May 22, 2024
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MTA Honors College Explores Connection Between Torah and the Secular World With Rabbi Dr. JJ Schacter

On Tuesday, September 24, talmidim who participate in MTA’s Honors College program were privileged to hear from author, scholar, religious leader and grandfather of MTA’s own Eli Knapp (‘22), Rabbi Dr. JJ Shacter, who discussed his essay from Judaism’s Encounter With Other Cultures: Rejection Or Integration?, which talmidim read over the summer.

The discussion centered around the topic that the Honors College is delving into this year: While, as Jews, Torah is always our primary focus, how can other important things, such as science and the secular world, co-exist with Torah remaining as the core principle of our world? While Rabbi Dr. Schacter recognized the importance of Torah, he also emphasized our need for the secular world. For example, we fly in planes and we use computers—none of these things come from the Torah, they come from the secular world. Therefore, we should respect the contributions that can be made, even from a perspective that does not include Jewish beliefs. Rabbi Dr. Schacter brought up the important point of Torah U’Madda—it’s not just Torah, but Torah and sciences. Since we live in the secular world, it’s important to put Torah first, but also to immerse ourselves in secular studies.

The Honors College looks forward to further exploring this important topic throughout the year. An enriched academic program, the Honors College offers seminars with renowned speakers, cultural and religious experiences, the utilization of MTA’s location in New York City as an integral part of the classroom experience, and monthly programs and trips to enhance the understanding of religious, historical, artistic and scientific issues. Another major component of the Honors College is a commitment to comprehensive academic mentoring, where talmidim are paired with a mentor, from either the MTA or YU faculty, who meet with them on a regular basis and help guide their academic growth.

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