Dr. Christopher Bellitto and Rabbi Brooks Susman brought their characteristic blend of humor and scholarly discussion to the Lincroft campus on Dec. 11, giving a unique pre-holiday presentation titled “Jews and Christians, Words and Deeds.”
The program, presented by Brookdale’s Continuing Education division, examined the origins and evolution of the scriptures that form the basis for both Judaism and Christianity. Bellitto and Susman, better known as The God Squad, also reviewed the history of Jewish and Christian relations dating back to World War 1.
“People want to know if there is a relevance, a commonality among the Abrahamic religions that we can accept, rather than simply being at odds with one another,” said Rabbi Susman, a Brookdale humanities instructor. “It is an especially relevant topic at this time of year, as we approach the two definitive holidays within Judaism and Christianity.”
The duo, which has been promoting “ecumenism through education” for the past ten years, explained how holy texts like the Talmud and the New Testament came into being, and how such texts have been used for a wide range of purposes over the years. The Bible, for example, was cited by both slave owners and abolitionists in the 19th century to support their cause, Susman said.
The presentation attracted dozens of community members from across Monmouth County, some of whom had long been fans of the God Squad. Others, like Long Branch resident Byron Griffin, said they wanted to learn more about the differences and commonalities among the western religions.
“It’s an extremely intriguing topic,” Griffin said. “And I’ve never seen the God Squad in action before.”
Bellitto, a Kean University history professor, has appeared on CNN, the History Channel and other national media outlets as an expert on church history and Catholicism. Susman is the founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Am in Freehold. The two scholars have long been friends outside of the classroom as well, regularly using their expertise to promote unity through education and understanding.
“The more we talk with each other and about each other, the less we are talking at each other,” Susman said.
Check out more photos of the presentation here.