Two New Programs to Bring Together Science and Judaism

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Seeking to “offer people a worldview that is scientifically grounded and spiritually uplifting,” Sinai and Synapses is a project that launched two years ago by Rabbi Geoff Mitelman. The project was designed to bridge the gap between science and religion and explore big questions through both perspectives.

Now, two initiatives funded by the John Templeton Foundation, and offered in partnership with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER), have been launched by the organization. The programs are aimed at deepening the engagement between Jewish thought and modern science.

The first program, Scientists in Synagogues, will sponsor 10 scientist-in-residence programs in 10 congregations across North America. The goal of the program is to show how Jewish scientists can integrate Judaism and their scientific work and to encourage thoughtful conversations around Judaism and science. Full details are available online and the deadline for applications is March 31, 2016.

Science in Rabbinic Training, which will be managed by DoSER, will provide learning sessions for rabbis and rabbinical students at Hebrew Union College and Hebrew College in Boston. The program is the next stage of the Science for Seminaries initiative, where seminarians integrate science into their theological education.

“The programs’ purpose is to show that religion and science are not incompatible, to bring disaffected Jews closer to Jewish tradition,” Rabbi Mitelman told The Jewish Week. “We need both—we need religion and we need science.”

Perhaps because Judaism has long embraced questioning and challenging authority, or perhaps because theology is rarely emphasized in the larger and more liberal branches of Judaism, many Jews erroneously think that if they accept science, then they need to reject their Judaism. One goal of Scientists in Synagogues will be to show that science and Judaism need not be in conflict, and that Jews do not need to reject their religion in order to celebrate science.

“An ongoing dialogue can enrich our appreciation of each other,” continues Rabbi Brad Hirschfield of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, which supports Sinai and Synapses. “We need as much wisdom as possible.”