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Previous Lectures
Previous Lectures Sponsored by The Institute for Science and Judaism and its Predecessor
A Cosmological Shabbat at Adat Shalom
Please join us for an unforgettable evening inspired by the 92nd Psalm, "Mah gadlu maasecha yah", "How awesome are thy works, O God". ISJ President Rabbi George Driesen conceived of this multi-media event to deepen our Shabbat experience by embedding a moving presentation of the cosmos into the Kabbalat Shabbat Service. The presentation features celestial images, including some from the Hubble Space Telescope, from the collection of space scientist and Adat Shalom member Steve Brody projected onto the white "sails" that descend from Adat Shalom's ceiling. Mr. Brody's explanation of the images is accompanied by words and song from biblical texts selected by Rabbi Driesen and original music created by Adat Shalom congregant Michael Gottlieb.

Samson in Stone: New Discoveries in the Ancient Synagogue at Huqoq in Israel's Galilee
Since 2011, Professor Jodi Magness has been directing excavations in the ancient village of Huqoq in Israel's Galilee. The excavations have brought to light the remains of a monumental Late Roman (5th century) synagogue building paved with stunning and unique mosaics pointing to apocalyptic expectations and diversity in post-Temple Jewish practice. These images include depictions of the biblical hero Samson and the first non-biblical story ever discovered decorating an ancient synagogue perhaps Alexander the Great meeting the Jewish High Priest.
In this slide-illustrated lecture, Professor Magness describes these exciting finds, including the discoveries made in the summer 2016 season, and discusses their implications for Jewish religious life in ancient Galilee.
Professor Jodi Magness received her B.A. in Archaeology and History from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and her Ph.D. in Classical Archaeology from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently holds the senior endowed chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, and serves as the First VP of the Archaeological Institute of America. Professor Magness has published ten books including The Archaeology of the Holy Land.

