January 2023 Newsletter

Dear Friends of the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies: 

I hope this newsletter finds you well.

I am very happy to welcome to Saint Leo University the new CCJS Administrator of Programs and Events, Ms. Sasha Bergstrasser. This exciting expansion of CCJS staff is discussed below.

You can also find details about our upcoming programs, including Nostra Aetate and the Challenge and Promise of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue, which takes place on Wednesday, February 15th.


Matthew Tapie

Director, Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies

Associate Professor of Theology


CCJS Hires Administrator of Programs and Events

Since 2015, one of the most important funding priorities of the CCJS has been to secure increased administrative and event planning support for center programs. 


Because of the generosity of Gail and Paul Whiting, this goal is now a reality. The Whitings have established a new full-time position in the center: the CCJS Administrator of Programs and Events.

Ms. Sasha Bergstrasser began this new position on November 14th, and has already made an enormously positive impact on the CCJS's day-to-day operations. Ms. Bergstrasser comes to the CCJS with a wealth of administrative and event planning experience. She is also a former student of Dr. Eugene Fisher, and has studied the history of Catholic-Jewish relations.

We want to welcome Ms. Bergstrasser to the CCJS and once again thank the Whitings for their incredibly generous gift which transforms the center's capacity to administer programs for the community and beyond. 

Please know that you can reach the CCJS by contacting Ms. Sasha Bergstrasser at [email protected] or at 352-588-7711.

Dr. Matthew Tapie, Sasha Bergstrasser, and Rabbi David Maayan


Thursday, February 9th

Understanding Jesus & Paul means Understanding Judaism

A Clergy Study Day

10:00am - 2:30pm | In-person at Bethany Center, Lutz FL

Clergy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg are invited to a workshop co-organized by Bishop Gregory Parkes, the CCJS, and the Priestly Growth and Enrichment Commission of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, on how to interpret references to the pharisees in the New Testament. The workshop is led by Dr. Joseph Sievers and Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, the co-editors of the book, The Pharisees (2021).

Dr. Joseph Sievers is professor emeritus of Jewish history and literature of the Hellenistic period at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome. Dr. Sievers is author of many publications in Second Temple Judaism and Jewish-Christian relations, and co-editor of The Catholic Church and the Jewish People: Recent Reflections from Rome (2007); and Christ Jesus and the Jewish People Today: New Explorations of Theological Interrelationships (2011). Since 2008, he has served as a consultor to the Vatican's Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

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 Difficult Words of Jesus: A Beginner’s Guide to His Most Perplexing Teachings (2021); and The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2017), co-edited with Marc Brettler. Dr. Levine is the first Jewish scholar to have taught New Testament at Rome's Pontifical Biblical Institute. 

This event is for clergy of the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Clergy should RSVP well in advance to Rev. Gary Dowsey of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church: [email protected].

For more information contact Sasha Bergstrasser at [email protected]. This CCJS program is funded in part by a grant from the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners.

Wednesday, February 15th

Nostra Aetate and the Challenge and Promise of Catholic-Jewish Dialogue

7 - 8:30pm | Saint Leo Tampa Education Center Tampa, FL

During the fall 2022 CCJS event, Why Dialogue Matters, important topics were raised by panelists including the history of Catholic-Jewish relations and Christian views of Jews and Judaism. The CCJS invites you to further explore these topics in discussion with Dr. Matthew Tapie and the Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought, Rabbi David Maayan. Dr. Tapie and Rabbi Maayan will discuss the history of Catholic-Jewish relations, the Second Vatican Council declaration, Nostra Aetate, and the promise and challenge of Catholic-Jewish dialogue today.

Rabbi David Maayan

Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought

& Assistant Director of CCJS

Dr. Matthew Tapie

Associate Professor of Theology

& Director of CCJS

This event is free, in-person, and open to the public, but space is limited.

The Saint Leo University Tampa Education Center is located at

1403 N Howard Ave, Tampa, FL 33607.

For more information contact [email protected]

Register here

Thursday, April 27th

Eli's Story and Catholic Reaction to the Holocaust

7 - 9pm | Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg FL

The CCJS and the Florida Holocaust Museum invite you to engage a panel of scholars who will discuss the story of Eli Rochelson and the question of Catholic reaction to the Holocaust and displaced persons after the Second World War.

Eli’s Story is a moving account of the life of a Holocaust survivor, Eli Rochelson, born in Kovno, Lithuania, in 1907. Eli Rochelson received his medical degree in 1939. When the Nazis invaded Lithuania, they killed his mother and one of his brothers and sent him, his wife, and son to Dachau and Auschwitz. Eli’s wife, son, and other brother died in the concentration camps. Eli was placed on a train at Dachau on April 26, 1945, as the Allies closed in. When American troops bombed the train, he escaped to Bavaria, Germany, until liberation on April 29. Eli joined the masses of concentration camp survivors who were free but had nowhere to go, and found themselves in one of many displaced persons (DP) camps. He befriended some Lithuanian physicians, and by May 9, 1945, they established two DP camp hospitals — at Landsberg am Lech and at a Benedictine monastery, St. Ottilien — to treat thousands of survivors. The DP camp at the St. Ottilien Monastery served as a central maternity station for Jewish mothers, where about 420 children were born.

