Adult Education: The Science of Noah – Recap

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov 1, 2020 a large group of CEH congregants and guests learned from two fabulous speakers on the topic “The Science of Noah.” This event was the Adult Education portion of the program. Our Religious School students learned about the story of Noah through a science lens last Sunday, October 25. Both programs were funded through a competitive grant from the Scientists in Synagogues program which is funded by Sinai and Synapses.

Sunday’s program, hosted by Susan Hamm and Laura Naide, included welcoming remarks from Laura, our Director of Religious Education; Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman, Founder of Sinai and Synapses; and Rav Natan Freller, CEH’s spiritual leader.

Our first speaker was Dr. Helmut Bruckner, Professor Emeritus of Geography of the University of Cologne, Germany. Dr. Bruckner described four potential explanations for the geological event that gave rise to the Bible’s flood narrative, complete with a discussion of the geology of the nearby region and what the geological rock record says about the time period in question. These four explanations include: (1) post-glacial flooding of the Persian/Arabian Gulf (between 15,000 and 7,000 years ago), (2) tsunamis caused by a cosmic impact by a meteorite (10,000 years ago), (3) post-glacial flooding of the Black Sea (8,4000 years ago) and (4) several mega-floods in Central and Lower Mesopotamia (about 5,000 years ago). Dr. Bruckner finds the strongest evidence for the fourth theory in the rock record of several tels (settlement mounds) in the region.

Our second speaker was Dr. Kristine Garroway, Visiting Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Dr. Garroway shared the details of five Flood narratives: (1) the Sumarian account, (2) the Atrahasis Epic, (3) the Gilgamesh Epic, and (4 & 5) the Biblical Flood narratives. Dr. Galloway compared and contrasted the motivations for flood narratives, why the hero survivor (e.g., Noah) was selected, the reactions of the divinity post-flood, and the outcome for humans after the flood. She concluded that what a society chooses to pass on in oral or written tradition says interesting things about that society’s most valued beliefs and cultural norms.

We were excited to see so many attendees for this program: participants were generally from CEH, although our program attracted additional interest: we had participants from the local Kol Ami community as well as from Idaho and Germany! We look forward to presenting more STEM-based programming thanks to our Scientists in Synagogues grant which runs through 2021.

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