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Mark Popovsky

Rift Healer

By James Vescovi

Winter 2009

Mark Popovsky ’11 comes to the study of law with a distinctive background: He is an ordained rabbi with a master’s degree from Jewish Theological Seminary. 

Popovsky’s interest in the Talmud and rabbinics is anything but academic. During his studies, he served as the coordinator of Jewish chaplaincy at New York Presbyterian Hospital, where, while providing counseling, he confronted difficult issues involving genetic testing, abortion, and end-of-life decisions.

“Ninety-five percent of hard ethical decisions involve a breakdown in communication between parties,” he says. “These rifts need to be repaired quickly and rationally before the problems get bigger.”

Compromise and communication are not new to Popovsky, who was raised in a tight-knit Jewish community in Merrimack, N.H., where it was important to find common ground in a sea of opinion.

After earning his masters degree in 2005, Popovsky taught classes to medical students on interviewing skills, professional boundaries, and ethical questions. Professor Hal Edgar, who focuses on law, medicine, and technology, and Professor Carol Liebman, who writes on medical decision-making, were faculty members that drew Popovsky to the Law School. He hopes to work on these issues as a legal academic with an active clinical practice.

“Judaism looks at ethical problems broadly—for example, how third parties and the actors that don’t have a voice might be affected by a decision,” he says. “Judaism values community at least as much as it values autonomy.”