A rabbi and a PRiest…

      56 Comments on A rabbi and a PRiest…
god squad

Rabbi Marc Gellman and the late Father Tom Hartman, a.k.a. “The God Squad”

A rabbi and a priest become great friends while communicating messages of tolerance and faith throughout the nation as “The God Squad.”

No, it’s not the opening of a silly joke. It’s a true story about Monsignor Thomas Hartman, known to his friends and followers as “Father Tom.” Father Tom left us last week at age 69 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He and I often crossed paths through the years; his involvement with media and his savvy public relations skills brought us together on several projects. I can’t name a warmer, smarter and more open-minded man. 

Although the “God Squad” became nationally-known, Rabbi Gellman and Monsignor Hartman were primarily local celebrities. Father Tom’s life was quite amazing. After serving at a Long Island parish and hosting religious radio programs, he became director of Telecare, the Rockville Centre diocesan television station. When News 12 Long Island invited Father Tom to talk about holidays, he invited Rabbi Gellman to join him. Later, as “The God Squad,” the two reached 15 million cable viewers a week via Telecare.

Father Tom and Rabbi Gellman children’s book, “How Do You Spell God?” became an award-winning HBO animated special. They appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, won four Emmys, wrote several books and a weekly Newsday column. Father Tom had a cameo role in “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” a film starring Barbra Streisand, raised millions of dollars for AIDS and Parkinson’s research, and helped found the nonprofit food bank Island Harvest. He also once received the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island’s “Long Island Achievement Award.”

Father Tom signed my copy of the duo’s first book, “Where Does God Live?” For me, its most memorable passage challenged us to think about God as living at the top of a mountain. We all want to reach him, but there’s no single, correct way to get to the top of the mountain. This lovely, simple parable of religious tolerance has stayed with me through my adult life.

Thanks, and rest in peace, Father Tom. It was wonderful knowing you. Your thoughts?


56 thoughts on “A rabbi and a PRiest…

  1. daniellehkent

    I’ve actually never heard of The God Squad, but I love the idea that people of different faiths can have a meaningful friendship. I think people often see religion as something that divides us and while it does have the potential to do so, I think it is more about togetherness and the development of a community. I am familiar with the basic tenants of Christianity and Judaism and feel that both preach similar things: in short, be good to people regardless of whatever external factors may push you into doing otherwise.

  2. Nathalie

    It’s heartwarming to see two influential leaders in the religious sphere set such a great example that more of the world’s religious leaders need to learn by. It’s also wonderful to see how public relations can be used for a meaningful cause (to those who are religious). Even if you aren’t religious, what Father Tom did was teach audiences about tolerance–something that is vital for human nature. And he used public relations to do so. Wow, how neat!

  3. Saralynn Kupperberg

    This was so sad to hear. The God Squad column was a staple in Newsday for many years. I remember growing up that my mother would always rip out interesting articles, and tell me all about all of the interesting points that they made. This is a loss to the Long Island residents, religious and otherwise.

  4. Erin Schmitt

    This was a lovely tribute to a great man, whom I wish I knew about sooner. I’ve always been exposed to Telecare as its studios are on located on Kellenberg’s property where I went to high school, but somehow I had never heard of him or the “God Squad” up until this point, and regrettably so! I liked Mark Grossman’s comment on this article about how you “knew” that he was talking with only you when needed. He sounds like a wonderful man who brought people together and utilized different forms of media in order to do so. Thank you for continuing in spreading his message so that it lives on beyond his years.
    Rest in peace, Father Tom.

  5. Sharlys Leszczuk

    I admire Father Tom’s mission and accomplishments. In my opinion, God is less of a spiritual figure and more of an ultimatum. As a person who doesn’t believe in a God, I would have to translate finding God or spreading the words of the holy figure to achieving happiness, success and ensuring my accomplishments translate to the next generation to inspire change and progress.

    My ultimate happiness is to achieve greatness through networking, raising awareness and speaking up for what I believe. I plan to leverage every tool and connection I have to achieve this. I feel that Father Tom followed a similar mentality, but our goals were clearly different.

    I agree that there is no straight path up the mountain to success or fulfillment, which I am learning as I prepare to graduate college. Although my path seems to be relatively well-articulated as I prepare for the post-grad lifestyle, I am aware that my feeling of comfort and security can disappear at any point. For this reason, I am careful not to plan my life too far into the future. I am empowered by the endless opportunities and paths that I can take in the future.

