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The Twelfth Miami International Conference on Torah & Science

“Nature vs. Nurture: Intellect, Emotion, Behavior and Ethics”

21-24 December 2017

The Shul of Bal Harbour

Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar, Spiritual Leader, Professor Nathan Katz,

Professor Joseph Bodenheimer, Ilana Attia, Rabbi Shea Rubinstein, and Milena Liascovitz

9540 Collins Avenue, Surfside, Florida, 33154 USA     

Tel. (305) 868-1411     Fax (305) 861-2426



Professor Arthur Agaston, MD

Cardiologist, Director of Wellness and Prevention, Baptist for Baptist Health, South Florida

Clinical Professor of Medicine, Florida International University

Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Miami


and Professor Alan Rozanski, MD

Chief of Cardiology at S. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital, New York

Professor of Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons




In this 90-minute seminar, we explore principles and practices tha you can employ to improve your sense of physical and psychological well-being at any age. The program will consist of a three-part lecture series, followed by a question and answer period. The program will address the following topics:

First, what is “health”? Health is not merely the absence of disease. But, then, what is it? How do we define it, and how do we measure it? What have we learned from science, and how does this fit into a Torah-based conception of health? Second, what are the physical things you can do to promote optimal health? We live in an increasingly obesogenic and sedentary environment. Thus, our concepts of health promotion are expanding to include such factors as attention to posture, to how much you sit, to new understandings about the science of nutrition. Third, emotional and spiritual well-being is intimately related to health. By relying on insights of Torah, we can fine-tune modern techniques and tools to enhance motivation, sense of purpose, social health, and mindsets that play a role in optimal health.



Arthur Agatston, MD, is the Medical Director of Wellness and Prevention for Baptist Health South Florida. A pioneer in cardiac disease prevention, Dr. Agatston worked with Dr. Warren Janowitz to formulate the Agatston Score, a method of screening for coronary calcium as an indicator of atherosclerosis that is used at medical centers throughout the world and considered by most experts to be the best single predictor of a future heart attack. Dr. Agatston is a clinical professor of medicine at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. His cardiology practice in Miami Beach is focused on preventing heart attacks in high-risk patients.

Known as the author of the internationally best-selling book, The South Beach Diet, his first nonacademic work, Dr. Agatston created his balanced approach to healthy eating to help his patients improve their blood chemistries and lose weight. Today, the South Beach Diet is the trusted choice of millions and there are more than 23 million copies of The South Beach Diet and its companion books in print worldwide. The lifestyle program has grown to include Web-based materials and a family of healthy and convenient foods, including delicious and nutritionally balanced bars and snacks, as well as a popular online program, Dr. Agatston’s most recent books, The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution and The South Beach Diet Gluten Solution Cookbook, were published in 2013.

Dr. Agatston has published more than 100 scientific articles and abstracts in medical journals and is a frequent lecturer across the US and around the world on diet, cardiac imaging, and the prevention of heart disease. In recognition of his contributions to cardiac prevention, the Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT) created the prestigious Arthur S. Agatston Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Award in 2011, which is given annually to pioneers in cardiac prevention. Among his many television appearances, Dr. Agatston was featured along with President Bill Clinton on Sanjay Gupta’s 2011 CNN special, “The Last Heart Attack.”

Dr. Agatston can be found on the Web at and and he is also an advisor on heart health for Prevention magazine. He lives in Miami Beach, Florida.



Professor Alan Rozanski. MD is the Chief of Cardiology at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital in New York city and Professor of Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Early in his medical career Dr. Rozanski received a two-year sabbatical fellowship from the MacArthur Foundation to study the determinants of health-promoting and health-damaging behaviors at various medical campuses across the US. Subsequently, Dr. Rozanski assumed the position of Preventive Cardiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los angelel, before joining the faculty at St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital. Dr. Rozanski is internationally recognized as a leading authority in Behavioral Cardiology, a nascent field that combines the conventional practice of cardiology with the study of psychosocial risk factors for disease and the use of conventional and holistic techniques to promote cardiac and overall wellness. Dr. Rozanski is the author or coauthor of over 250 medical articles. Including many seminar articles in the areas of cardiac stress testing, cardiac imaging, preventive cardiology, and behavioral cardiology.


