About Professor Joseph S. Bodenheimer
The new editor-in-chief of B’Or Ha’Torah, Joseph S. Bodenheimer is a full professor of electro-optics at the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev) and President Emeritus of this unique college. He received his PhD from the Hebrew University in physics. He did postdoctoral studies in laser spectrometry at Kings College, London University and discovered two previously unknown phase transitions and also developed a new spectrometric technique.
In 1982 Professor Bodenheimer was appointed head of the electro-optics department of the Jerusalem College of Technology. In 1989 he was elected rector and subsequently, up until 2009, was president of JCT. Under his leadership, JCT expanded dynamically to become a world-class institute combining Torah and academic studies, supporting Israel’s position as a global hi-tech superpower.
Professor Bodenheimer has endeavored to make Israel a world leader in the field of optical engineering, through his students and applied research. Awarded substantial research grants from institutes and foundations throughout the world, he has published over eighty papers and holds eleven patents in a broad range of electro-optical devices and systems. He has served as consultant for numerous high technology companies in Israel and the United States, and as a member of several national scientific committees.
Professor Bodenheimer sets aside time for daily Talmud study, and gives regular shiurim. A founding member of the California chapter of the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, he is a member of the Zomet Institute for Halacha and Technology, a member of the board of Nishmat Center for Advanced Torah Study for Women, and the president of Ramban Synagogue in Katamon, Jerusalem.
Fascinated by the combination of science and technology with Jewish studies and ethics, Joseph Bodenheimer is a life-long Zionist leader who loves working with young people, especially his own extensive family. He and his wife Rachel have eight children and many, many grandchildren.
About Professor Branover
Professor Herman Branover is known in the Jewish communities of Israel, Russia, and the West as an inspiring author, translator, publisher, and educator. He is known in the world scientific community as the leading pioneer of the field of magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). His research and development company Solmecs developed a non-conventional environmentally safe energy generator which has led to many useful spin- off technologies.
As a young scientist in Riga, Latvia Branover wrote philosophical essays questioning atheism, materialism, and determinism and seeking G-d. These struggles to free his mind and soul from Communist propaganda were secretly reproduced and distributed underground. His manuscripts were smuggled out of the USSR to Israel and published there in Russian and Hebrew by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
The first Jew holding a Doctor of Science degree and the title of Full Professor to receive an exit visa to leave the USSR, Branover was among the initiators of the Jewish revival movement in Soviet Russia. During his fifteen-year struggle to leave the Soviet Union, he initiated and directed a great number of activities advancing Jewish education and culture. Frequent arrests, interrogations, and harassment by the KGB did not stop him from teaching Jewish ethics to many individuals and groups. His Jewish spiritual activism has increased since his immigration to Israel and is directed at Russian-, Hebrew-, and English-speaking Jews throughout the world. He circles the globe answering invitations to teach at seminars, conferences, and lectures, responding to every personal plea for practical help and moral encouragement, and answering all perturbing questions that people from all walks of life ask him. In his personal conduct he strictly adheres to the customs and mystical philosophy of Habad Hasidism, but he does not impose a sectarian point of view on Jews from other streams of Judaism.
Having learned Hebrew secretly at great peril while a student in Leningrad, Branover undertook to translate some of the fundamental books of Judaism into Russian. He continued this work in Israel as president of the SHAMIR Association of Religious Professionals from the USSR and editor-in-chief of its publishing house. He organized and trained a team of translators and editors to complete and expand his work, which includes most importantly the Pentateuch with commentaries, the Code of Jewish Law, and writings of Maimonides and Yehuda Halevy. Over 12 million copies of 400 titles of Russian-language Judaica published by SHAMIR have helped thousands of Russian-speaking Jews regain their national spiritual heritage that 70 years of Communist oppression snuffed out. The SHAMIR office in Jerusalem runs a free employment placement service for immigrants, which boasts a 20-percent success rate (considerably higher than that of commercial employment bureaus).