Divine and Human Purpose in Science and Judaism
Please join Rabbi Dr. Leonard Levin, the author of The Case for God: Answering the Atheist (, in confronting the profound questions that we who affirm both contemporary science and Judaism must consider: Does the universe attest to a purposeful God? If it does, do humans have a special role in God's scheme? Science professes to be neutral on these issues, but revolutionary discoveries in physics and astronomy have revealed that our universe and life itself depend upon an extraordinarily improbable convergence of precise physical constants. Do these discoveries attest to God's creation? Rabbi Levin will draw upon biblical texts; ideas of our sages; and the writings of theologians, philosophers, and scientists from ancient to modern times to address these questions.
Rabbi Dr. Leonard Levin earned a doctorate in Jewish philosophy and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He also earned a PhD in the History of Ideas at Brandeis University, has authored numerous original books, and has translated Jewish philosophical works from Hebrew into English. Rabbi Levin taught philosophy at Rutgers University and JTS, and is currently on the faculty of the Academy for Jewish Religion.
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The Search for Extraterrestrial Life:
New Developments and the Implications for Jewish Theology
Recent discoveries of thousands of planets orbiting distant suns, called exoplanets, and evidence suggesting oceans exist beneath the surface of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, create the intriguing possibility of multitudes of worlds with environments that could harbor life. It appears increasingly likely that the conditions for life are not unique to earth.
Dr. Jennifer J. Wiseman, NASA's Senior Project Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, will provide an illustrated presentation on the latest exoplanet findings and evidence suggesting there are environments in our solar system that could harbor life.
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb will follow with his thoughts on the implications of the possible discovery of extraterrestrial life. A panel discussion with the speakers and the audience, moderated by Rabbi George Driesen, President of ISJ, will complete the program.
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Early Adversity and Later-Life Illness:
New Scientific Research and Tikkun Olam
Dr. David Reiss (Yale Medical School), Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry, a leading investigator of the interplay of genes and family relationships in child development, and Dr. Stephen Suomi (Chief, Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NICHD*/NIH), an expert on the interaction of rearing and genetics in behavior of macaques (monkeys), have teamed up to participate in a major collaborative effort sponsored by The National Institute on Aging (USA) and the Economic and Social Research Council (United Kingdom). This international, interdisciplinary initiative is aimed at uncovering the mechanisms by which adversity during fetal development and in early childhood produce vulnerability to serious medical illness in later life. Emerging evidence is increasingly clear that there is a powerful link between them, suggesting that vast numbers of people reach adulthood with a largely hidden set of risk factors sourced in early childhood adversity. These two researchers will discuss their collaboration, which has the ultimate goal of developing both childhood and adult forms of therapies for prevention and reversal of the liability for numerous medical problems that result from early adversity. Rabbi George Driesen and Rabbi Jack Luxemburg will discuss the connections between this endeavor and the concept of Tikkun Olam.
*National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
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Millennials and Meaning: Jews in the Digital Age
The Institute for Science and Judaism is teaming up with the DCJCC to host a conversation about Jewish life today, and living it in the digital age. How do our texts and traditions translate in today's fast paced, digitally focused world? How are young adults experiencing Jewish life in light of new technologies that allow for instant communication and connection, not only in our own communities but across the world?
Three Panelists will share their perspectives on how the digital revolution impacts Jewish life:
Wayne Firestone is President of the Genesis Prize Foundation, which awards an annual $1 million prize, recognizing exceptional human beings whose values and achievements will inspire the next generation of Jews. Wayne is the former President and CEO of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Wayne is a writer, speaker, and innovator on trends in higher education, Jewish affairs, and the promotion of inter-generational collaboration. Wayne was twice named by The Jewish Daily Forward as one of the "Forward 50" who are making a difference in the way American Jews view the world and themselves.
Amy Lazarus is Executive Director of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue, which develops everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to improve their campuses, workplaces, and communities. Amy brings a passion for, and over a dozen years of experience working with, individuals and organizations to create inclusive and effective environments. Amy also participants in the Global Shapers cohort of the World Economic Forum.
DJ Saul is Chief Marketing Officer of iStrategy Labs, an agency that invents ways to engage communities online and off. DJ focuses on new product development, while exploring new partnerships and opportunities for iSL and its team members. DJ is a DC Ambassador for Sandbox (a global network of 900+ inspirational leaders from over 60 countries under the age of 30) and is a co-producer of the DC Tech Meetup.

Ethical Behavior Synthesizing the Insights of Neuroscience and Judaism
Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, PhD
is a Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and heads the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind. Dr. Gazzaniga, along with Roger Sperry, pioneered the study of the human split brain. He is a world renowned researcher in cognitive neuroscience and has been a leading consultant on bioethics to universities, the State of California and the President. His recent books include The Ethical Brain: The Science of our Moral Dilemmas and Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain.
Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, PhD is Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, CA. He has served for three decades on numerous university, state and federal ethics committees and written many rabbinic rulings on medical issues for the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, which he now chairs, and his twelve books on Jewish ethics, law, and theology include Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics.
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Genetics of the Jewish People Implications for Science and Medicine
Dr. Harry Ostrer
is the organizer of the Jewish HapMap Project, an international effort to map and sequence the genomes of Jewish people. He is currently a Professor of Pathology, Genetics and Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Director of Genetic and Genomic Testing at Montefiore Medical Center. For over 30 years, he has studied the genetic basis of single-gene disorders in Jewish populations and implemented new genetic tests and screening programs to benefit Jewish people.

Empathy in Non-Human Primates and the Idea of Messiah: Speculative Theology in the 21st Century
Dr. Stephen Suomi
is Head of the Section on Comparative Behavioral Genetics, NIMH, NIH.

Alone in the Universe: A Jewish Perspective on the Discovery of Planets around Other Stars, and our Probable Solitude.
Dr. Howard Smith
is a Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard -Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In this talk he discussed the latest results on the discovery of planets around other stars, and the unlikely possibility of encountering alien intelligence. He explored the religious implications of our probable solitude. His recent article on this topic, entitled "Alone in the Universe," appeared in the July-August issue of American Scientist.

