HISTORY OF THE MIAMI INTERNATIONAL TORAH & SCIENCE CONFERENCES
ABSOLUTE STANDARDS IN A WORLD OF RELATIVITY
When the Lubavitcher Rebbe blessed Rabbi Sholom Dovber Lipskar and Professor Herman Branover for organizing the First Miami International Torah & Science Conference, he circled the word “relativity” in the conference subtitle. The Rebbe noted that Einstein’s research probed the nature of light. Just as the speed of physical light provides a measure of absoluteness to the physical world, the light of the Torah commandments, invoked by kindling the Hanukkah candles, signifies another level of absoluteness. Thus, the First Miami Torah & Science Conference was held during Hanukkah of 1987 at the Sheraton Hotel of Bal Harbour. Its proceedings, entitled Fusion, were published in 1990 by Feldheim Publishers. The Second Miami Torah & Science Conference was held at the same venue on December 24-26, 1989.
Professor Nathan Katz of the Florida International University (FIU) and Ilana Attia of B’Or Ha’Torah Journal of Science, Life and Art in the Light of the Torah (BHT) joined the organizing committee for the third conference, held December 14-16, 1999, at FIU. Its discussions on the ethical problems of human cloning and genetic engineering were published in BHT 12 and 13. The theme of the fourth conference (December 18-20, 2001) was “Time, Space, and Being;” its papers were published in B’Or Ha’Torah 14 and 15. “Looking for Links between the Divine, Human, Natural, Artificial, and Virtual” was the theme of the fifth conference that took place on December 16-18, 2003. Its proceedings were published in BHT 16, 17, and 18. The theme of the sixth conference, held on December 13-15, 2005, “Unity, Duality, and Multiplicity” generated provocative discussion on how Jewish schools should respond to the Intelligent Design versus Evolution debate. These papers were published in BHT 17, 18, and 19. On December 12-15, 2007, for the seventh conference the venue moved to The Shul of Bal Harbour, where the theme was “Through the Two-Way Looking Glass: Looking at Nature through the Torah & at Torah through Nature.” Most of these papers were published in BHT 19 and 20. In 2009, the eighth conference, under the banner of “Judaism at the Cutting Edge of Medicine, Genetics, Physics & Culture” was held at The Shul, and its papers were published in BHT 20 and 21, which heralded its new publisher, the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev) and editor-in-chief Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer. The ninth conference, focused on “Memory, Soul, and Brain,” was held at The Shul on December 22-25, 2011. Its papers were published in BHT 22. The theme of the tenth conference, held at The Shul on December 13-16, 2013, was “Beginnings, Endings, and Renewals.” Its discussions ranged from Creation to assisted reproduction, fatherhood, and the end of life and beyond. Part of the written papers were published in BHT 23, and the remainder in BHT 24. The tenth conference was made possible by the generous support of Mrs. Sylvia Fox, who dedicated the meeting to her late husband, Dr. Morry S. Fox. The eleventh conference reached out to heart and soul with the theme “Heart, Mind, Behavior and Purpose.” Held at The Shul on December 11-14, 2015, it was dedicated by Aryeh Leib ben Sarah Henia and Dr. Allen Packer in memory of his father, Menashe ben Mordechai Dovid, and its written papers were published in BHT 25. Under the banner of “Nature vs. Nurture: Intellect, Emotion, Behavior and Ethics,” the twelfth conference, held at The Shul on December 21-24, 2017, stimulated the audience with discussions on free will, the Internet, the brain, and robotics. The written papers of the 2017 conference are being prepared for BHT 26. The thirteenth conference, held at The Shul on December 12-15, 2019, explored the theme of “Sustainability, Resilience & the Torah” . We look forward to a very interesting and successful 14th conference which is being planned for December 8-12, 2021.
We regret that Professor Herman Branover’s health does not enable him to continue his work with BHT and the Miami conferences, but we have been compensated by the active participation of Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer, President Emeritus of and Professor of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology-Lev Academic Center.