Gene Editing and the Transformation of Human Life: Perspectives from Jewish Ethics

Gene Editing and the Transformation of Human Life: Perspectives from Jewish Ethics

Nov 21, 2019 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Revolutionary technology known as CRISPR has enabled scientists to change human genes, holding great medical promise. But it also raises significant ethical questions. Should there be restrictions on the development of this technology? How can we avoid abuse? Should we be able to design human beings and control evolution? Join us to explore these vital issues from the perspective of Jewish ethics.

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Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Oct 25, 2019 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Bereishit

Authored together with Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all its inhabitants. God founded it upon the oceans and set it on the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

As the Jewish community once more begins its annual reading of the Torah, and as we recount the grandeur of God’s creation, we focus on God’s charge to newly created humanity: “The Lord God took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to serve and protect it.” (Gen. 2:15, authors’ translations).

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Human Lives and the Natural World

Human Lives and the Natural World

Oct 18, 2019 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Sukkot

For many of us who live in dense metropolitan areas, spending time in national parks gives us a unique opportunity to experience in more immediate fashion the majesty of our world. Vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer—hiking in the mountains, walking on glaciers, boating in deep blue lakes, cooling off in the spray of gorgeous waterfalls, identifying rare birds and seeing moose, elk, deer, and the occasional bear (thankfully from a distance)—I felt awed and fortunate to behold this.

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Remember the Land

Remember the Land

May 31, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Behukkotai

Spring is my favorite season because it draws me outdoors, enticing me to leave the city and enjoy the rivers, fields, and mountains of this glorious earth. Even near the city I often find myself in nature, biking along the Hudson and up the Palisades past waterfalls and nesting eagles. Returning to the land reminds me of the many blessings of our world, filling me with gratitude and awe. It also causes foreboding since the signs of stress on the natural systems that make our lives possible are everywhere evident. While this era of anthropogenic climate change may be new, the concern that human conduct could lead to ruin and exile from the earth is found already in our Torah portion.

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Entering the Clouds of Glory

Entering the Clouds of Glory

Mar 8, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Pekudei

“What do you mean, Rabbi? The clouds are mysterious—it’s like being on Sinai!” This statement by a rabbinical student consoled me several years ago on the summit of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks. Each fall I take a minyan or so of students hiking for the weekend, and on that day, we had spent many hours climbing this enormous peak. On the way up, we enjoyed stunning views—of an alpine lake called “the Giant’s Washbowl” and the Great Range looming across the valley to our south. But when we reached the top of Giant a thick cloud had parked itself on the summit and would not budge. Visibility was limited to about ten feet, and wisps of mist skimmed between us.

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Holy Work for God’s Creation

Holy Work for God’s Creation

Feb 15, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Tetzavveh

The most important headline of the week (and perhaps the year) did not appear in the top right column of the New York Times last Thursday. That spot—traditionally reserved for the lead story—was given over to the troubles facing the governor of Virginia, a scandal likely to be resolved and forgotten in a matter of weeks. Not so the fact that “the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.” This story is likely to shape human history—and the life of the planet—for many years to come; it now seems indisputable that “the quickly rising temperatures . . . correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.”

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Hearing the Scream

Hearing the Scream

Dec 7, 2018 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Miketz

Perhaps no scream is more famous than the one portrayed in Edvard Munch’s painting popularly known simply as The Scream. The irony is that almost none of us is aware of the scream that Munch intended to portray.

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Basic Questions

Basic Questions

Oct 12, 2018 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Noah

Early in my teaching career I worked with kindergarteners, incorporating drama into daily Judaics lessons. The holiday cycle offered developmentally appropriate treasure troves of life lessons: practicing ways to say “I’m sorry” to loved ones during Tishrei; exploring Esther’s mustering of courage to speak the truth; hesitations of the Israelites to part from predictable routines in the known and familiar Egypt to try something brand-new and strange.

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Genetic Engineering, Jewish Law, and the Remaking of Life

Genetic Engineering, Jewish Law, and the Remaking of Life

Jun 18, 2018 By Daniel Nevins | Public Event video | Video Lecture

An exploration of genetic engineering through the lens of Jewish law and values. Under what circumstances should the DNA modification of new and already living plants, animals, and humans be permitted?

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The Theology of Meteorology

The Theology of Meteorology

May 11, 2018 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Behar | Behukkotai

Imagine if your weather app displayed not images of sun and clouds, but icons of good and evil, like this:  ☹. Each city might have a virtue index—with the weather forecast tracking not the jet stream but morality, indicated by a friendly or fierce face. City X has been charitable, so they can expect light rains followed by sunny skies, but City Y has seen an uptick in violent crime, so it is in for a drought or hurricane. Such a system sounds absurd, and yet it is basically what the Torah presents as a theology of weather.

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