Laurie Zoloth, a leader in the field of religious studies with particular scholarly interest in bioethics and Jewish studies, has been appointed dean of the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Zoloth serves as a Charles McCormick Deering Professor of Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University, holding appointments in the Department of Religious Studies in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and in the Feinberg School of Medicine. President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier announced her appointment as dean, which will begin July 1.

“The University of Chicago Divinity School has a long history as a leader in the academic study of religion. It has an opportunity not only to expand and deepen this work in the coming years, but to bring this expertise to a much richer, informed, dispassionate public discourse on religion,” Zimmer and Diermeier said. “Laurie’s leadership in the field of religious studies, her scholarship in areas of Judaism and ethics, and her work on evolving issues of science and society make her an excellent choice as dean.”

Zoloth’s research explores religion and ethics, drawing from sources ranging from Biblical and Talmudic texts to postmodern Jewish philosophy, including the writings of Emmanuel Levinas. Her scholarship spans the ethics of genetic engineering, stem cell research, synthetic biology, social justice in health care, and how science and medicine are taught. As a founding board member of the Society for Scriptural Reasoning, she also researches the practices of interreligious dialogue, exploring how religion plays a role in public discussion and policy.

Zoloth is author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of five books, including Notes from a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and Jews and Genes: The Genetic Future in Contemporary Jewish Thought.

“The Divinity School is the nation’s leading institution for theological research and education, home to creative, honest and serious scholarship,” Zoloth said. “I look forward to listening, thinking carefully and learning thoughtfully to help shape the future of the Divinity School, furthering it as a site of intellectual leadership in Chicago and around the world.”

Zoloth has been the president of the American Academy of Religion and the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She was the inaugural director of the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University and director of graduate studies in religious studies at Northwestern. She is an elected member of the Hastings Center and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.

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