The center will pioneer a unique collaboration between halachic experts and faculty members from JCT’s science departments to address questions that arise in the intersection of Torah and tech.
he Jerusalem College of Technology (JCT) announced the launch of the Torah and Technology Research Center which will tackle ethical and halachic (Jewish religious law) issues presented by modern technology.
The research center will operate under Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, head of JCT’s yeshiva and Jewish studies programs, and will pioneer a unique collaboration between halachic experts and faculty members from JCT’s computer science, engineering and health sciences departments to address questions that arise in the intersection of Torah and technology.
For example, the question of whether or not one can ride in an autopilot vehicle (as some of the issues with actively driving a regular car would then not be relevant) could be addressed by the research center.
“Despite rapid technological development and growth, there is currently no centralized, scholarly body equipped to deal with all of the halachic implications and questions that have arisen as a result. Our new center fills that void,” said Rimon. “Today, not only are halachic authorities struggling to keep up with the flood of questions regarding issues that never before existed, but they also lack the technological expertise necessary to understand the full scope of the issues. The Torah and Technology Research Center strives to solve this dilemma by facilitating an unprecedented meeting of the minds across halacha and science.”
The research center will serve as a centralized authority for the international Jewish community, as well as facilitating the development of technologies adapted to meet halachic requirements for Shabbat, among other areas. The center will also disseminate scholarly material and host international symposia that will bring experts from around the world to JCT to discuss recent innovations and developments in halacha and technology.
Engaging the broader public in serious discussions of issues concerning halacha and technology is important to the center, in order educate the public and promote greater appreciation of the importance of these issues.
Rimon recently published Shabbat, a two-volume set of books that serves as a first step towards a comprehensive in-depth analysis of the prohibitions on the Sabbath. He’s also the founder and chairman of the Sulamot organization which develops cutting-edge educational technologies and innovative curricula for Jewish studies and will be partnering with the Torah and Technology Research Center.
“For five decades, JCT has been tremendously proud of our excellence in both Jewish studies and technology-related fields. This has expressed itself in providing high-level training to a student body which spans the religious community from Haredi to Dati Leumi (modern Orthodox). This unparalleled track record places our college in a unique position to be a trailblazer at the intersection of Torah and technology through the new center,” said Professor Chaim Sukenik, President of JCT.
The center is unique compared to similar initiatives as it will deal with not only the halachic issues related to technology, but also the moral and ethical implications involved, explained the JCT to the Jerusalem Post. Technologies of the future will also be explored by the center.
The coordination between halachic scholars and researchers from the JCT’s science/engineering faculty will also alter the way technology is applied in observant Jewish communities.
The center’s website will also include public discussion forums surrounding halachic issues that the center is considering, in addition to position papers, electronic publications and archived recordings of workshops and guest lectures.
Endorsements from the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council of America and their respective courts, suggest that the responsa from the Center will be widely accepted.
The Walder Foundation, a family foundation based in the Chicago area, supports the center. Dr. Joseph and Elizabeth Walder have been passionately interested in science education within Jewish schools for many years, and the new research center keeps with their world view that embraces science and technology within an observant Jewish world.