This CCJS and FHM program features a panel of distinguished scholars, including two of Eli Rochelson's children, Dr. Meri-Jane Rochelson, and Dr. Burt Rochelson. They, along with the esteemed Holocaust scholar Fr. Kevin Spicer, will discuss how Eli's story sheds important light on the Jewish experience of the Holocaust and Jewish displaced persons. The panel will also discuss Catholic reactions to displaced persons and the Holocaust during and after the war. Dr. Meri-Jane Rochelson is the author of Eli's Story, and the daughter of the late Eli Rochelson. At the core of the book is her father's story in his own words, taken from an interview he did with his son, Dr. Burt Rochelson, in the mid-1970s. 

Dr. Meri-Jane Rochelson is Professor Emerita of English at Florida International University, affiliated with FIU’s programs in Jewish Studies and Women's and Gender Studies.  She is the author of A Jew in the Public Arena: The Career of Israel Zangwill (2008), and has published editions of Zangwill's 1908 play The Melting-Pot (2018) and his 1892 novel Children of the Ghetto (1998). Earlier, she co-edited the essay collection Transforming Genres: New Approaches to British Fiction of the 1890s (1994). Dr. Rochelson has published numerous articles and presented many papers on late Victorian and Jewish literature and culture. She is the author of Eli’s Story: A Twentieth-Century Jewish Life (2018).

Dr. Burt Rochelson is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. He serves as Chief of Maternal-Fetal Medicine (High Risk Pregnancies) for the Northwell Health System and is the Director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Fellowship Program. Dr. Rochelson has authored or co-authored over 130 peer reviewed publications. He is internationally known for his work in abnormal fetal blood flow. A graduate of Columbia College and the University of Michigan School of Medicine, Dr. Rochelson then pursued a residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center and completed a Fellowship in Maternal-Fetal Medicine at SUNY Stony Brook/Winthrop University Hospital.

Dr. Kevin P. Spicer, C.S.C., is the James J. Kenneally Distinguished Professor of History at Stonehill College. Spicer's research centers on the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and the German state under National Socialism. Currently, he is working on a study on the relationship of Jews and Catholics in Germany from 1918 to 1945. Fr. Spicer is the editor of Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust (2007); The Evil that Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen (2017); and Religion, Ethnonationalism, and Antisemitism In the Era of the Two World Wars (2022). He is the author of Hitler’s Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism (2008/2017); and Resisting the Third Reich: The Catholic Clergy in Hitler’s Berlin (2004). Spicer is also chair of the Advisory Board of Seton Hill University’s National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, and he is Chair of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations (CCJR).

This event is in-person at the

Florida Holocaust Museum

55 5th St. St Petersburg, FL, 33701.

The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited.

Register here

This event is co-sponsored by the CCJS and the Florida Holocaust Museum.


Rabbi James Rudin Receives Papal Knighthood

On Sunday, November 20th, Rabbi James Rudin, one of the co-founders of the CCJS, received the medal of the Order of St. Gregory from Bishop Mark O’Connell, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Boston. On behalf of Pope Francis, O’Connell conducted the investiture ceremony at Saint Leo University in recognition of Rudin’s decades of work in building positive Catholic-Jewish relations throughout the world. Expressing his gratitude for the historic recognition, Rudin said, “It is an honor and privilege to accept this extraordinary award. To be selected for a papal knighthood is a highlight of both my professional and personal life.” A video of the investiture ceremony is available here.

Dr. Eugene Fisher Receives Eternal Light Award

On Thursday, December 8th, over 120 people gathered at Congregation Schaarai Zedek, Tampa, for the CCJS Eternal Light Award event, Why Dialogue Matters.

After a panel of local leaders shared about their personal experiences with interreligious dialogue, Dr. Eugene Fisher was honored via livestream with the Eternal Light Award for his decades of contributions to Catholic-Jewish relations.

Many thanks to Rabbi Joel Simon and Congregation Schaarai Zedek for their incredible hospitality.

A video recording is available here.


Rabbi David Maayan Speaks at the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations

On October 24th, Rabbi David Maayan, the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought and Assistant Director of the CCJS, presented research at a session entitled New Voices in Jewish-Christian Relations: A Discussion with and Review of Research by Early Career Scholars. The session, which took place at Gratz College in Philadelphia, was part of the annual meeting of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations.

CCJS Director attends USCCB Modern Orthodox Religious Dialogue

On November 30th, Dr. Tapie traveled to New York for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' dialogue with Modern Orthodox Judaism. The meeting focused on the topic of women in Catholicism and Judaism, and took place at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Dr. Tapie has participated in the dialogue since 2019.

Dr. Tapie on Sabbatical

Dr. Tapie is currently on sabbatical until May 2023. During the sabbatical, he will speak at a conference entitled "Roman Catholics and Jews after Vatican II," which will take place at the University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

While in Rome, Dr. Tapie will also conduct research in the Vatican Apostolic Archives for a book he is writing on the use of St. Thomas Aquinas's teaching in the controversy surrounding the Mortara Affair in 1858, and in contemporary debates.


For 25 years, the CCJS has worked to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect between Catholics and Jews, and all people of good will.

Your gift helps us advance scholarship in Catholic-Jewish studies, and provides interreligious education to thousands of students, religious leaders, and members of the public.

Rabbi David Maayan, the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought and Assistant Director of CCJS, speaks on the significance of interreligious dialogue at Congregation Schaarai Zedek, Tampa, December 8th, 2022.


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