A recognized leader in the field of Jewish-Christian studies will be honored by the Capital Area Council of Churches.

Peter Zaas, Ph.D. professor of religious studies at Siena, will be presented with the 2021 Reverend Carlyle Adams Ecumenical and Interfaith Award at the CACC’s annual dinner on October 13 in Albany. 

In addition to his role on the faculty, Zaas is the director of the College’s Hayyim and Esther Kieval Institute for Jewish Christian Studies, which offers programs that advance mutual understanding between Jews and Christians on campus and in the wider community.

He has published on New Testament studies, with a focus on the influence of Jewish law in the texts; as well as interfaith theology and patristics.

Zaas said his proudest achievement as a Siena professor are the many biblical and religious studies tours he has conducted on behalf of the College since 1989, to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Italy, and France, often accompanied by other Siena faculty.

“I’m very happy to join my more-deserving colleague Fr. Dennis Tamburello OFM [who received the same award in 2018] as well as the many other community leaders who have been recipients of this honor, most of whom I’ve worked with, in one capacity or another,” he said. “My mother, of blessed memory, always thought that religion was something that transcended religion, that the particulars of a person’s traditions were important, but not as important as the larger purpose of serving God and God’s creation. My experience at Siena and my experience in the Capital District have provided me, most of the time, with a model for this idea. Both communities have modeled this differently; Siena with its gracious hospitality to those of us outside the Franciscan orbit, and the Capital District with its extraordinarily warm relations between different communities of faith.”

Holly Grieco, professor of religious studies and department chair, said Zaas

enriches the College with his commitment to a vision of their academic department, and the College more broadly, as places that value the diversity of religious belief, experience and practice.

“He has embodied Siena’s mission, which states that we ‘seek to build a community strengthened through diversity, where members work together in friendship and respect,’” she said. “These values of the college are fundamental to Peter’s work as director of the Kieval Institute and in the wider community through his active participation in interfaith dialogue. Peter has a genuine interest in learning from others and in hearing their stories, making him a dynamic partner in interfaith dialogue.”

Stephanie Ramkissoon ’23, a religious studies major, is advised by Zaas.

“During my time here at Siena, Dr. Zaas has been an amazing advisor and mentor to me,” she said. “I’ve had the pleasure of having him as my professor for multiple religion and Hebrew courses. Not only is he a great professor who encourages his students to do their best in class, but he also goes above and beyond to express his concern for his students’ well-being. I am very grateful to have gotten to know him.”