    Father Tom was a wise man. May he rest in peace.

  6. Russell Benner

    Rest in Peace Father Tom!

    Sorry for your loss Professor

    It was very interesting to see how to man religiously seperated came together to spread the same message. They worked together to spread the same message and garnered many awards and national attention. He not only used his platform to preach for God, but he did it to better the research for the disease that took his life

  7. molliealexandra

    It is interesting to see how PR truly can tie into so many aspects of our lives. While we tend to think of PR as communicating messages between clients and/or companies, it can also mean so much more; communicating messages, ideas and beliefs to everyday people.

  8. lpc29

    What a nice testimony, Jeff. I knew Fr. Tom when he was a rookie priest at St. James Parish in Seaford. From the start, he reached out and touched people’s hearts. His Masses went on for more than an hour and nobody minded. He shepherded his people even then. We are all better people from having known him.

  9. Katie Hammer

    I enjoyed reading this tribute to Monsignor Thomas Hartman. One thing I have learned the most about public relations is that everything is public relations. I never knew that priests and rabbis could form something called “The God Squad” to share their thoughts on religion in an informative and exciting way. It is amazing to see all of the experiences he had and the impact that came with it. I think the analogy of climbing to the top of a mountain is something to always keep in mind; it’s not about the destination, but about the journey. Rest in peace Monsignor Thomas Hartman.

  10. zhenpanda

    This just shows how public relations speaks volumes in connecting others together and to do it regarding religion is a well sought out cause for many.

  11. capriceoliver

    I am not too familar with the two but they seem like amazing people. It is always sad losing someone who has contributed so much good to the earth. His contribution will live on forever, that’s what matters!

  12. xuhansite

    Although I am an atheist, I still believe god is the embodiment of kindness. Father Tom affect people and society through his kindness and tolerance. He proved that different religious beliefs also can unite and communicate. His practice expanded the target group and promoted the different cultural communication. In my opinion, this is the most successful PR strategy of him.

  13. Elaine

    Father Tom is a representative of PR. He devoted himself to the Public Relations industry. He used his smart and open-minded help the public know what the importance of the tolerance. Even if Father Tom left us, but I believe “The God Squad” will exist forever. I believe that more and more the PR person will do the same thing as Father Tom.

  14. Lysa Carre

    Although I never got a chance to meet Father Tom, it saddens me that he recently passed away. Father Tom and Rabbi Gellman are both inspirational men who truly made a difference in their communities. Personally, I think it is beautiful that two individuals of different religious beliefs can unite as the “God Squad,” to make a positive impact on society. I hope Rabbi Gellman continues to keep the “God Squad” memory alive for Father Tom and himself; while utilizing his talented public relations skills.

  15. Vanessa M.

    Sorry for your loss. I think it’s great when people can come together with a common interest whether religious or not and have a mutual understanding. Nowadays religion and politics have become such touchy topics and I think its great when this takes place. We are constantly evolving and this article shows how using simple ways of communication (radio & television). This is a great way of combining religion and PR.

  16. gmorah

    Rest In Peace, Father Tom!

    What a beautiful tribute!

    This reminds us that PR is indispensable, and the benefits of being a good PR.

    Late Tom, I think, was a celebrity because he, not only was a good PR, but he also partnered with a good PR, Marc Gellman. These two guys had taught us the importance of “synergy”; in fact, I think, they’ve left, for us, a legacy of ‘team work’ – achieving greater success and fame working as a team.

    Meanwhile, I’m admiring the style you’ve shown here, bringing up a picture of PR ‘doing the job’.

  17. sabrinacwenar

    I loved reading this story about Father Tom and I hope he rests in peace. I am Catholic and I love the fact there was a genuine respect amongst the religious differences between the Rabi and Father Tom. It did not matter their beliefs, they simply seemed to support each other. From a PR standpoint it is very interesting to see how PR can play a role in different “career” paths or even religious institutions.

  18. Nikita Hakels

    First of all just by reading this blog I know that Fr. Tom was a very down to earth person, and may God grant him enternal peace. This is definitely a great way to remember him and his great work. He is for sure an inspiration and wil always be remembered.

