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‘God Squad’ Talk at Georgian Court Examines Jewish-Christian Relations

GCU Hosts “God Squad” for Conversation on Judaism and Christianity

For more than decade, Rabbi Brooks Susman and Christopher Bellitto, Ph.D., have been promoting interfaith relations through education around New Jersey.

The pair—commonly known as the “God Squad”—recently brought their wide-ranging approach to the subject to Georgian Court’s Casino Auditorium. There, in a powerful, one-hour presentation entitled “Catholics and Jews: Changing the Conversation,” the duo reviewed the often painful history of Jewish-Catholic relations and shared insights on more recent developments that signal a better future.

The session opened the door to “really starting a dialogue about how we think” about the part religion plays in our lives and in society today, said Evelyn Saul Quinn, GCU vice president for Mission Integration.

Eye-Opening and Inspiring

Rabbi Susman at Georgian Court University
Rabbi Brooks Susman

Dr. Bellitto, a professor at Kean University, is a prolific author who has appeared on many national media outlets including CNN and the History Channel as an expert on Church history and the papacy. Rabbi Susman is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Am in Freehold and an adjunct professor at Brookdale Community College.

Their engaging, fast paced back-and-forth dialogue captivated students, staff and community members alike, many of whom described the presentation, sponsored by GCU’s Office of Mission Integration, as eye-opening and inspirational.

Sophomore Bianca Jenkins, a GCU biology major, gleaned a lot of information from the session and was very happy to have attended. “I learned a lot that I didn’t know,” she said. Another participant, Patricia Burke, who comes from a multi-faith background, said she was uplifted by the experience. Ms. Burke, an Associate with the Sisters of Mercy—GCU’s sponsoring order—said the God Squad’s talk makes her want to learn more about her own background.

Dr. Christopher Bellitto talks about the relationship between Catholics and Jews.
Dr. Christopher Bellitto talks about the relationship between Catholics and Jews. His presentation with Rabbi Brooks Susman examined faith through the lens of history while emphasizing common ground shared by the two religions.  (Photo by Tyler Chamra)

Viewing the gap between Judaism and Christianity through the long lens of history, the pair was able to correct misinterpretations that have traveled down the centuries. For instance, there were no “money lenders” at the Temple in Jerusalem for Jesus to confront, only money “changers” who assisted Jews changing currency from around the diaspora into shekels – Rabbi Susman explained.

Dr. Bellitto shed light on the ways in which popes Saint John XXIII, Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict have moved to embrace Jewish people, whom, he said, they have all acknowledged as “older brothers in faith.”

Story by Lois Rogers; photos courtesy of Brookdale Community College and GCU student Tyler Chamra ’18

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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