Professor Nathan Aviezer


Physics, Bar-Ilan University


Do Human Beings Have Free Will?



Free will is a basic Torah theme: “I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil…therefore, choose life” (Deuternomy 30:15, 19).    However, over the years, there have been challenges to free will from different sources. 

·  Challenge to free will from sociology: ln almost every aspect of one’s life, including clothing, food, leisure activities, family life, and so on. actually depends on one’s surroundings. So, where is free will? 

·  Challenge to free will from psychology: Psychologists tell us that everyone is deeply influenced by our early childhood experiences, including toilet training, parental love/ abuse, sibling rivalry, very early schooling, etc.  So, where is free will?

·  Challenge to free will from theology: We are told that G-d knows the future. If G-d already knows today what one will do tomorrow, where is free will? 

·  Challenge to free will from physics: Pierre Laplace: Newton’s equations state that all particles move according to the forces that are acting on them. therefore, their future motion is already determined in the present. In general, however, so many forces act on each particle that it is impossible to predict its future behavior. However, this is only a technical limitation. In principle, its future is already determined now, in the present.

Pierre Laplace emphasized that Newton’s equations are not restricted to inanimate objects. They also apply to people, since we are all simply collections of many particles.  Therefore, according to the laws of physics, one’s future behavior is already determined now.  So, where is free will?

·  Reply to Pierre Laplace:  In the twentieth century, Newtonian equations were replaced by quantum theory.  According to quantum theory, the future is not determined by the present.  This result undermines Laplace’s challenge to free will.  Details will be presented.



Nathan Aviezer is professor of physics and former chairman of the Physics Department of Bar-Ilan University in Israel. Aviezer is the author of 140 articles on condensed matter physics. In recognition of his important research contributions, Aviezer was honored by being elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

In addition to his scientific research, Aviezer has a long-standing involvement in the relationship between Torah and science. He is the author of three books on this subject: In the Beginning (in nine languages), Fossils and Faith (in four languages), and Modern Science and Ancient Faith. Aviezer’s course at Bar-Ilan University on Torah and Science was awarded the prestigious Templeton Prize. He is active in the organization of an annual Torah and Science Conference which attracts hundreds of participants from all over Israel. Aviezer was recently awarded a grant from the Templeton Foundation to develop a teaching unit on Torah and science for Orthodox Jewish high schools.

Born in Switzerland, raised in the United States, Professor Aviezer received his doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago and subsequently held a research position at the IBM Watson Research Center near New York. In 1967, Nathan and his wife, Dvora, made aliyah, and they live in Petah Tikvah. The Aviezers have four children and sixteen grandchildren.


Barry Baumel, MD

Chief of the Division of Cognitive Disorders, Department

of Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine


Mindfulness: The Placebo Effect and Faith



We believe that there is a power that can perform miracles. With prayer that faith is powerful and can effect outcomes. Faith in medical treatments can be therapeutic and can improve outcomes. Sometimes people recover for unknown reasons.  In some studies more than 50 percent are cured by placebo. The placebo effect is an important part of healing.

We will describe the placebo effect and how it is the result of changes that affect biochemistry and psychology. This body-mind interaction plays out in understanding the efficacy of prayer as well as the possible health benefits of being religious or believing that what is broken about us can be fixed. Although there are physiologic changes, the idea that an inert material benefits us is a concept for which science has no complete explanation. Faith and belief in a higher power gives us the feeling of healing, well being and peace.



