Sinai and Synapses, fiscally sponsored and housed at Clal – The National Center for Learning and Leadership, has selected 11 synagogues for its initiative “Scientists in Synagogues.” It is funded by The John Templeton Foundation, Emanuel J. Friedman Philanthropies and the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and run in consultation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER).

Scientists in Synagogues is a grass-roots program to offer Jews opportunities to explore the most interesting and pressing questions surrounding Judaism and science, and aims to share how some of the most thoughtful Jewish scientists integrate their Judaism and their scientific work so that they can be role models and ambassadors for productive conversations surrounding Judaism and science.

Forty congregations from 17 states and Canada applied for this project, and the selected communities represent a diverse cross-section of the Jewish community: five Reform synagogues, four Conservative, one Orthodox, and one traditional. Through programs and ideas that the synagogues themselves chose, they will explore a variety of topics, such as the neuroscience of free will; how technological innovation is changing human community and communication; the relationship between the natural and the human-made; and Jewish and scientific metaphors for the cosmos. They will all receive funding for their programming, along with mentorship and guidance through both Sinai and Synapses and DoSER.

“The congregations selected for Scientists in Synagogues will make a significant impact on the conversation surrounding Judaism and science. Through their commitment, expertise and exploration of critical topics, these communities will showcase a variety of exciting ways to explore Judaism and science,” said Rabbi Geoffrey A. Mitelman, Founding Director of Sinai and Synapses. “Scientists in Synagogues will offer Jews new ways to learn about some truly fascinating topics, and will give the Jewish community new opportunities to think more deeply about the relationship between Judaism and science.”

Scientists in Synagogues will begin with a workshop at Clal at the end of June, where members of the selected congregations will learn from experts such as Dr. Jennifer Wiseman, Professor Noah Efron, Rabbi Lawrence Troster and Professor Michael Zimmerman. They will then create programs and content in their communities and online between July 2016 and December 2017, all in the service of examining how Judaism and science can come together to inform the biggest questions we face as human beings.

“Science and technology are shaping nearly every aspect of life and human identity as never before,” said DoSER Director Jennifer Wiseman. “We look forward to rich explorations into the implications of forefront science through these diverse lenses.”

Ultimately, these communities that are delving into the relationship between Judaism and science will help elevate the public discourse, and offer the Jewish community as a whole new tools and new language to discover fruitful interactions between these two realms.

List of selected congregations:

Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth, Wilmington, DE
Beth Hillel Congregation B’nai Emunah, Wilmette, IL
Beth Tzedec / Temple Emanu-El (joint application), Toronto, Ontario
Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County, Bethesda, MD
Congregation B’nai Shalom, Westborough, MA
Maimonides Congregation, Brookine, MA
Oak Park Temple B’nai Abraham Zion, Oak Park, IL
Temple Beth Or, Washington Township, NJ
Temple Emanuel of Tempe, Tempe, AZ
Temple Israel Center of White Plains, White Plains, NY