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Science and the Soul Public Offerings


To register for a session please RSVP in advance to All events will take place at Hebrew College and are free of charge.


10:00–12:00:  Ta Chazei: Cosmology Today - Spiritual Insights, Ethical Imperatives 

Howard Smith, Astrophysicist, Harvard University- Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and former chair of the astronomy department at Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

A multimedia presentation on the latest revelations in modern cosmology, their intersection with Jewish mystical ideas and how they speak to individuals today. Dr. Smith uniquely brings together contemporary science and classic Jewish sources. He will be utilizing an IMAX movie he helped to create for the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and we will be studying pieces of Zohar and other classic Jewish mystical texts.      

1:30-2:45:  Understanding Religion through Neuroscience

Jonathan Morgan, Lindamood fellow at Boston University’s Institute for the Biocultural Study of Religion and researcher at the BU Neuroscience and Religious Cognition Lab

Jonathan will explore the history of attempts to understand religion through neuroscience and then discuss his present research projects on cognition and religious coping in Parkinson’s Disease, and his work exploring the neural underpinnings of self-control, values, and religion.


9:15-11:30   Epigenetics and Pastoral Care

Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neruoscience and the director of the Traumatic Stress Studies Division at Mount Sinai Hospital. 


Michelle Friedman, Associate  Professor of  Clinical at Mount Sinai Hospital and the founder and chair of the Department of Pastoral Counseling at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.

During the first part of this presentation, Dr. Yehuda will explore and explain the science of epigenetics- how trauma crosses generations at the genetic code level. Following this, Dr. Friedman will lead a "master class" in pastoral care following up on the issues which Dr. Yehuda introduced.

1:15-2:45:  Playing Dice with the Universe: Quantum Mechanics, Talmud, and Indeterminacy

Ben Dreyfus, Term Associate Professor of Physics at George Mason University.  He has taught on the intersection of quantum mechanics and rabbinic literature at Harvard Hillel, the National Havurah Committee, and Limmud NY.

Classical physics is a deterministic theory:  If we could specify the position and velocity of every particle in the universe at a given time, and we had a large enough computer, we could calculate what will happen at any future time.  Quantum mechanics, in contrast, takes a probabilistic approach:  the theory doesn’t provide exact predictions, but only probabilities.  Einstein and Bohr debated the fundamental nature of these parameters: are they merely unknown, or unknowable?  The rabbis of the Talmud engaged in similar debates many centuries earlier, addressing indeterminacy around time, space, and ritual status.  We will look at these debates both in physics and in relevant rabbinic texts, and compare the different approaches to the nature of the unknown.


 9:15-10:15:  Meditations’ Effects on Physiology and Health

John Denninger, Director of Research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Instructor at the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

 Dr. Denninger will discuss his research on neuro-images of meditating brains and explore genomic findings related to the meditation’s effects on physiology and health.

10:30-11:00 Jewish Mindfulness Practice

Josh Weisman & Dena Trugman, Hebrew College Rabbinical Students


9:30-11:00: How Many Magisteria? Cause and Effect in Biology and Theology

Andrew Berry, Lecturer on Organismic & Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University. Dr. Berry is an evolutionary biologist and historian of science who is particularly interested in Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer with Darwin of evolution by natural selection. 

Jonah Steinberg, Executive Director of Harvard University Hillel, and Harvard Chaplain. Formerly the Associate Dean at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College.

Steven Jay Gould argued famously that religion and science were “non-overlapping magesteria” – they each have legitimate domains of inquiry and authority which do not overlap. In this conversation, Jonah will reflect with Andrew Berry, a historian of science, evolutionary biologist and son of a minister, on these claims. What impact should evolutionary thinking have on our theology and religious worldview?  

1:15-2:30: The View From Outer Space

Jeffrey Hoffman, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, MIT. First Jewish male astronaut having flown five missions on the space shuttle including the first mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope

Dr. Hoffman will reflect on the metaphysical issues raised by his journeys into outer space. 

The winter seminar is funded by the John Templeton Foundation with support from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). AAAS supports efforts to integrate science into rabbinic training. As a science membership organization, it does not advise on or endorse the theological content of the program. We are appreciative of their work in bridging the worlds of the scientific and religious communities.