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Photo via Seton Hall University

Beyond the realm of diplomacy

Despite the current conflict in the Middle East and divergent views, local Bergen County Muslims and Jews continued to meet up for dialogue.  

Meet Professor Alan Brill, who has been a part of the Jewish-Christian graduate program at the Hall since 2007. He is an expert in Jewish studies and teaches it from a Catholic perspective. 

Brill, with his rabbinical background and understanding of different interfaith levels, leads a local Muslim-Jewish dialogue group. Local Jews and Muslims meet at Brill's home and develop friendships despite their differences in beliefs. 

 “We continue to meet even with the current crisis,” he said. “We already had strong bonds and it already became a way of both sides, acknowledging the other ones in pain, but we're still here for each other.” 

Seton Hall's Jewish-Christian graduate program fosters relationships and teaches theology. Forty-eight years later, this program has shaped many students and professors’ relationships to theology and understanding of religion. Undergraduate students of all majors can also take classes within this program. 

Brill's career is part of a larger trend of Jewish professors working at Catholic universities. He began his career as a speechwriter for religious politicians, which later turned into published books. This led to speaking on minor panels, and eventually as clergy on major ones.  

Brill mentions that inter-faith builds on what he teaches as a professor but is also a big part of his life.  

“There’s a direct one-to-one correspondence between what I'm teaching and what I'm doing,” Brill said.  

He offers many courses in Jewish theology, interfaith encounter and Jewish thought. These classes are meant to teach Catholics and students with other beliefs of Judaism in a different context. These courses also influence different students on the formation of religion.  

“I do think there is an influence,” Brill said. “College courses, especially in religion like Seton Hall, become part of formation and identity-forming of what you think religion is and even what you want from your own religion.”  

Working at a Catholic university has had a significant impact on Brill's life, driving him further towards interfaith relations. Despite having a degree in Catholic theology, working at Seton Hall has provided him with a better understanding of Catholics and their faith.  

According to AP news, the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East began on Oct. 7. This war between Israel and Hamas began after militants broke through the walls surrounding the seaside enclave of the Gaza Strip leaving over 1,200 people dead, and over 200 hostages. Today, the attack has left many Israelis and Palestinians stunned and the mass killings have sparked protests around the world.   

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Although the ongoing conflict in the Middle East has been challenging for numerous people, Brill brings up how the media influences public opinion on this conflict and is not the best platform to discuss these issues.  

“Media and social media are now blurring into one and in a way that it is not being mediated by history or academics or anybody who's out there,” Brill said.  

Allison Bodaken, a sophomore diplomacy major, also shares a similar opinion of the media shaping the public’s opinion.  

“It's about educating yourself and kind of knowing what the facts are versus what the media wants you to know,” Bodaken said.  

Judaism's core beliefs have impacted Bodaken's daily life as a reformed Jew and now as a college student at a Catholic university.  

“Judaism just gives me that ground to stand on at this point in my life, especially being at a Catholic University,” Bodaken said.  

Judaism being about love and loving your neighbor are beliefs that have helped Bodaken stay grounded on campus and have helped her create a bond with other students.  

Bodaken, a reformed Jew, shares that despite the recent conflict in the Middle East, her beliefs have strengthened her. 

 “I think they've just kind of reminded me to stay grounded and to stay loving in all my interactions with people I've grown to know... especially in this climate right now.”  

Staying true and being kind to yourself and others are things Bodaken mentions are important to remember during this time. It could be difficult to find other Jews on campus to create a bond with, but Bodaken says once you do find a community it is “an amazing experience.”  

Bodaken emphasizes the importance of empathy, research and support during ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.  

“There needs to be more love everywhere,” Bodaken said.  

Esmeralda Arias can be reached at



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