Barry Baumel, MD is the Chief of the Division of Cognitive Disorders, Department of Neurology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. He graduated from the University of Miami School of Medicine and then completed residency in Neurology at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital. From 1987-2004, he was the principal investigator in over 200 clinical drug trials of which at least 100 were studies in dementia. These studies were conducted at the Baumel-Eisner Neuromedical Institute in Miami, FL. In 2013 Dr. Baumel joined the U of Miami Department of Neurology, where he works in the UM Memory Disorder Center.

A member of the Habad community for over twenty-seven years, Dr. Baumel’s beliefs and understandings come from his study of Judaism. These beliefs are enforced by the teachings of the Rebbe as well as the study of the Tanya, the work of the Alter Rebbe, which he studies regularly with Rabbi Sholom D. Lipskar.

Rabbi Ira Bedzow, PhD

Director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program

New York Medical College

Senior Scholar of the Aspen Center for Social Values


Free Will, Determinism, and Cognitive Pluralism in Halakhic Living Judaism



This essay will frame the “free will vs. determinism” debate in terms of the sources of the different views; it will define the terms used in the debate; and it will examine what is at stake in the debate. The essay will conclude with an analysis as to why Maimonides discusses free will in Hilkhot Tshuvah, and what that implies in terms of his understanding of free will.



Rabbi Dr. Ira Bedzow is the Director of the Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Program at New York Medical College and Senior Scholar of the Aspen Center for Social Values. He is the author of six books, numerous articles and chapters on law, philosophy, and poetry


Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer

Electro-Optics and President Emeritus of the Jerusalem College of Engineering

Editor-in-Chief of B’Or Ha’Torah


Nature vs. Nurture in Eden



Neither Nature nor Nurture can explain the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Nature was created perfect, and Nurture did not yet exist in the absence of family or human society to influence them. The Torah describes in chapter 2 of Genesis that G-d formed Adam and placed him in Eden. G-d's instruction to refrain from eating of the Tree of Knowledge brought free will into play. Before that, humankind was at one with nature, without the burden of accountability for our deeds or for lack thereof. Chapter 3 of Genesis goes on to describe how free will was activated in practice, and the outcome of Adam’s transgression.

Activation of human free will was a central purpose of Creation itself. Without free will, the terms good and evil would seem to be meaningless. Nature exists, Nurture develops with time, but morality, ethics, accountability – these are contingent upon Divine instruction. Neuroscience pursues a scientific foundation for human behavior through Nature and Nurture, but Jewish religion postulates Divine creation of humans, Divine transmission of the Torah, and Divine definition of moral principles.

Can good and evil exist independently of a Divine Creator? Could there be a source other than creation in the image of G-d for morality? Should any non-monotheistic moral code of behavior, be considered idolatry? This presentation will address these fundamental questions.



Editor-in-chief of B’Or Ha’Torah, Joseph S. Bodenheimer is professor emeritus of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology – Lev Academic Center and president emeritus of this unique college. He received his PhD from the Hebrew University in physics. He did postdoctoral studies in laser spectrometry at King’s College, London University, and discovered two previously unknown phase transitions and also developed a new spectrometric technique.

In 1982, Professor Bodenheimer was appointed head of the electro-optics department of the Jerusalem College of Technology. In 1989 he was elected rector and subsequently, until 2009, was president of JCT. Under his leadership, JCT expanded dynamically to become a world-class institute, supporting Israel’s position as a global hi-tech superpower while combining Torah and academic studies. Professor Bodenheimer has endeavored to make Israel a world leader in the field of optical engineering through his students and applied research. Awarded substantial research grants from institutes and foundations throughout the world, he has published over eighty papers and holds eleven patents in a broad range of electro-optical devices and systems.  He has served as consultant for numerous high-technology companies in Israel and the United States and as a member of several national scientific committees.

Professor Bodenheimer sets aside time for daily Talmud study and teaching on a regular basis. A founding member of the California chapter of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, he is a member of the Zomet Institute for Halacha and Technology, and a member of the board of Nishmat Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women.

Fascinated by the combination of science and technology with Jewish studies and ethics, Joseph Bodenheimer is a life-long Zionist leader who loves working with young people, especially his own extensive family. He and his wife, Rachel, have eight children and many grandchildren.


