Anna Wexler, the Jewish atheist mentioned in Robert Wiener’s article about the film Unorthodox, (“‘Unorthodox’ film explores religious rebels,” May 1), was turned off from religion by the apparent
contradiction between the Torah and science. As an Orthodox science teacher, I find the religious school’s inability to properly address Anna’s legitimate question regarding the age of the earth to be reprehensible in the extreme.
There are few, if any, contradictions between science and the Torah, and I would enjoin all science teachers in religious schools to read both Genesis and The Big Bang and The Science of God by Gerald Schroeder, Ph.D. so that they can properly answer questions that might come up regarding religious beliefs and science. This failure on the part of Anna’s teachers reflects a lack of knowledge and understanding of both science and Torah. I have taught the sciences for many years, and I always begin the year by asking my students to write an essay describing how learning science (either biology or chemistry) makes them a better Jew. Students need to understand that there is no division between what they learn in their religious studies and what they learn in their secular studies.
I also make it a point to explain to my students that Adam was only created toward the end of the sixth day of creation. Therefore we only begin counting the 5774 years from that point. Prior to that, the world was on God’s time, not man’s, and God transcends time. As Einstein described in his special theory of relativity, time is entirely relative to one’s frame of reference, and God’s frame of reference is incomparable to that of a human being. Why can’t Orthodox yeshivas hire teachers who are qualified to answer students’ questions regarding science and religion or even philosophy and religion? If students like Anna do not find the answers to their questions among their teachers and Orthodox role models, they are doomed to reject the Torah lifestyle as so much dogma.
I challenge Anna to contact me and let me answer her questions regarding science and religion. Perhaps she will gain a new perspective on her Jewish heritage.