Director's Greeting

Dear Friends of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies,

My name is Michael Anthony Novak, and I am serving this year as the interim director of the center. I am an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies, with specialties in the Theology of God, of the Church, and the History of Christianity and Christian Thought. I am also partially of Jewish heritage, and have always understood Christianity as a fundamentally Jewish phenomenon. In my undergraduate studies in history, I was shocked to discover that there was a history of Christians who had oppressed Jews: it seemed inconceivable to me that any people formed by the New Testament documents could have ever let such a tendency develop among them. When I undertook master’s studies in theology at the University of Notre Dame, I had the great privilege of formally studying Judaism with Rabbi Michael Signer, one of the great figures of Catholic-Jewish dialogue in the United States in the past century. Thus, as a result of heritage and education, I was eager to get involved in that dialogue when I came to Saint Leo University (SLU). Abraham Peck, lately returned to Maine, invited me to join the center as advisor, and I am excited to be able to contribute to the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS) in this year of transition. I simply regret that he returned north a mere year after my arrival. (He has left my hallway at work that much more drab!)

As many of you are aware, the CCJS has recently become part of SLU, after having functioned as an independent organization for 15 years. Developed and sponsored together by SLU and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the center is now being folded into the administrative and academic structure of the university. It will now be an academic center in the Department of Philosophy, Theology, and Religious Studies, in the School of Arts and Sciences. Thus it will be more integrated into the academic life of the university, with the intention of promoting a greater experience of interfaith dialogue and life among students. The AJC will continue as an advisor to the center, with its senior interreligious advisor, Rabbi A. James Rudin, holding the title of distinguished visiting professor of religion and judaica at SLU.

As we move into this new phase of our relationship with Saint Leo University, we are excited to meet the challenge of serving four distinct audiences: the undergraduate students at Saint Leo, both on campus and online; the graduate students in the Theology Program; the faculty and staff at Saint Leo; and the wider community. The year 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, which was a great milestone in creating today’s climate of interfaith dialogue and cooperation between Catholics and Jews. As we reimagine our role as part of Saint Leo University, the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies is taking this moment – this “Golden Anniversary” – to take stock of how we got here, and to look ahead toward our two communities’ next steps together.