Daniel A. Drubach, MD

Division of Behavioral Neurology

Department of Neurology

Department of Psychiatry

Mayo Clinic and College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota


The Neurobiology of Free Will and Freedom of Choice.



The question whether human beings have free will has been debated by philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. More recently, neuroscientists have applied novel concepts and tools in neuroscience to address this question. I submit that human beings do have free will and the physiological substrate for its exercise is contained within neural networks. I discuss the potential neurobiology of free will by exploring volitionally initiated motor activity and the behavioral response to a stimulus-response paradigm. I also submit that the exercise of free will can be affected in patients with the certain neurological disorders such as the behavioral variant of frontotemporal dementia. Clinicopathological correlation in patients with this disorder provides an opportunity to further elucidate the neural substrate for this fundamental human attribute. We also discuss the clinical correlates of the loss of free will in this population, which is a source of significant distress to patients, significant others and care givers.

Daniel Drubach, MD, completed training in neurology and psychiatry at the University of Maryland and went on to complete a fellowship in neurorehabilitation there. He was head of the Traumatic Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program and codirector of the Coma Emergency Program at the University of Maryland for several years. He then joined the Behavioral Neurology Division at Mayo Clinic, where he has worked for the past seventeen years. He is active in the training of medical students as well as residents and fellows. He has written extensively on the neuroscience of music, meditation, language, religion, and many other topics. He also has published several articles discussing how the application of newly discovered neuroscience concepts can help us answer existential questions about free choice, empathy, mystical experiences, and other phenomena. He has lectured on this subject at multiple academic facilities. His main interest, however, is the interface between Judaic precepts and neuroscience. He is deeply convinced that the study of Judaic works can help us understand the brain, and vice versa.



Professor Yaakov Friedman

Mathematics and Physics

Jerusalem College of Technology/Lev Academic Center


Unification of Laws of Nature by Extending Relativity



The Oneness of G-d is the source of our world. The way we can appreciate this is by scientific search for "oneness" in the world.

Einstein modified the laws of mechanics to conform to electromagnetism. His theories of Special and General Relativity consider the influence of kinetic and gravitational potential energies on spacetime, respectively. Einstein's theories, however, do not explain microscopic behavior, nowadays explained by quantum mechanics. The disparity between relativity and quantum mechanics prevents the unification of laws of physics.

In order to extend relativity to the microscopic region, one must recognize what makes the laws in this region distinct. It is commonly assumed that this region refers to objects of microscopic size. However, the motion of planets and a grain of salt are governed by the same laws! Hence, it is unreasonable to attribute the change in the laws to the size of the objects. On the other hand, the microscopic region is characterized by extremely high accelerations not experienced in everyday life.

General Relativity considers only the influence of acceleration due to gravitational potential energy. Gravitation, however, generates small accelerations compared to those in the microscopic region. Hence, in order to explain microscopic behavior, one needs to consider the influence of any potential energy on spacetime.

My research team is developing a model for describing this. Since it is very difficult to generate such high accelerations as in the microscopic region, one needs extremely high precision measurements. Three experiments using Mossbauer spectroscopy and synchrotron radiation indicated the correctness of this model. 

This model predicts precisely the anomalous precession of the orbits of Mercury and of the Hulse-Taylor binary, without the need of curving spacetime. The model also explains source of chaotic behavior in the microscopic region. 

This model substantiates the approach of Naftali (Norman) Berg (B’Or Ha’Torah 9, pp. 35-49) concerning the comment of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that "the uncertainty principle is not correct from Jewish point of view." Berg proposed that the probabilistic description of quantum mechanics should be replaced by Chaos Theory, or more accurately, non-linear dynamics.



Professor Yaakov Friedman of the Jerusalem College of Technology was born in the town of Munkatch in the former Soviet Union. His father was one of the leaders of the local Jewish community. He graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics of Moscow University in 1971 just prior to his aliyah.

