L Zoloth

The Divinity School is pleased to share that Laurie Zoloth is the recipient of the seventh annual Borsch-Rast Book Prize and Lectureship for her book Second Texts & Second Opinions: Essays Toward a Jewish Bioethics (Oxford University Press, 2022).

Zoloth is the Margaret E. Burton Professor of Religion and Ethics in the Divinity School, the College, the Program in Jewish Studies, and the MacLean Center for Biomedical Ethics at the Pritzker School of Medicine. In Second Texts & Second Opinions, Prof. Zoloth takes as her book’s subject the intensely private discussions that arise when ordinary people confront life and death choices and struggle with decisions in a world of medical and scientific complexity. Drawing on numerous cases that have come before the ethics board of a large public California hospital system, Zoloth explores the dilemmas presented in these cases and reflects on the competing, often incommensurate moral appeals offered by the participants. She analyzes the cases against and with similar concepts within Jewish thought, using rabbinic texts to make legible the factors at play in making ethical judgments. Zoloth argues that these texts can be usefully applied to problems in bioethics. She develops the case for a textual turn that is fully imagined and enriched by the many possible re-interpretations of narrative: biblical, rabbinic, medieval, modern, and post-modern.

In response to receiving the Borsch-Rast book prize, Prof. Zoloth connected her current work to her beginnings as a nurse in the California public hospital system. “I am deeply honored by this prize, for it recognizes what has been a lifetime of thinking about bioethics and the deep moral gesture that is medicine, from the time I first trained, at 19, as a nurse, and until now, as a professor,” she said. “I also believe that telling these stories is one small way to honor the families and caregivers that are the subject of this work—that is my hope in all my writing.”

The Borsch-Rast Book Prize was established in 2016 by the Graduate Theological Union. Honoring the legacy of Frederick Houk Borsch (1935-2017) and Harold W. Rast (1933-2004), the prize is given annually to GTU alumni and faculty in recognition of innovative theological scholarship. 

Prof. Zoloth’s research focuses on religion and ethics, drawing on a broad range of texts, from the Bible and the Talmud to the writings of Emmanuel Levinas, Hannah Arendt, and Margaret Susman. She is particularly interested in the ethics of genetic engineering, gene drives, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. She also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy,