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When Saint Leo’s Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies (CCJS) was established more than two decades ago, its mission was to provide interfaith education and dialogue for thousands of students and members of the Tampa Bay area community. Today, with the creation of the Maureen and Douglas Cohn Visiting Chair in Jewish Thought, the center is providing more opportunities to engage in dialogue with better resources and information, making CCJS the only academic center of its kind in the Southeast.

Made possible by the generosity of Maureen and Douglas Cohn in December 2021, the new chair enables CCJS to feature a Jewish scholarly voice at the center of its vision, mission, and educational programs. A unifying force in their work with the Tampa Jewish Community Centers and Federation, the Cohns are longtime friends of CCJS and have supported Saint Leo on this front since the early 2000s.

“We are excited to collaborate with the university and the Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies to help increase engagement between the Jewish and Catholic faith in our community,” Maureen Cohn said.

“By establishing a full-time faculty position that also works closely with local religious leaders, we can create more opportunities for people of all faiths to talk directly to a scholar for generations to come,” Douglas Cohn continued.

The Cohn Visiting Chair is devoted to scholarly research and teaching and allows students, faculty, and members of the community to significantly deepen their understanding of Judaism by having direct and regular access to a scholar of Jewish thought.

The west coast of Florida is home to many Catholics as well as Jews. One of the most unique aspects of the Cohn Visiting Chair is that it puts a scholar of Jewish thought and culture into regular conversation with individuals outside of the college classroom—with everyday people, including members of other religions. In addition to teaching undergraduate students, the visiting scholar will provide a series of spring educational workshops for the Tampa-area community.

“The center is unique in the way our faculty teach in the community, as well as in the classroom,” said Dr. Matthew Tapie, CCJS director. “We are building bridges of understanding that lead to a more just and peaceful society.”

Because the position is a visiting chair, the scholar will teach and research at CCJS and in the community for up to three years before another scholar takes the helm to carry out the center’s mission, building mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation among people of goodwill.