He spent a year at Yeshivat Tomkhey Tmimim Kfar Habad to upgrade his spiritual education, received his PhD in mathematics from Tel Aviv University, and served eight years at the University of California Los Angeles and Irvine as a faculty member and researcher. Upon returning to Israel he served at the Jerusalem College of Technology as lecturer, rector, and vice president for research and head of research authority. He initiated and acted as research and development director of several hi-tech startups and companies. The Lubavitcher Rebbe directed him to continue a career in science as a step for preparing the world for the messianic era.

His research is in pure and applied mathematics, statistics, and theoretical and experimental physics. He is currently developing a new extension of Einstein's Theory of Relativity and testing it at the best synchrotron radiation facilities in Europe. This theory can provide a new insight in understanding microscopic behavior and a breakthrough in quantum computing.


Norman Goldwasser, PhD

Clinical Psychology, Miami Beach, Florida


Neurobiology of Trauma: Clinical and Innovative Treatment Considerations


In this presentation, normal neurological processing of everyday experiences will be described and explained, as well as how trauma can disrupt normal neurological functioning. Diagnostic criteria for post dramatic stress disorder will be delineated and discussed, after which the effects of trauma on other areas of life will be presented, as well. These include its effects on relationships, personality development, functional abilities, and sexuality. Finally, treatment considerations will be discussed, including different psychotherapeutic modalities, psychopharmacology, and spiritual interventions.



Dr. Norman Goldwasser is a licensed psychologist based in Miami Beach and Boca Raton, Florida. Originally from Newport News, Virginia, he attended high school and yeshivah at the Talmudical Academy and Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore, Maryland, and then earned degrees in psychology and health sciences from Johns Hopkins University. He completed graduate training at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, where he received a PhD in clinical psychology and a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology.




Professor Kenneth M. Heilman, MD

The James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor of Neurology

University of Florida College of Medicine and GRECC-VAMC

Gainesville, FL 32610


Jews and Creativity


Jews have been awarded more than 20 percent of the Nobel Prizes, in the last five decades, but Jews comprise less than one percent of the world’s population. Some have claimed that Jew are more creative because they are genetically more intelligent as determined by IQ tests. There is an intelligence threshold that people must reach so that they can acquire the knowledge and skills that are required in their creative domain. However, after this threshold is reached, there is no strong relationship between creativity and IQ. Creative innovation is heavily dependent upon disengagement and divergent thinking. The brain’s frontal-executive networks primarily mediate these functions. Associative and convergent thinking are also important elements of creativity, and it is the temporal and parietal lobes that primarily mediate these functions. Finally, creative products must be produced, and a drive for creative productivity is also mediated by the frontal-executive networks. The development and functions of our brain are dependent upon both nature (genetically determined) and nurture (learned). From the earliest age, many Jewish children are encouraged to question. Questioning to many people is a form of disobedience, but many Jewish children are taught that disobedience in the pursuit of truth and justice is not insolence, but is desirable. This form of disobedience gives rise to disengagement and divergent thinking, two of the critical elements of creativity. Nurture in the forms of learning and training can also alter the brain. Thus, the Jewish peoples’ creativity may not only be related to their genetically determined IQ, but rather the learned propensity to earnestly question and seek better solutions, answers and products.



Dr. Kenneth M. Heilman is the James E. Rooks Jr. Distinguished Professor in the Department of Neurology of the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville. He received his MD degree from the University of Virginia in 1963 and subsequently spent two years training in Internal Medicine at Cornell University Medical Center (Bellevue). During the Vietnam War he joined the Air Force and was Chief of Medicine at the NATO Hospital in Izmir, Turkey. When he was discharged from the service, he took a neurology residency and fellowship at the Harvard Neurological Unit (Boston). After completing his residency and fellowship, he joined the faculty at the University of Florida in 1970, as an assistant professor. He was promoted to associate professor in 1973 and professor in 1975. He received an endowed chair in 1990. In 1998, he was in the first group of the faculty to be awarded the title of Distinguished Professor. He is also a professor of Clinical and Health Psychology.