  19. shollwedel

    I think it’s always interesting to hear the stories of different people, not only in the PR world but in any aspect of life. Everyone lives in the same place but walks down such different paths. I’m sure Father Tom never thought he would be responsible for a newspaper column, for fundraising, or for an animated children’s show when he was younger, but as he wandered down his own path he experienced a wide variety of the different facets of life.
    I think this is a great example that PR isn’t just controlling conflict and messaging for companies. PR professionals can be the last people you expect. “The God Squad” became a team of media relations professionals for years as a by-product of their work and their mission. Father Tom was an inspirational figure and will surely continue to be so for a long time.

  20. A.Murphy

    I think there is a lot to be said about the relationship between a rabbi and a priest. The communication that they must have had with each other and the team work they displayed must have been amazing to watch. It is clear in this example that when people come together to do good in the world, their individual backgrounds do not matter, their collective goals do.

  21. Judea Hartley

    Some people may think that PR is just about dealing with people. Those who don’t fully understand these ”dealings” often overlook many things that are required to build reputable relationships. Father Tom was so successful in his career because not only did he build relationships, but he was charismatic and he also focused on what was important to many people…christianity. This reminded me that in the field of PR, one must choose a target audience and focus on whats most important to the audience and themselves! I think that various publics not only want to see a strong leader who they can believe in, but they want to see someone who is authentic and relatable. From his success, it is evident that Father Tom possessed these qualities.

  22. John Grillea

    My condolences for your loss Professor Morosoff. I have heard of the “God Squad” before, but I really wasn’t that familiar. It’s warming to read how inspiring of a person he was. I’m sure these two practiced many PR techniques throughout their careers to educate others. PR is all throughout every religion.

  23. ari okonofua

    My condolences Professor Morosoff – RIP Father Tom. This post shows the impact broadcast can have in making an impact. “The God Squad” is a clever name and the duo itself is rather unique and catchy. I admire how the two brought together Judaism and Christianity as many are unaware of the similarities. This was a great heartwarming post – thank you for sharing!

  24. Mariana Sava

    This was a great and concise tribute and I am sorry for your loss. Honestly, I didn’t hear about Father Tom or Rabbi Gellman until I read this post (probably because I am not from around Long Island), but I am glad I did. It was interesting to read about two people with two different religious views that learned to work together.

  25. katericciardi

    I am sorry for your loss. We all need something to believe in. And for these men, it was religion and it brought people together. They spread the word of their faith and people listened. They had an impact on the people around them, which is very powerful.

  26. Carolyn Leonardo

    I think that when two such people come together even having different views on important issues such as god it is a reason to remember that people are more than their opinions. People don’t always have to get along, just agree to disagree. I like this story and how they both used their good to inspire people and teach people young and old about god. It has become such an issue to reveal your religion just as much as your side of politics. People judge you just by your beliefs and what you choose to believe and it shouldn’t be that way. They also used PR to get a message across to a large audience and in this day having so many available platforms to do that it works well.

  27. peightoncrawford

    I think that it is very important to take a step back and focus on the people that have impacted your life. When people take the time to do this it makes people put value into the time you spend with people that are still alive.

  28. Kyle Kandetzki

    I think it is always important to take a step back from the business/professional side of things every once and awhile, and reflect on the people you have come in contact with in your profession. This is a great example of that, and was an extremely nice story to show the human and delightfulness in someone who is also so good at what they did.

  29. mmolin9

    This is a very heartwarming story, that two people used their religious differences as a way to unite them, rather than keep them apart. Father Tom seemed like an inspiration to those who knew him, and I am sure he is missed greatly. I am very happy to learn of the “God Squad.”

  30. Amy Wang

    To be honest, I am not familiar with both Father Tom and Rabbi Gellman, not even mentioning “The God Squad.” However, from the article, I learned that two different religions can actually work together and spread more love and happiness to this world. Most of times, we hear the stories of different religions trying to fight for the TRUE concept behind God. I believe there are more than one God in the world, and also, I am pretty sure that each God wishes a better future for every human being. If you have the ability to let more people find out the beauty of the world, it does not matter which religion you are from. The only thing matters is what you can do with your belief.

  31. Brianna Vallelong

    Father Tom seemed like a great man and inspiration to all who had the pleasure of knowing him. It was very interesting to see how religious figures can grasp the concept of PR and use media tools to promote the message of tolerance and faith in more creative ways.