In 1991 the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences invited Branover to supervise its 9-volume Encyclopedia of Russian Jewry. Covering 1000 years, the encyclopedia details the contribution of Jews to Russian and world civilization. The late Sir Isaiah Berlin of Oxford was the first chief consultant of the encyclopedia, and the Israeli Ministry of Education helps support the project.
Under Branover’s direction, SHAMIR established a well-accredited Jewish day school in Petersburg. SHAMIR also sent Rabbi Natan Barkan of blessed memory to Riga to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Riga and Latvia. Together with Rabbi Barkan and Prof. Ruvin Ferber, Branover organized international conferences in Riga entitled “Jews in a Changing World.” This is the only forum in the world where former Soviet Jews discuss spiritual and cultural problems on an academic level. Most of the Russian-speaking participants are successful academics who have never before studied Jewish wisdom literature or thought of applying it to their lives.
After leaving the Soviet Union, Branover traveled extensively within Israel and throughout the United States, Europe, and Australia. He saw the spiritual alienation rampant there. Whereas in the Soviet Union atheism was brutally enforced by the state, in the West a more subtle indoctrination has taken place. In both cases, people have been led to believe that science has disproved religion. To clarify the misunderstandings about science vis-à- vis religion, with the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1981 Branover initiated an international English-Hebrew journal, B’Or Ha’Torah. This refereed and illustrated journal discusses science, the humanities, and contemporary social and personal issues in the light of the Torah. Major topics of discussion include: the philosophical implications of the indeterminism of contemporary physics; the nature and limitations of science versus those of religion; medical ethics, old age, dying, and euthanasia; the relationship between Divine Creation and human creativity; business ethics; ecology in Jewish law and tradition; family and community values; the dynamics of prayer and repentance. B’Or Ha’Torah also publishes creative kosher poetry and fiction, life stories, artwork, and nature photography. Papers by Branover in B’Or Ha’Torah include: “A Return to Mother Russia” (Vol. 7E), “The Lubavitcher Rebbe on Science and Technology” (vol. 9), “Towards Environmental Consciousness: The Need to Educate”(vol. 10), “The Concept of Absolute Time in Science and Jewish Thought” (with R. Ferber, vol. 11), “Soul and Body—Judaism, Modern Medicine, and Cloning (with T. Gurvich, vol.12).
In 1996 Jason Aronson Publishers of Northvale, New Jersey published Science in the Light of the Torah, an anthology of major science-related articles from B’Or Ha’Torah. Seven international B’Or Ha’Torah conferences have been held in Miami, Florida. The proceedings of the first conference were edited by Herman Branover, Aryeh Gotfyrd, and Shalom Lipskar and published under the title Fusion by Feldheim Publishers in 1990. The papers from the third through the ninth conferences were published in volumes 12 through 19 of B’Or Ha’Torah.
Branover’s autobiography Return, including De Profundis, a collection of his early philosophical essays has been published in Russian, Spanish, Portuguese, and English. Celebrating Professor Branover’s seventieth birthday and the thirtieth anniversary of SHAMIR, a special reprint of Branover’s autobiography RETURN was published by SHAMIR in the spring of 2002. This 272-page reprint contains 32 pages of photographs and philosophical essays by the author that had not yet been published in English.
Among the awards that Professor Branover has won are:
- 1979 A.D. Bergman Prize for Science and Technology
- 1990 Ramniceaunu Prize in Economics from Tel Aviv University
- 1992 Prize of the Chairman of the Knesset for Quality of Life and Immigrant Absorption
- 2001 Menachem Begin Heritage House Letter of Honor
He received honorary doctorates from the Jerusalem College of Technolgy, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Technical University of Petersburg, and Yeshiva University. He was a member of the presitigous Moscow Energy Club, the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Latvian Academy of Science. His scientific publications include twenty books, thirty patents, and hundreds of articles in professional journals. If the Branover Report on the Professional Employment of New Immigrants written for three prime ministers of Israel had been implemented, Israel would be stronger internally and in the face of the world today.
Herman Branover's life story of faith, fortitude, perseverance, and unbounded giving to others and to G-d has inspired thousands of Jews to discover their spiritual heritage and to use it as a way of life and source of well-being.