The Mystical Experience: Insights from Psilocybin Research
Dr. Roland Griffiths
is a Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Griffiths lectured on his ground-breaking work on mystical-type experiences occasioned by psilocybin. His work investigates biology and psychology of mystical experience. Additionally, his research explores potential paradigm-shifting uses for this class of drugs in treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression and addictions.

Cosmology and Judaism Today: A Revolution in Relevance
Dr. Howard Smith
is a Senior Astrophysicist at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and past Chair of Astronomy at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. He has authored over 300 academic publications. His recent book is Let There Be Light: Modern Cosmology and Kabbalah, a New Conversation between Science and Religion. Dr. Smith is also a traditional Jew and an active member of the Boston Jewish community.
Dr. Smith gave three lectures during the Shabbaton sponsored by ISJ, Ohr Kodesh Congregation and the JCC of Greater Washington. 1. Saturday morning d'var Torah:Joseph and the Coat of Multi-Universes: The story of Joseph spotlights one of the most problematic issues for both religion and science: fate, causality, and God's role in the world. This talk introduced the theme of the Shabbaton; namely, the compelling case that science and religion share core values and ponder similar deep questions, so that familiarity with their ideas and languages can lead to a richer spiritual and intellectual life. Furthermore, the common notion of a "war of worldviews" is simplistic - and mistaken. 2) Saturday afternoon/lunch: The Meaning of Shabbat in a Big Bang Universe: It is impossible to talk about the Creation without reference to its spiritual dimension, as exemplified by Shabbat. After a review of the most current understanding of the universe and its creation, we studied texts from the Kabbalah and other Jewish mystical sources that develop similar creation scenarios and that broaden the conventional concept of Shabbat to include cosmic principles. 3) Saturday evening: Modern Cosmology and Kabbalah: A New Conversation Between Science and Religion. This multimedia introductory talk summarized the creation of the world 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang, and introduced the Kabbalah, whose remarkable ideas about a big bang creation offer some surprising insights. Taken together, these perspectives from science and religion add depth to historical notions of humanity and its purpose.

New Findings in Brain Biology and Mental Illness: Implications for the Future
Dr. Tom Insel
is the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). He also serves as the chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Prior to his current position at NIMH, Dr. Insel served as Director of the Yerkes Regional Primate Center at Emory University and founding Director of the Center for Behavioral Neuroscience in Atlanta, Georgia. He has published over 250 scientific articles and four books. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a recipient of many awards, including the 2010 Ipsen Prize. Dr. Insel will discuss new findings on the biological bases of mental illness and the ramifications for future treatment.
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A Creation Theology for the Twenty-First Century
Rabbi Arthur Green
is the Irving Brudnick Professor of Jewish Philosophy and Religion and Rector of the Rabbinical School of Boston Hebrew College. Dr. Green was ordained as a Conservative Rabbi by the Jewish Theological Seminary and has published many works on Jewish mysticism and Hasidism addressed to both scholars and lay readers. He is one of the world's preeminent authorities on Jewish spirituality, mysticism, and Hasidism and a founder of Neo-Hasidism, a movement that has fostered a revival of interest in Hasidism on the part of non-orthodox Jews. From 1987 through 1993 he served as President and Dean of The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.
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In our blog: A Review of Dr. Arthur Green's newest book, Radical Judaism
For an audio version of Rabbi Arthur Green's presentation, "A Creation Theology for the Twenty-First Century," go to

"Cosmological Shabbat," Multimedia Observance at Adat Shalom
Rabbi George Driesen
writes about a moving Kabbalat Shabbat Friday night service comprised of images sent to earth via the Hubble Space Telescope, passages from the Bible and improvised piano music, presented by The Institute For Science and Judaism.
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Dr. Alan Leshner's fascinating and provocative talk recent talk entitled "The War Between Science and Religion: A Report from the Front Lines" at Adas Israel in Washington, D.C.
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Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, award-winning oncologist, bioethicist and author, Chair of the Clinical Center Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Emanuel participated in a panel discussion with Rabbi Ethan Seidel, Tifereth Israel Congregation, titled "Human Subjects in Scientific Experiments: A Dialogue With A Scientist and a Rabbi."