  32. Jillian Berardi

    Father Tom was a very inspirational man. It was beautiful to see a Priest and a Rabbi come together as “The God Squad”, showing the world that two people from different faiths can be friends and respect each other. Acceptance is something this world needs to be reminded of. When he passed, I read an article where Rabbi Gellman said that Father Tom taught him that a smile is more important than words. I think that is extremely accurate. Sometimes all it takes is a smile to turn someone’s day around for the better. That is a beautiful lesson everyone should live by. Father Tom will truly be missed.

  33. Elizabeth Giangarra

    I thought this was a wonderful passage. Father Tom seemed like a remarkable man . i thought that his ability go give back to the community while connecting it with another religious was very selfless. I thought that the way in which he reach out the people was truly beautiful and was a true reminder that PR is certainly in everyone lives.

  34. Danielle Tana

    I’m not usually a religious person but it seems as if Father Tom was a very inspiring and driven man. I’ve never heard of “The God Squad”, but it’s a catchy title. It’s refreshing to see two people of different faiths join together and spread positivity. We need more of that in today’s society.

  35. Emily Weeks

    This passage is a great reminder that PR is related in everyone’s everyday life. Fr. Tom sounds like an accomplished man and it is amazing to see how much he and the rabbi affected the lives of people around them. This created a great image for the God Squad and attracted the attention of the media and captured to public. Though PR was probably not explicitly in Fr. Tom’s job description as priest, he still succeeded in the aspects of it.

  36. pollakvictoria

    It sounds like Father Tom was a very intelligent man. He was clever to give not only himself but his other fellow religious partner, Rabbi Gellman, a brand name of being the “God Squad.” It’s admirable that he carried his passion for God and religion into ways that was shared with others nationally. May Father Tom rest in peace.

  37. Lauren Denker

    When people talk about two different religious parties, it is usually seen in a negative way. The majority of the world believes that people with different religious beliefs don’t generally get along. It is amazing seeing this friendship between the Rabbi and the Priest and how their Public Relations skills can open up more possibilities for people with different religious beliefs to come together and help the world. There should be more people like this in the world.

  38. Bahati Louis

    I’m sorry for your loss. Father Tom seemed like a great man. Even though you said they were known nationally this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the God Squad but I think that was great that the a priest and a rabbi could get along and spread their love of God and acceptance of one another through the masses, The God Squad certainly had a big influence on people through their radio shows, children books, and HBO specials. I’m glad their work was acknowledged and awarded by Emmy’s. I find it interesting that they were awarded a PR award but the more I think about it the more it makes sense that they would have to have good PR skills in order to get their message of unity to reach the masses. The fact that they reached 15 million cable viewers is proof enough that they were doing something right. It’s nice to know in this time of polarized views there were at least two people preaching about unity.

  39. kn3vil

    What I loved most about this was Father Tom’s involvement and association with Rabbi Gellman. Nothing is better than two people with different views coming together in civility and doing good. While more recently he has gotten some bad responses, the current Pope has been doing great among different cultures for his acceptance and openness. Father Tom is a great example of being a like-able by many and respected by more.

  40. Adele

    I was my pleasure to know Father Tom, and too have had many wonderful conversations with him. He will surly be missed by many. RIP

  41. kristinaweller

    I wish that we lived in a world where people could be more tolerant of each others’ differences. I love where you said, “For me, its most memorable passage challenged us to think about God as living at the top of a mountain. We all want to reach him, but there’s no single, correct way to get to the top of the mountain.” That is a great way to think about God, whatever God may be to you. I am happy that I read this post. It’s positivity made me smile! You are lucky to have known such a kind hearted, compassionate person!

  42. Rachelg

    I am not religious myself, but I enjoy the fact that these two men brought together two major communities. People often are unaware of the similarities between Judaism and Christianity. The God Squad is proof that people can put aside their religious differences to create a sense of unity.

  43. laurenconway97

    I really found this interesting. It just shows how even after someone passes that their thoughts and influences truly do stay behind. I am glad that you had such a great experience and were able to share this with all of us. It is quite interesting how religion can be tied to PR and really influence so many people. I am sorry for your loss. RIP Father Tom.

  44. azachar1

    Father Tom sounds like a very inspirational figure. I love when I hear positive stories about individuals of different faiths coming together. We don’t hear too many stories about tolerance and acceptance these days. There is simply too much hate that exists today, especially when it comes to religious beliefs. Whether we believe in Jesus or Moses, we are all human beings. Hopefully we can use PR to continue to bring others together like the way Father Tom did.

