Every Choice Matters - Fall Lecture Series 2020
Every Choice Matters - Fall Lecture Series 2020


Mondays, October 19, 26, and November 2

8:00-9:00 PM ET




To access these lecture recordings and relevant source sheets, click here.

Life under a global pandemic has brought into focus the fundamental role that risk plays in our lives. Every decision, from where we grocery shop to how often we see our families, carries weight - the weight of knowing that our actions carry some degree of risk to ourselves, those around us, and beyond. What sources of wisdom can help orient us while we navigate choices that feel daunting and impossible?

This series will ground us in two centers: 1) The anchor of our vast tradition of Torah and 2) the anchor of people who are “embodied experts” in risk as a consequence of their daily work and lives. Through a generative havruta, we will reach for insight on how to navigate personal, communal, and structural questions of risk. By learning with people who consciously experience the impact of risk as part of the regular rhythm of their days, we will aim to gain our bearings to more readily step into the mode of living with risk.


Session 1: Dignity and Risk with Jess Belasco and Rabbi Jonathan Malamy

Monday, October 19; 8:00 PM ET

Our first session will focus on the importance of human dignity in the face of risk. We will explore whether and how our sense of self and identity is tied to the ability to make our own choices about the risks we are willing to take. How can communities navigate risk in a way that honors everyone’s dignity when we know that some people are more vulnerable to risk than others?  Our conversation partners will be Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, Director of Meaningful Life at The New Jewish Home in Manhattan, and Jessica Belasco, a disability rights writer and activist and rabbinical student at Jewish Theological Seminary.


Session 2: We Are Born Of Risk with Dr. Chavi Karkowsky

Monday, October 26; 8:00 PM ET

Every individual can trace their origins back to a period of risk, the pregnancy and birth that brought each of us into the world. We don’t always think about these experiences as formative, even as they are how we build our families, and start our own continuity. But these experiences are definitively human, and the most ancient of liminal and insecure times that individuals, families, and communities go through. How can the uncertainty and risk of bringing life into the world - even in these modern and curated times - be a resource to navigate the uncertainty we face in the lives we live out in the world, in general, and especially in these times?   Our conversation partner will be Dr. Chavi Karkowsky, an ob-gyn who specializes in high risk pregnancies and is the author of the recently published book High Risk: A Doctor’s Notes on Pregnancy, Birth and the Unexpected.


Session 3: Zooming Out, Zooming In: Risk, Values, and Hard Choices with Dr. David Slusky

Monday, November 2; 8:00 PM ET

The array of choices we have to make each day can be overwhelming, especially as we try to weigh various risks against various gains. What rubrics exist to understand the meaning and impact of these choices? How can these rubrics help us make sense of our own intuitions around what levels of risk we are willing to tolerate and for what purposes? Can this period of heightened awareness of risk offer revelatory insight into what we care about most and how to live out our values, even during challenging periods?  Our conversation partner will be Dr. David Slusky, De-Min and Chin-Sha Wu Associate Professor of Economics and Associate Professor of Population Health at the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas.



Speaker Bios

Jess Belasco is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before entering JTS, she studied Torah at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and at Yeshivat Hadar. She is also an alum of the Dorot Fellowship in Israel, and is a current Wexner Graduate Fellow. She has taught in a number of contexts, including Yale University and the National Havurah Institute. Her interests include midrash, disability-informed Torah, and using Jewish texts to facilitate honest conversations about human and spiritual experiences.

Dr. Chavi Eve Karkowsky is a high risk obstetrician and author. Dr. Karkowsky has written for Slate, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. Her first book, High Risk: Stories of Pregnancy, Birth, and the Unexpected mixes clinical vignettes with historical, policy and ethical investigations as it explores the modern state of women's health care, parenting, families, and more.  Dr. Karkowsky works in her day job in the Bronx, in some of the most underserved zip codes in the United States; she has also worked in an ultra-Orthodox hospital in Israel, and taught at various Hadar Shavuot Retreats since 2002ish. She lives in Washington Heights with her partner and their 4 somewhat stir-crazy kids.

Rabbi Jonathan Malamy is Director of Meaningful Life at The New Jewish Home where he oversees Spiritual Care, Religious Life, Therapeutic Recreation and Volunteers.

Ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2000, Rabbi Malamy also studied Marriage and Family Therapy at Northwestern University. He is a member of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains.


Dr. David Slusky is the De-Min and Chin-Sha Wu Associate Professor of Economics and an Associate Professor of Population Health (by courtesy) at the University of Kansas. He was also a Health Policy Advisor for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. He received a B.S. in Physics and International Studies from Yale University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Princeton University. He is a former member of the organization committee of Minyan Tikvah in Philadelphia and led the team that organized the 2009 Kehilat Hadar Shavuot Retreat. He was a fellow at Yeshivat Hadar in the summer of 2009.