An active clinician, Dr. Heilman directs the Memory and Cognitive Disorder Clinics at the University of Florida. His primary clinical interests are in attentional, emotional, and cognitive disorders. His expertise as a clinician has been recognized by being listed in every edition of The Best Doctors in America as well as other publications. Dr. Heilman is also an educator. In addition to teaching medical and psychology students, he is active in resident education and has been director of a postdoctoral program that has trained more than 50 postdoctoral fellows. Dr. Heilman has an active research program. He is the author of several textbooks, and has more than 400 books, chapters, and articles in peer-reviewed journals to his name.


Professor Joseph Jacobson

Associate Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Head of the MIT Media Lab's Molecular Machines Group


The Near Future of Autonomous Vehicles, Robots and Artificially Intelligent Systems and Their Halachic Implications



The next five to ten years is very likely to see the introduction of a range of new autonomous systems based on recent extraordinary advances in the power of artificial intelligence (AI) including autonomous cars, robots and drones; exceptionally capable medical diagnostic systems; expert systems capable of generating human answers including potentially halakhic decisions and creative systems capable of novel works of music, design, art and invention.

In this talk we plan to outline a number of technical milestones in AI systems which are likely to be realized over the coming decade and to delve into a range of their halakhic implications including what (i) ethical rules should be programmed into self-driving cars and autonomous robots [.יאמר דדמא דידך סומק טפי סנהדרין עמוד ד-מ:], (ii) can you violate Shabbat on the basis of an AI-based medical diagnosis? (iii) What are the issues of 

copyright and patent on inventions made by machines [הָסַּגַת גְּבוּל], (iv) Can we hold by a halakhic decision made by a machine? Finally we hope to discuss the demarcation between entities which possess or do not possess free choice [בחירה חופשית] in both halakhah and technology.



Joseph Jacobson is Associate Professor at MIT and leads the MIT Media Lab's Molecular Machines group. He received a PhD in physics from MIT (where he set the record for the shortest pulse, in optical cycles, from a laser) and was a postdoctoral fellow in physics at Stanford. His lab, which is focused on the field of Synthetic Biology, has pioneered efforts in Genomically Re-Coded Organisms (The first forms of life which run a different genetic code) and Next Generation Gene Synthesis for programming cells to produce new pharmaceuticals, renewable chemicals, fuels and food. He is the recipient of a Technology Review TR100 Award for the top 100 innovators under 35 years old, the Gutenberg Prize, and a Discover Award, the 2013 Exner Medal, and is a 2016 inductee into the US Patent Office’s Inventors Hall of Fame. Jacobson was a co-founder of E Ink and Gen9 Corporations and was a founding director of One Laptop Per Child (OLPC).


Professor John D. Loike

Director for Special Programs for the Center for Bioethics

Co-director for Graduate Studies in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics

Columbia University,New York

Patient Autonomy: A Bioethical Principle but a Halakhic Dilemma


The potential success of organ transplantation to 100,000 candidates is undergoing a revolutionary change due, in part, to new biotechnologies such as xenotransplantation and gene editing platforms. One technology is the creation of a human organ within an animal embryo that will be used in organ transplantation. Pigs are a prime kidney transplant donor because their kidneys are approximately the same size as human kidneys. A critical medical ethical challenge that emerges from this and other new biotechnologies is the patient’s right to make an autonomous decision. In this presentation, we describe the potential medical impact that these new biotechnologies will have on organ transplantation. We then present the following halakhic issues related to analyzing organ transplantation. When does the patient have the right to engage in potentially risky unproven medical treatments? When does a patient have the right to refuse treatment? How should halakhic and medical authorities appropriately educate the patient about engaging in these new complex biotechnologies? How should a fully informed consent document be written? Finally, what are the parameters to enable a family member to serve as a healthcare surrogate for organ transplantation?



