Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists
The Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists (AOJS) is an organization of scientists that focuses on the interrelationships between science and Halakha.
The organization was established at a meeting held on December 28, 1947, with a focus on five goals:
- clarifying the connection between science and Torah;
- considering the application of the principles of halakha in particular issues;
- providing an opportunity for education and interaction with professionals sharing a common interest;
- providing guidance to Orthodox Jewish students considering a career in science;
- providing study and training in areas of science needed in Israel.
The organization reached nearly 2,000 dues-paying members in the early 1960s. Time magazine reported that the organization had over 1,000 members by the late 1960s. AOJS is still active and recently celebrated its 49th Annual Summer Convention, with the theme "A Torah-Informed Evaluation of Darwin's Theory of Evolution"
The AOJS is an organization devoted to the orientation of science within the framework of Orthodox Jewish tradition. The organization aims to assist those endeavors which will help improve the Torah way of life for Jews throughout the modern world, both intellectually and practically.
The Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists (AOJS) was founded in 1947 by a small group of religiously committed scientists. Their goal was to promote a Weltanschauung integrating Torah and science and to provide a social milieu conducive to a “Torah Im Derekh Eretz” communal life. The conventions, disputations and publications generated by the AOJS reveal a vibrant interaction between Torah and science, halacha and modernity and Judaism and secularism. The AOJS provides an intellectual meeting ground for persons who, by virtue of their professional qualifications, interests and activities, can contribute to the constructive incorporation of scientific knowledge and thinking into the Torah way of life. It unites the common interests of Orthodox Jewish scientists throughout the world.
The specific aims of the Association include:
Education and guidance
Assistance to individuals and institutions in the solution of practical problems encountered by Orthodox Jews and their children in the study or practice of scientific pursuits; support for the educational ideal of a true synthesis of Jewish and secular studies.
Study of the applicability of scientific method and knowledge to the strengthening of Torah ideology; contribution to the solution of ideological problems relating to the apparent points of conflict between scientific theory and Orthodox Judaism.
Provision of consulting services to Rabbinical authorities concerned with the implications of technological developments for the Jewish law.
AOJS continues its work, which includes, planning major events which attract numerous participants, responding to individual inquiries on issues of practical halacha related to science and medicine and publishing articles and essays related to science and medicine, allowing them to successfully reach the Jewish community. In the end, though, the heart of AOJS is not the schedule or the programs, it is the thinkers, like you, who are committed to exploring contemporary scientific developments and dilemmas from a halachic perspective.
There was a time, not very long ago, that the very notion of an Orthodox Jewish Scientist was considered an anomaly on the Jewish scene. In the 1940s, despite general shock over the Holocaust, some of the most prestigious universities still had formal or informal quotas limiting the number of Jews, and exams were often held on Shabbat and Jewish holidays. As a result, Orthodox Jewish science students constituted only about one in 1,000 Jewish university students in the U.S. Today, the religiously observant doctor, physicist, computer programmer, engineer, and psychologist are commonplace. Often called upon by the rav, or Torah authority, to explain the scientific principles that will guide him in his halachic decision making, the Orthodox Jewish Scientist has become an integral part of Orthodox Judaism observance in the ever-changing modern world. Rabbis faced with the need to apply the halacha to a rapidly changing technological world find it easier to communicate their needs to Torah scholars who are equally well versed in the sciences. The Orthodox Jewish Scientist has indeed come a long way in the synthesis of Torah and science.
On December 28, 1947, a group of scientists, most of them graduate students in the natural sciences, sat down at the first meeting of AOJS. The founding group set down five goals: to clarify the bond between science and the Torah; to apply Torah principles in solving specific problems; to further themselves professionally and socially by associating with others who had common interests; to advise religious students interested in science; and to train in areas of science needed in Israel. The organization reached its peak in the early 1960s when they had nearly 2,000 dues-paying members.
Since its inception in 1947, the AOJS has been at the forefront of addressing the interface of science and halacha. Initially, AOJS served as a safe haven and social outlet for a few frum physicists and chemists to share their ideas, and as an agency to resolve apparent conflicts between scientific findings and Torah beliefs. It also became the address for those seeking halachic guidance in areas where halacha and science interfaced.
In the 1960s, AOJS expanded its domain to service those in the medical, nursing, computer psychological and social sciences. It was also during this period that AOJS became involved in social activism. It would decry, raise public awareness, and create and/or assist agencies working in the areas of spousal, child and drug abuse in the Orthodox community. It was also active in seeking the release of Jewish scientists from the USSR.
The AOJS is divided into three major sections: physical & computer sciences, medical & life sciences, and behavioral sciences. The Orthodox Jewish scientist working through the AOJS, has become a major source of reliable scientific information for the Torah community all over the world, and is recognized as having made important contributions in very practical ways to the development of the halacha.
From the perspective of Jewish law and theology, AOJS provides a forum for research, innovation and discussion of these increasingly difficult areas. AOJS, as well, has created an open forum in which scientists can consult, network and concur with fellow professionals in their discipline. There are, to date, over 2000 members and friends of the AOJS, worldwide - including professionals (doctors, psychologists, research scientists, etc.), academicians, rabbis, students and informed lay people.
