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11 Jewish congregations selected for "Scientists in Synagogues" initiative
"Scientists in Synagogues" will help Jewish communities bridge the gap between science and faith. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
Eleven synagogues from across the U.S. and Canada have been selected to take part in a new program aimed at better integrating scientific study with the Jewish faith.

"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," said Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, founding director of Sinai and Synapses, the organization leading the initiative, in a press release that lists the participating congregations.

The program will be conducted with the help of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, which launched a similar initiative, "Science for Seminaries," last year.

Both projects respond to the widely held assumption that religion and science are in conflict. Nearly 6 in 10 U.S. adults (59 percent) hold this belief, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

The 10 schools that participate in "Science for Seminaries" designed their own curriculum, integrating scientific findings into core classes like a survey of the Old Testament or seminar on Christian theology, the Deseret News reported in November. Professors and students were challenged to invite science into their conversations about faith and to stop viewing it as a threat to belief.

"Scientists help advance human understanding of God's mysterious creation. What's more elegant than that?" said Ronald Cole-Turner, a Pittsburgh Theological Seminary professor.

Scientists in Synagogues participants will also have the freedom to explore which activities work best for their communities. But the program has a slightly different mission than "Science for Seminaries" because Jews have a different relationship with science.

"It's often less of a challenge to get Jews to embrace science than it is to get them to embrace Judaism," Sinai and Synapses reported when the new program was announced. "Many Jews erroneously think that if they accept science, then they need to reject their Judaism."

Scientists in Synagogues requires faith communities to host at least two programs on Judaism and science between July 2016 and December 2017. They are urged to draw on the knowledge of "top-notch scientists" who belong to the synagogue.

The program and related activities are "all in the service of examining how Judaism and science can come together to inform the biggest questions we face as human beings," the press release announcing the winners noted.

Scientists in Synagogues participants include Oak Park Temple B'Nai Abraham Zion in Oak Park, Illinois, Congregation B'nai Shalom in Westborough, Massachusetts, Kodesch Shel Emeth in Wilmington, Delaware, and Temple Emanuel of Tempe in Tempe, Arizona.
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