Scholars from around the world organize to bridge Judaism with science

September 25, 2009

ASU's Center for Jewish Studies brings focus to growing dialogue

An international group of natural and social scientists, philosophers, historians, physicians, rabbis, theologians and educators is working together to promote and facilitate a close relationship between the Jewish religion, its cultures and values, and the sciences, for the mutual benefit of all. Download Full Image

The Judaism">">Judaism, Science and Medicine Group was established and organized by the Center for Jewish Studies at Arizona State University in the College">">College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"Today there is a growing gulf between Judaism and the sciences. Although many scientists are Jews by birth, they do not consider Judaism relevant to their scientific work," says Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, director of the center and ASU's Jewish">">Jewish studies program.

"Conversely, religious Jews are either uninformed about or uninterested in recent developments in the sciences that have significant implications for their Jewish world view," Tirosh-Samuelson says. "The Judaism, Science and Medicine Group considers this state of affairs to be detrimental to the intellectual wellbeing of Judaism in the 21st century and wishes to bridge the gap between Judaism and the sciences."

To achieve their mission, the group will create forums for dialogue among scientists, health care professionals and scholars of Judaism, while fostering interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects and developing educational materials about the interrelation of Judaism and the sciences.

"Through these activities, the Judaism, Science and Medicine Group will help shape academic and public discourses about the relationship between Judaism and science within the broader field of the dialogue between religion and science," Tirosh-Samuelson says.

The Center for Jewish Studies at ASU administers the activities of the group, which include an annual, interdisciplinary conference, collaborative research projects, teacher workshops and academic seminars. Membership in the organization is free to anyone committed to bridging the gap between Judaism and the sciences.

According to Tirosh-Samuelson there is no other group of this kind in the United States or Israel. "There are organizations of Jewish academics who study the bioethical problems that arise from modern technology and there is an organization of Orthodox Jewish scientists. However, these organizations lack the interdisciplinary scope, the diverse makeup of the group, and the pluralistic understanding of Judaism exemplified by the Judaism, Science, and Medicine Group," she explains.

By hosting the Judaism, Science and Medicine Group, the Center for Jewish Studies actualizes the intellectual goals of ASU – interdisciplinarity, global engagement and social embeddedness, according to Tirosh-Samuelson. "The Judaism, Science and Medicine Group will help the Center for Jewish Studies to serve as an agent of cultural change as well as an intellectual resource locally, nationally and internationally," she says.

Additional information about the international Judaism, Science and Medicine Group is available online at">">http://jewishstudies.clas.asu..., or by contacting Tirosh-Samuelson at 480-956-7767, Hava.Samuelson">">

Indie filmmaker Heather Rae brings her perspective to ASU

September 25, 2009

Independent film producer and director Heather Rae, recently named by Variety as one of the industry's "10 producers to watch," promotes a wide view of American culture through films concerned with racial identity, contemporary social concerns and human connection through the arts.

Rae will be at Arizona State University to deliver the Jonathan">">Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m., Oct. 5 in the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom on the Tempe campus. Sponsored by ASU's College">">College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the lecture is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. Download Full Image

There also are two student events planned to coincide with the annual lecture. The first is a screening of Rae's Oscar-nominated film "Frozen River" from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 1 in the Memorial Union Ventana A. The second is a Q&A session with Rae from 4-5 p.m. on Oct. 5 in the Memorial Union Pima Auditorium. Reservations are required for both events and are available at

With">"> 20 years of experience in the film industry — the past seven working independently — Rae is the producer of more than a dozen documentaries and several features. The well-known "Frozen River" premiered and won the grand jury prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. It also won the Gotham Award for best picture and best actress, and was nominated for seven Spirit Awards, including one she won for producer of the year.

Rae, who is Cherokee, cultivated the work of more than 50 Native American filmmakers and screenwriters as director of the Native American Program at the Sundance Institute, a post she held for six years.

Among her often-cited works is "Trudell," a 2005 documentary she directed and produced about renowned Native American activist and poet John Trudell. The film was nominated for the Sundance grand jury prize and won several awards, including the special jury prize at the Seattle Film Festival and the best documentary from the American Indian Film Festival.

Rae is the director and producer of "Family: The First Circle," a documentary in post-production that explores the foster care system and the American family. In 2008, the project received the Sundance documentary grant and was selected for Tribeca All Access from the Tribeca Film Institute in New York. She is also producing "American Tragic," which will be financed and distributed by the newly formed Maya Entertainment.

In addition to her film credits as a director and producer, Rae also has appeared in a number of films, including "Ibid" and "Disappearances."

Rae lives in Idaho and owns the downtown Boise arts collective The Muse Building, where arts, business and culture converge. The collective offers space for artists and small business owners to contribute to developing the downtown district while advancing the arts. She also is an adjunct instructor at Boise State University.

The Jonathan and Maxine Marshall Distinguished Lecture Series brings to ASU nationally recognized scholars concerned with promoting culture through the humanities and a better understanding of the problems of democracy. The annual lecture series was established in 1993 with support from Jonathan Marshall (deceased) and Maxine Marshall, retired publishers of the Scottsdale Daily Progress.

The lecture series has featured notable journalists, authors and commentators, including Calvin Trillin, Jon Meacham, Robin Wright, Seymour Hersh, Paul Krugman, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Daniel Goldhagen, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Further event information is available online at">">, by e-mail at clasevents">"> or by phone at (480) 965-0051. Online maps of Tempe campus parking are available at">

/>Written by Danielle Kuffler (dkuffler">"> for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Carol Hughes,">">
(480) 965-6375