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Alum and Academy supporter Scott Shay (’75) returned to his alma mater on February 21 to discuss ideas from his new book, In Good Faith: Questioning Religion and Atheism, released in September. The book explores common atheist critiques of the Bible and religion, incorporating Jewish, Christian, and Muslim voices.

Referring to atheism, Scott told the students, “I found people struggling with this in the modern era so I wrote the book. But actually, the more fundamental issue is this: idolatry. The Bible was a different kind of book because it was revolutionary to explain idolatry as a set of lies about power. Idolatry is when you subscribes supernatural authority to finite things.” Scott listed 20th century dictators like Stalin, Hitler, Mao and the Kim family of today as examples of modern idolatry. “They all wrote pageantry, created songs about themselves and built statues. This is the exact same trope as pharaoh.”

Scott warned against the danger of idolatry, saying, “Once you leave behind monotheism, and you don’t believe we are all brothers and sisters throughout humanity, there is tremendous danger.”

Following his presentation, Rabbi Matanky, who was a classmate of Scott Shay, led a Q&A discussion. Scott donated a copy of his book to every senior at ICJA.

Scott is a tremendous supporter of the Academy, endowing an annual educational grant, where teachers submit proposals to win the funding each year. This year’s EMT course is funded by the George Shay z”l Endowment Fund, and Scott went to visit the course after his lecture.

Scott Shay has had a successful business career spanning Wall Street, private equity, venture capital, and banking. He co-founded Signature Bank of New York and has served as its Chairman since its formation. He has been a provocative commentator on many financial issues, including among others, how the banking system should best function to help society, the implications of a cashless world, and tax reform. Scott called for the re-imposition of Glass-Steagall and breaking up the big banks at a TEDx talk at the NY Stock Exchange in 2012. Throughout his life, he has been a student of religion and how religion ought to apply to the world outside of the synagogue, church, or mosque. In addition to authoring articles relating to the Jewish community, Scott authored the best-selling Getting Our Groove Back: How to Energize American Jewry (Second Edition, Devora 2008).

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