Professor John D. Loike serves as Director of Special Programs in Columbia University's Center for Bioethics and faculty in the Department of Physiology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. His research focuses on the role of immune cells in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases. He serves as the course director of Crossroads in Bioethics, Bioethics for Biomedical Engineers at Columbia College. He is the codirector for a graduate-level course called Atherosclerosis and the Mechanisms of Disease. Dr. Loike also is the creator and managing editor of Columbia University’s Journal of Bioethics and directs a summer internship program called Biomedical Cross-Cultural Education Programs (BioCEP). He has over 100 publications in major scientific and bioethical journals, has coauthored several books, and is a frequent speaker at many professional events in Jewish communities in the US and around the world. Currently, he is coauthoring a book with Rabbi Professor Moshe Tendler on the halakhic perspectives of bioethics, to be published by Yeshiva University Press.



Rabbi Chaim Miller

Chief Editor of Kol Menachem Publishers, New York


Consequences of Traumatic Events from a Torah Perspective and the Role of Free Will



This presentation will discuss the Biblical narrative of the trauma experienced by Lot’s daughters in Genesis 19, and their response. Their case will be compared with other female ancestors of Davidic genealogy, highlighting the role of agency and free will in response to trauma. The role of spirituality as a modality of healing from trauma will be discussed in relation to the hasidic tradition, with particular reference to theTanya of Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.



Rabbi Chaim Miller was educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's School in London, England, and studied medical science at Leeds University. At the age of twenty-one, he first began to explore his Jewish roots in full-time Torah study. Less than a decade later, he published the best-selling Kol Menachem Chumash, Gutnick Edition, which made over a thousand complex discourses of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe easily accessible to the layman. His 2011 compilation, the Lifestyle Books Torah, Five Books of Moses,Slager Edition was distributed to thousands of servicemen and women in the US Army. In 2013 he was chosen by the Jewish Press as one of sixty Movers and Shakers in the Jewish world. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Chani and seven children.



Mordechai Olesky, MS

Agricultural Consultant

Miami, Florida


The Blueprint of Creation and theBlueprint of Life: Locating the Template of Genesis in the structure of DNA



The blueprint of Genesis is derived primarily from the numerical values of letters in key words in the first line of the Torah. The numerical pattern is the template for creation of the entire physical world, including the potential for living beings to survive and reproduce. DNA, the main component of chromosomes that transfers genetic characteristics has a numerical structure corresponding to the pattern derived from Genesis.



Mordechai Olesky is an agricultural consultant who has worked in numerous tropical countries. His specialty is export development of non-traditional crops, with particular interest in organically grown produce. He holds a master's degree from the College of Agriculture at the University of Florida. He resides in The Shul of Bal Harbour community, where he has been a member for over thirty years.


Professor Vera Schwarcz

China historian, Wesleyan University

Beneath the Monumental Past: Re-thinking Historical Trauma from a Jewith and Chinese Perspective



History is the joint language of pain, the crucible of peoplehood.



Forgetfulness leads to exile, remembrance leads to redemption.

Baal Shem Tov


What do survivors of the Shoah and of the Chinese Cultural Revolution have in common? On the one hand, nothing at all given the disparate magnitude of the events and the fact that there was (“officially”) no genocidal plan against intellectuals in China. And yet scars of mind and spirit illuminate pain across the landscape of Chinese and Jewish history and allow us to see how Torah Judaism and certain Confucian values helped survivors to endure as well as to heal.

This paper will draw directly from the comparative research I have been doing on memory and trauma for three decades as well as upon a new book project  centered on the life of Rebbetzin Chaya Walkin Small, who was a child refugee in Kobe and in Shanghai during the Holocaust. The goal is to explore internal resources, both cultural and individual, that account for surviving trauma with dignity and even hope. In disparate ways, Chinese and Jewish traditions provide tools for remembrance and for the articulation of suffering that may be used to challenge conventional Western definitions of historical trauma.

