Last year, I found myself sitting at my teacher’s dining table, surrounded by my classmates, discussing how the Bible may not contradict Darwin’s theory of evolution, although many people think it does. This was Shabbat dinner at my AP Biology class’s Shabbaton. Our teacher, Rabbi Teitcher, had invited us to his house for Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch to discuss biology topics from a Jewish perspective. I don’t know if anything else better exemplifies the concept of “Torah U’Madda.” There we were, a class of high school juniors, voluntarily spending time together with our teacher outside of the classroom to learn. And although AP Biology is part of the secular studies at the Academy, we were taking time to look at it through a Jewish lens. Friday night we discussed the possible compatibility of evolution with the story in Bereishit. Shabbat afternoon we talked about kilayim, the Torah’s prohibition against cross-breeding, and its implications for genetically modified organisms.
I have always loved science in all of its forms. As a sophomore I took honors Chemistry and as a senior I am now taking AP Physics. But it was in that Biology class that I most clearly saw the advantage to learning science at the Academy. Only at the Academy would an AP Biology class approach its subject with the same seriousness from both a secular and a Judaic standpoint. The Shabbaton may have been the only time we specifically set out to discuss biology from a Jewish perspective, but we often ended up doing so in class. How could we resist when we came to such inviting topics as medical ethics? But make no mistake, we took the class seriously, studied hard for the AP Exam, and ended up with a class average score of 4, higher than the national average.
It is this ability to promote excellence in both general and Judaic studies that has made Ida Crown my academic home. The double curriculum may be tough, but my friends who have already graduated assure me that college is easy in comparison. Only at the Academy will you find that both the administration and the students are equally devoted to general studies and Judaic studies.
By Josephine Gendler (’14)