Julia Watts Belser
Julia Watts Belser

In biblical stories about Noah, his ark, the individuals who survive the flood and those left behind, Jewish tradition reckons with questions of human hubris and survival.

California State University, Northridge’s eighth annual Maurice Amado Foundation Lecture in Jewish Ethics on Wednesday, March 10, will explore ancient Jewish texts, along with testimony from contemporary disability communities, to grapple with the issues surrounding climate change and the question: Whose lives does society deem worth saving?

The morning’s speaker will be Julia Watts Belser, an associate professor of Jewish studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Georgetown University, who directs an initiative on disability and climate change.

“Dr. Belser’s expertise is just what we need to help us think about how to adapt to the current climate emergency, using the resources of Jewish traditions,” said associate professor Jennifer Thompson, CSUN’s Maurice Amado Professor of Applied Jewish Ethics and Civic Engagement. “Over the past several millennia, Jews in many different parts of the world have faced equally dire situations and have managed to survive as a people and adapt to their new circumstances. The creative and intellectual resources that Jews have produced as they have done so will be tremendously valuable for all of humanity as we find new ways to live together sustainably.”

The Amado Lecture is scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. on March 10 via Zoom. The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register or for more information about the lecture, visit https://www.csun.edu/humanities/jewish-studies/events/eighth-annual-maurice-amado-foundation-lecture-jewish-ethics-.

Belser also is a senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religious, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and serves as a core faculty member in that university’s Disability Studies Program. Her work brings ancient texts into conversation with disability studies, queer theory, feminist thought and environmental ethics. She is the author of “Rabbinic Tales of Destruction: Gender, Sex, and Disability in the Ruins of Jerusalem” and “Power, Ethics, and Ecology: Rabbinic Responses to Drought and Disaster.”

Belser is a rabbi and a longtime advocate for disability and gender justice. She writes queer feminist Jewish theology, and she brings disability arts and culture into conversation with Jewish tradition. She co-authored an international “Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities,” which was developed in collaboration with disability activists from 42 countries and has been translated into 14 languages. The handbook is designed to help challenge the root causes of poverty, gender violence and disability discrimination.

The Amado Lectures are part of the mission of the CSUN Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program’s endowed professorship, which was created to promote teaching and scholarship that draws on Sephardic, Ashkenazi and other Jewish traditions.

CSUN offers both a major and minor in Jewish studies. The program explores the rich heritage of the Jewish people. Using the methods of different academic disciplines, it examines the experiences of Jews in the many lands in which they have lived over the past 4,000 years, as well as contemporary Jewish life in Israel, Europe, Asia and the Americas.


Media Contact: carmen.chandler@csun.edu - (818) 677-2130

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