AOJS has hosted hundreds of conventions, conferences, symposiums and lecture series' that have broadly focused on these subjects. Thousands of articles have been published and circulated to the Orthodox Jewish public pertaining to the science/halacha interface. Books have been published, scientific advances have been made, difficult areas in halacha have been clarified. All this…is AOJS.
Letter of invitation to the formation
December 17, 1947
A number of us have concluded that the time is ripe - especially in view of the imminence of a Jewish State - to form an organization of scientists who have a traditional Jewish point of view. By such an association we hope to strengthen the fourfold bond between ourselves, science, Jewish tradition, and the Jewish nation.
Certain suggestions along which the group may proceed have been noted as follows: -By means of lectures and mutual interchange of ideas to clarify the bond between science and Jewish traditions including specific problems in halacha. -By mutual aid to simplify difficulties in upholding Shabbos in universities and industries. -To assist Orthodox youth to specialize in science. -To obtain information on scientific endeavor in Eretz Israel and on how we can be of assistance there.
You can help put these ideas plus any others that you may have into concrete shape by coming to the first meeting of the group. This will take place, IY"H:
Sunday, December 28, 1947…7:30 P.M. In the home of ELMER OFFENBACHER 181 E. 93rd Street, New York, N.Y.
Kindly spread this information to your friends who may have an interest in this group and invite them along.
We think you will enjoy the Chavershaft in a group that will have the greatest known density of Orthodox Jewish scientists.
Elmer L. Offenbacher Josh Rosenbloom
(not all currently active)
Intercom Quarterly: a quarterly newsletter including articles written by AOJS members and non-members on any topic of their choice in the halacha/science interface (approximately 4 articles per issue). Articles are submitted on a volunteer basis. A call for articles is publicized prior to each issue. Comments on previous articles are also included in subsequent issues. Special Editions are as well circulated, corresponding to and summarizing different annual AOJS events. The Intercom Quarterly editors are Yossi Bennett and Chaya Wajngurt-Levy, Ph.D.
Proceedings: a compilation of essays written by experts in the different fields of science and halacha published (by Feldheim Publishers) between the years of 1966 and 1975. Eleven volumes of Proceedings were published. Volumes of Proceedings are no longer being published. However, AOJS is working on transcribing the Proceedings of old and making them available to the public over the AOJS website.
Halacha Bulletin (renamed Practical Medical Halacha): originally, a monthly, formal responsum to a halachic question of interest to our members edited and circulated by Dr. Fred Rosner and Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler. Initiated by the Rephael Society- Mental-Dental Section of AOJS, presently, Halacha Bulletin is being circulated on a quarterly basis and is based on teachings from the Nishmat Avraham by Dr. Abraham S. Abraham. The Practical Medical Halacha director is Robert Schulman, M.D.
Rephael Society Newsletter: a newsletter devoted to one topic in Jewish medical ethics each issue. Aside from a medical overview of the topic, the Newsletter includes the comments and opinions of the leading authorities in Jewish medical ethics today. The Rephael Society Newsletter director is Daniel Eisenberg, M.D.
Directory(s): a directory listing all orthodox physicians and dentists and their contact information in the United States, regardless of membership in AOJS; a directory listing all members of AOJS members and their contact information; a Shomer Shabbat Residency Directory listing all Shomer Shabbat Residencies in the U.S.
AOJS has published a number of books, many of which are available for purchase through AOJS.
- 1948-1959 Eli Levine, Ph.D.
- 1960-1962 Elmer Offenbacher, Ph.D.
- 1963 Herbert Goldstein, Ph.D.
- 1964-1965 Azriel Rosenfeld, Ph.D.
- 1966-1967 Seymour Glick, M.D.
- 1968-1969 Leo Levi, Ph.D.
- 1970 Theodore Fink, M.D.
- 1971-1972 Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, Ph.D.
- 1973-1974 Rabbi Paul Kahn, Ph.D.
- 1975-1976 Nora Smith, M.D.
- 1977-1978 Herbert Goldstein, Ph.D.
- 1979-1980 Rueben Rudman, Ph.D.
- 1981-1982 Lester Kaufman, A.C.S.W.
- 1983-1984 Erwin Friedman, Ph.D.
- 1985-1986 Sheldon Kornbluth, P.E.
- 1987-1988 Allen J. Bennett, M.D., F.A.C.P.
- 1989-1990 Seymour Applebaum, M.D.
- 1990-1993 Neil Maron, Ph.D.
- 1993- Allen J. Bennett, M.D., F.A.C.P.
- The History of AOJS, Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. Accessed October 23, 2008.
- Staff. Orthodoxy's New Look, Time (magazine), January 19, 1968. Accessed October 23, 2008.
- Elmer L. Offenbacher, “The Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists (AOJS) The First Two Decades (1947–1967).” BDD, Bekhol Derakhekha Daehu: Journal of Torah and Scholarship, 15, Sept. 2004, pp. 5–36.