  45. Lauren A.

    Most of the time you do not think of religious figures being on TV and having millions of viewers. It is so nice to hear about ones that did, like Father Tom an Rabbi Gellman. Their name, “The God Squad”, is catchy and their mission is great. I love hearing about people that did so much to help and educate others. Father Tom’s passing is a great loss, but it is so nice to hear of someone who did something so admirable during their lifetime.

  46. Shawna Gregson

    I think it is great to see two different religious experts come together to preach the same message. People often forget how similar the concepts are between Judaism and Christianity- both practice tolerance and compassion, as well as the belief in just one God. It is refreshing to see two well respected religious leaders come together to help preach the message of religious tolerance and equality.

  47. Joanne Stanley

    RIP Father Tom. I only remember seeing them once in a while on some morning show. My mother loved them. They had great chemistry and were very entertaining. It was evident they had great respect for each other. I hope they gave the masses something to think about and made the Lord real to them. On the other hand God’s word never changes and I heard Father Tom agree with Rabbi Gellman on things that are not Christian. I can’t remember now what they were but I remember feeling uncomfortable. Bottom line I’m sure they touched many people with religion who would not have had the opportunity and helped people realize that religion doesn’t have to be boring.

  48. Wendy O'Neill

    I was flipping through Fr. Tom’s book “Just a Moment” and thought I’d share one of his more practical nuggets of spiritual guidance. In the chapter in which he stresses the importance of work/life balance, he tells us, “There is no admonishment for a messy desk. It’s not even a venial sin.” I’m grateful for his wisdom and happy to consider myself absolved!

  49. Tyler Weatherly

    From what you’ve written about Father Tom an Rabbi Gellman are exactly what religious figures should strive to be; instead of highlighting their religious differences, they focus on the end message. I think the “God Squad” exhibited behavior that has perfectly blended PR and religion. They’ve fostered a public opinion on religious tolerance and more importantly acceptance of differences.

  50. syanok

    From reading this post, I believe Father Tom was a great example of what a religious figure should be and how they should reach out to others. The many ventures he took in communications with radio, television, print, etc. and the messages he was able to communicate with many different audiences were integral in getting his ideas of religious tolerance and acceptance across, along with Rabi Gellman, and on his own. Looking at his impact, other religious figures could take a similar approach to engaging their communities and beyond.

  51. Niki Rihal

    This was a really touching read. Father Tom seemed like such a wonderful man, and it was nice to hear about all of the contributions he made to the Long Island community. I think he would’ve enjoyed this tribute, and I’m sorry for your loss.

  52. SShak

    Sounds like Fr. Tom made an impact in what he did. The passage you noted is interesting because it can be applied to any goal, everyone has a different way of achieving a goal, but because there’s is different does not mean it is necessarily wrong.

  53. pjze618

    I’m sorry for your loss. Father Yom sounds like a wonderful man. I never really connected PR with religion, but I can see how they are tired together. Priests are usually the “spokesperson” for their particular parish and they have to maintain a positive reputation. I love the name “The God Squad” and I think it brings humour and levity to a topic that could come across as very heavy.

  54. Emily Racanelli

    While this class has taught me that PR is fundamental in all aspects of life, I really didn’t consider it being relevant in a religious sense. Reading this article, it is certainly understandable, given the mission of a priest or anyone of that caliber is to spread the word and preach to the public. I guess PR really does apply to everything!
    The first thing I’d like to call to attention is the name “The God Squad.” It’s definitely a clever approach and something that peaks your interest. I was instantly curious as to what this could entail. Having spent my entire life on Long Island and in Catholic schools, I’m surprised I never heard of “The God Squad.” They definitely seemed to have combined religion and PR perfectly, taking it to more than just a personal front.
    I always assumed priests did their work in a church and that was it. It’s refreshing to hear of such modern approaches like having religious radio programs and being on a television station. Instead of just being like everybody else in their field, they took the steps to make a difference and stand out. Attaining a sort or local celebrity status was probably not their intention, but it definitely creates a legacy.
    This article exemplifies how sometimes simple tactics such as using radio and television can aid in making an impact. I’m still baffled by the idea of priests being so modern, but I hope others follow suit! This world is evolving and everyone needs to hop on board.


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