Listening to voices of survivors requires something very different from the stony memorials into which we have consigned so many broken lives both in China and in the West. The din of atrocities remains, alas, deafening in our contemporary world. What is missing in the public discourse is the kol d’mama daka—the soft, nearly-silent whisper of empathetic understanding which allows the sharing of pain.

Instead of viewing historical trauma as a burdensome predicament, a cross cultural study can reveal it to be the glue of genuine peoplehood. Marcus Cicero intuited this opportunity obliquely in the late Roman times, while the hasidic master Baal Shen Tov deemed it central to a redemption of vision of the past precisely during the anti-historical European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century. How to build upon these pioneers of conscientious remembrance remains a key challenge in our own times.



Professor Vera Schwarcz is a China historian and poet focusing on comparative aspects of trauma studies. Schwarcz received her BA from Vassar College, MA from Yale, and PhD from Stanford. For the past four decades she taught at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she was the Freeman Professor of History and East Asian Studies.

Schwarcz has also taught several seminars of Chinese and comparative historiography in the MA program at the Hebrew University. Her wrok was awarded several distinguished fellowships, including the Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fullbright Fellowship, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, and a Lady Davis Fellowship. Vera Schwarcz is the author of nine books about Chinese intellectual history , including Bridge across Broken Time: Chinese and Jewish Cultural Memory (Yale University Press, 1989), which was nominated for the National Jewish Book Award, and Colors of Veracity: A Quest for Truth in China and Beyond (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). She has also written six books of poetry, including most recently: The Physics of Wrinkle Formation (Antrim Press, 2016). Her most recent book is In the Crook of the Rock: Jewish Refuge in a World Gone Mad—The Chaya Leah Walkin Story (Academic Studies Press, 2018). For more information about her work, see


Professor Rabbi Avraham Steinberg, MD


Neurology, Shaare Zedek Medical Center

Associate Clinical Professor of Medical Ethics, Hebrew University–Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem

Head of the Editorial Board, Talmudic Encyclopedia

Director of Yad Harav Herzog


DNA Identification—Halakhic Perspectives


DNA structure is unique to every individual. Hence, it can serve as an ID of a person for many circumstances that require the identification of a specific person. In my presentation I shall discuss the reliability of DNA identification from a scientific as well as from halakhaic standpoints. The specific circumstances where clear and certain identification of a person is required are the following:




A deceased person

Parts of a deceased person

Forensic medicine



Each of these categories have far-reaching halakhic consequences.



Halakhah and Abortion—Reading the Sources


This review of the sources will study the halakhic view on the progressive shifting of balances between the moral-legal claims of the developing embryo to live versus other opposing values and moral-legal claims.



Rabbi Professor Avraham Steinberg, MD, is an associate clinical professor of medical ethics at the Hebrew University–Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem. He is the author of The Encyclopedia of Jewish Medical Ethics, published in seven volumes in Hebrew (two editions) and three volumes in English (translated by Dr. Fred Rosner), for which he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1999. Professor Steinberg is a senior pediatric neurologist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. He directs the Medical Ethics Unit at Shaare Zedek. Head of the editorial board of the Talmudic Encyclopedia and editor-in-chief of the Talmudic Micropedia, he is also director of its publisher, Yad Harav Herzog. He is a member of national and international societies of child neurology, medical ethics, and Jewish medical ethics.

In Israel, Professor Steinberg is the co-chairman of the National Bioethics Council, chairman of the Dying Patient Committee, member of the Brain-Death Criteria Committee, and formerly chairman of the Organ Transplantation Committee, chairman of the Altruistic Live-Organ Donations Committee, member of the Status of the Fetus and Pre-Embryo Committee, and chairman of the Pathological Specimens Committee.

He is the author and editor of 40 books and public reports in 59 volumes, and more than 280 articles and chapters in scientific journals and books on Jewish medical ethics, general medical ethics, the history of medicine, medicine and law, and pediatric neurology. He has given more than 4,000 expert witness opinions in court cases on pediatric neurology and medical ethics.