Rabbi Charles Feinberg, Adas Israel Congregation, with Dr. David Reiss (below), workshop on "Genes, Marriage, and Shalom Bayit: A Report on the Latest Genetic Research and its Implications for Peace in the Family."

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector and Co-Chair of the Bioethics Department and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of Judaism; Vice-Chair, Committee on Law and Standards, Rabbinical Assembly; Formerly instructor in Jewish Law, UCLA Law School. Dr. Dorff is the author of numerous books, including Matters of Life and Death, How To Do The Right and the Good, has served on Numerous Prestigious Public Boards and Commissions.

Dr. Francis Collins, now the Director of the National Insgitutes of Health, was formerly Director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH, the group that first mapped the Human Genome. He is also the discoverer of genetic variants associated with type 2 diabetes and genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, neurofibromatosis and Huntington's disease; the author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief; and the winner of numerous scientific awards and prizes.

Dr. Gerald Schroeder, Physicist, Torah Teacher (Aish Ha Torah, Jerusalem) and author of "Genesis and the Big Bang," "The Science of God," "The Hidden Face of God," and "God According to God." Dr. Schroeder was previously employed as a research scientist at The Weizman Institute of Science, Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He received an undergraduate degree and a PHD in Physic from the Massachuetts Institute of Technology.

Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center and Honorary Professor of English at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. Co-Author of the Standard Medical Treatise on Bi-Polar Disorder, and author of numerous articles in her field and of several best sellers for lay readers, including Touched With Fire, An Unquiet Mind, Night Falls Fast, and Exuberance. Dr. Jamison's topic was Despair, Ecstasy, and Religious Experience.

Dr. Alan Leshner, Chief Executive Officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Executive Publisher of the journal Science. Former Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. National Institutes Of Health; Former Deputy Director and Acting Director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Leshner's topic was "The War Between Science and Religion, A Report From the Front Lines."

Professor Daniel Matt, translator of THE ZOHAR: PRITZKER EDITION, is a leading authority on Jewish mysticism. For over twenty years he served as Professor of Jewish Spirituality at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He has also taught at Stanford University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author, among other works, of "God and the Big Bang: Discovering Harmony Between Science and Spirituality."

Dr. David M. Reiss is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, George Washington University and Clinical Professor of Child Psychiatry, Yale School of Medicine. He is author and co-author of numerous books and articles including the ground breaking "The Relationship Code: Deciphering Genetic and Social Influences on Adolescent Development," Harvard University Press, 2000. Dr. Reiss' international research team is the first to provide comprehensive, scientific data on the complex subject of whether and precisely how children's genes affect parents' behavior towards them and towards each other, and how all three influence children's temperaments and behavior in adolescence and adulthood.

Dr. Jonathan H. Pincus, Chief of Neurology at Veterans Administration Medical Center; and Professor of Neurology, Georgetown University School of Medicine. Author Base Instincts: What Makes Killers Kill, and Behavioral Neurology (Oxford University Press).

Dr. Stephen M. Barr, Professor of Physics, Bartol Institute, University of Delaware. Author of Modern Physics and Ancient Faiths, University of Notre Dame Press (2003).

Rabbi David W. Nelson, Author, Judaism, Physics and God: Searching for Sacred Metaphors In A Post-Einstein World (Jewish Lights Publishing 2005).

Dr. Julie Forman-Kay, Senior Scientist, Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children,Professor of Biochemistry, University of Toronto Member of Darchei Noam Reconstructionist Congregation: "How A Reconstructionist and Molecular Science Researcher Thinks About Cells, Science, and Judaism."
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