About

I am a practical ethicist who  examines questions of sexual, biomedical, and environmental ethics    through a Jewish lens. My dissertation  used Mishnaic ritual purity discourse as  a model for a Jewish ethics of sex and  public health. My current project, which expands upon many of the core themes in my dissertation, examines the moral and textual implications of treating sex as one species of social interaction among many. I’ve also written about the ethics of genetically engineered crops,  the tensions between autonomy and community in Jewish and feminist thought, the duty to vaccinate, and the ways practical ethicists deploy classical rabbinic texts.

I teach courses among many of these same lines. I have taught or am in the process of developing courses on Jewish sexual ethics, Jewish bodies and bioethics, purity in the Abrahamic traditions, argumentation in Jewish traditions, and comparative religious environmental ethics, as well as introductions to Judaism and to religious studies. I make a concerted effort to diversify my syllabi in all these areas, with substantial representation from scholars who are women, LGBTQIA+, people of color, disabled, or otherwise marginalized.

I am currently a postdoctoral fellow in Jewish Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Previously, I was a visiting instructor in Religion and Jewish Studies at Oberlin College. I received my Ph.D from the University of Virginia in 2017.

In my copious free time, I enjoy drawing and painting (the header image is my own work), horseback riding, cooking overly complicated meals, and sharpening my ever-growing collection of kitchen knives. I live with my wife, Sarah, and my cat, Faintly Macabre.

Education

University of Virginia: Ph.D in the Study of Judaism (2017)

University of Virginia: M.A. in Religious Studies (2012)

  • Master’s Thesis: Phenomenal Sex: Uses of the Empirical in Contemporary Halakhic Discourse on Homosexuality.


Oberlin College: B.A. with High Honors in Religion (2008)

Publications

Peer Reviewed Articles

“A Prescription for Discourse: Power and Expertise in Ritual and Sexual Health.” Forthcoming, Journal of Jewish Ethics.

“Textual Relationships: On Perspective, Interpretive Discipline, and Constructive Ethics.” Forthcoming, Journal of Textual Reasoning.

“A Polyvocal Body: Mutually Corrective Discourses in Feminist and Jewish Bodily Ethics.” Journal of Religious Ethics. 43:2 (2015)

“Community, Authority, and Autonomy: Jewish Resources for the Vaccine Wars.” Journal of the Society for Christian Ethics, 34:1 (2014), 173-88.

Book Chapters

“’Intertextually Modified Organisms’”: Genetic Engineering, Jewish Ethics, and Rabbinic Text” in That All May Flourish: Comparative Religious Environmental Ethics, ed. Laura Hartman. Oxford University Press (2018)

Projects

My current book project, tentatively titled When We Collide: Sex, Sociality, and Jewish Ethics uses classical rabbinic texts, as well as theoretical resources from virtue ethics and crip theory, to think about the moral implications of treating sex as one risk-laden social relation among and embedded in many. Through case studies of the management of sexually transmitted infections and of organized BDSM communities, put in dialogue with rabbinic texts that deal with the management of ritual impurity and the dangers and delights of scriptural interpretation, I show that sexual interaction, in its diverse expressions, is a deeply important site of moral formation. Sex, if performed wisely, has the power to shape actors who navigate the risks inherent in all forms of social interaction with respect, attention, and care.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

Presenting:

American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting, Denver, CO (November 2018)

  • Paper: “Torah Edgeplay: Risk, Power, and Polymorphous Community.”

  • Panelist: “Where Wisdom Can Be Found: Scripture and Wisdom in the Abrahamic Traditions.”


Judaism and Disability: The New Genetics, Disability Studies, and Practical Interventions, Scottsdale, AZ (February 2019)

  • Presentation: “Toward a Framework for Responsible Uses of Genetic Testing.”


Attending:

Association for Jewish Studies, Boston, MA (December 2018)

Society of Jewish Ethics, Louisville, KY (January 2019)

Jewish Theological Seminary: Conference in Educating for Shleimut (Wholeness), New York, NY (January 2019)

Memberships

American Academy of Religion

Society of Jewish Ethics

Association for Jewish Studies

Rebecca J. Epstein-Levi

Profile picture of Rebecca J. Epstein-Levi

@rjelevi

active 4 months, 1 week ago