How Judaism and science come together every month in St. Louis


Engraving of astronomers looking at the sky. (iStock)

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Do Jewish tradition and scientific reasoning provide two different and sometimes contradictory sources of truth? It’s a question that Jewish thinkers throughout the ages have strived to address. For the past year, St. Louis Jews have been invited to not only engage in this line of thinking but participate monthly in making their own connections between Judaism and science.

The program “Jews in Science” is hosted by Kol Rinah. This Sunday, Sept. 11, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Jewish Light Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Bob Cohn will lead the conversation on the topic of the Israeli elections and political science.

What is “Jews in Science”

Created in the fall of 2020, during the height of the COVID pandemic, “Jews in Science” seeks to educate and teach Kol Rinah members as well as interested non-members about Judaism.

“I have always seen a connection between Judaism and science,” said Richard Gavatin, a Kol Rinah congregant who helped create the program. “Not only is Judaism compatible with science, as in there is no ‘Galileo and the Pope’ situation with Judaism – but we see the scientific approach as an essential part of the Jewish civilization.”

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

The Verein Group

Gavatin, who holds a Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences is co-chair of the Verein Group along with Dr. Ralph Graff. The word Verein is German for “society” or “association” and is a nod to a group of Jewish European intellectuals in the 1820s who were the first to look at Judaism as a science.  The positions they took prophesized changes in Judaism leading to Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox Judaism.

“In recognition, we chose the word Verein for the name of our adult education committee after the merger between the two Synagogues, BSKI and Shaare Zedek in 2013,” said Gavatin.

Judaism, science and Zoom

To begin, Gavatin and Graff contacted potential speakers, primarily within the Kol Rinah membership in the fall of 2020. Kol Rinah has many college academics and other professionals in its midst. So far, all the lectures have been on Zoom.

“So, for instance, for the ‘science’ of Albert Einstein, we relied on a member, WU Physics Professor Marty Israel,” recalled Gavatin. “In our presentation of the father of Cognitive Behavior Therapy, (CBT), Dr. Aaron T Beck, we had a Washington University clinical psychologist, Randi Mozenter, be our speaker.  And that is how we expanded the pool of speakers.  Bob Cohn is not the first ‘non-member’ we asked, and he won’t be the last.”

Session # 19 “Haunted by History” with Bob Cohn

The series continues this Sunday on the topic of political science, whereby Cohn will share his expertise on the subject and its relationship to history and foreign affairs as it relates to Israel.

All sessions are free and open to anyone. Registration on the Kol Rinah website is required.