from 1995-2001). Sievers has also authored numerous scholarly publications especially in the fields of Second Temple Judaism and in Jewish-Christian relations. His 1997 article, “Who Were the Pharisees?” in Hillel and Jesus, eds. James H. Charlesworth and Loren L. Johns, was the first study to address the dozen or so named Pharisees in ancient texts (for example, Nicodemus and Gamaliel). His 2017 article, “Where Two or Three . . .”: Shekhinah and Matthew 18:20: Foundations for Jewish-Christian Dialogue and Beyond?”, published in Claritas: Journal of Dialogue and Culture, models how rabbinic literature and New Testament studies can be placed into productive dialogue without setting one corpus as the background or as the foil to another. 

Sievers is also the co-editor of such volumes as Good and Evil after Auschwitz: Ethical Implications for Today (2001), co-edited with Jack Bemporad and John T. Pawlikowski; The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome (2007) co-edited with Philip A. Cunningham and Norbert J. Hofmann; Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (2011), co-edited with Philip A. Cunningham, Mary Boys, Hans Hermann Henrix, and Jesper Svartvik; and The Pharisees (2021), co-edited with Amy-Jill Levine, and published in both English and Italian. This last volume proceeded from the international conference, "Jesus and the Pharisees: An Interdisciplinary Reappraisal," that Sievers organized in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2019. The volume on the Pharisees is also being published in German by Herder in a less academic, more user-friendly format. Sievers and Levine are now writing for Eerdmans to produce a shorter version of the volume designed for use principally for English-speaking Christian clergy and religious educators.

Sievers will receive the Eternal Light Award this fall at a public event in Tampa Bay. A save-the-date announcement will be sent in the coming months. A list of previous recipients can be found here.

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

Sister Roberta Bailey, O.S.B. 

Rabbi Rachel Blatt 

Ms. Dale Brown

Isaac Camacho, O.S.B. 

Douglas Cohn

Maureen 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 

Rabbi Danielle Upbin 

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

Dr. Jen Shaw
Vice President, Student Affairs, Saint Leo University

Contact the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

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