Entering a patient’s room at Beverly Hospital, smiling, she softly introduced herself and asked if there’s something she can do.
When asked, “What do you do?” the 29-year-old chaplain intern replies, “It’s on your terms how you want this visit to go. I’m here just to listen.” She’s there to do whatever helps and comforts. Her gentle approach exudes serenity and sincerity.
Gita Karasov is currently studying to become a rabbi at Hebrew College in Newton. She doesn’t want to be a typical pulpit rabbi, though. She wants to be an educator who performs community outreach and more.
She also wants to continue her chaplaincy work.
“So many different things touched me,” she says. [“Dealing with people suffering from] addiction – lots of it; domestic violence; people who lost children recently; people making the decision to go to hospice; people losing a parent unexpectedly. I’ve been touched how people are open to a chaplain, and how we can have a secret conversation together.”
Sometimes, people insist they don’t need a chaplain, then suddenly open up to her. “How did you know I needed someone to talk to now?” they ask.
“During times like these, people need someone who’ll take time to listen to them, just be present with them, and pray with them,” says Karasov. “It’s hard to find a place to feel spiritual [under circumstances like this], but when I walk out of a hospital room, I feel like I’ve created a spiritual space with people. It doesn’t have to be in a church or synagogue. It can be in a hospital room … or anywhere.”
She says being a Jewish chaplain in a predominantly Christian community is different for her.
“It has been such a rewarding experience meeting with people of various faiths and learning so much from patients,” she says. “It has made me realize at the end of the day we’re all people who have similar fears … Most people have no idea I’m Jewish. It isn’t relevant. We’re talking about universal faith, feelings, and cross denominations.”
Karasov grew up in a Conservative Jewish family, the only daughter of Robert Karasov, a pediatrician who performs circumcisions at bris ceremonies, and Shayne, part-time Jewish communal worker. She has four brothers: Aaron, 34; Micah, 31; Nadav, 26; and Matan, 23. She grew up in St. Louis Park, a Minneapolis suburb with a large, observant Jewish population, and attended an Orthodox day school.
“I didn’t have access to wearing a tallit or being counted in a minyan,” Karasov says. “[But] to me, it was important to be part of the community and having full access as a woman.”
Her husband, Daniel Buonaiuto, son of Sandy Goldstein and Michael Buonaiuto of Arlington, also is Conservative. The couple met through mutual longtime friends and live in Cambridge.
Karasov graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in sociology and Jewish studies. When she lived in Chicago, she belonged to Avodah, where she worked with a team of young Jews to promote social justice.
She also was director of Jewish activities at Chicagoland Jewish High School (now Rochelle Vell Jewish High School), and director of engagement at the University of Michigan Hillel, where she helped Jewish students connect, build relationships, and create their own meaningful Jewish experience on campus.
Today, she hopes to help young Jews realize Judaism isn’t outmoded. “It has a lot to say about a better life today, how we can find meaning today, and deal with complexities,” she says.