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NAJM Press Release 3:

For Immediate Release Contact:
Deena Kaye/(888) 223-NAJM or (212) 489-0600
November 9, 1997

"And You Shall Heal !" - Physicians, Scientists and Rabbis Gather at the 8th International Conference on Judaism and Contemporary Medicine.
by: Deena Kaye

A distinguished panel of physicians, scientists, health care professionals and prominent Rabbinic authorities from around the world gathered in New York City on Friday, November 7th through Sunday, November 9th, at the Eighth International Conference on Judaism and Contemporary Medicine.

The conference was designed to discuss the challenges that contemporary medicine poses vis a vis traditional Jewish values. Dr. Benjamin Safirstein, co-founder and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Oxford Health Services, stated that speakers and conference attendees alike received "food for thought." Everyone was impressed with the depth and sophistication of the conference sessions. In the words of Rabbi Kasriel Kastel the annual conference has "opened up a dialogue which has had a positive impact on many individuals".

The conference, which is organized by the National Association of Judaism and Medicine, and accredited through the State University of New York Health

Science Center at Brooklyn, was convened at a time when daily news headlines herald breakthroughs in medical technologies and the ethical and moral dilemmas that surround them.

As the State of Oregon decision on end of life issues was coming to a close, Dr.

Judith Ahronehim, Dr. Samuel Klagsbrun and Rabbi Allen Schwartz, Vice President of the Council of Orthodox Jewish Organizations of Manhattan's Upper West Side tackled the "Kevorkian Dilemma." Dr. Ahroneheim, a Physician in the Mount Sinai Hospital Department of Geriatrics and the Deputy Executive Director of Choice in Dying, listened receptively as Rabbi Allen Schwartz explained the value of life and the halachic position against physician assisted suicide. Down the hall, Dr. Kenneth Offit, Dr. Leon Zacharowitz and Rabbi Yaakov Weiner discussed the controversial topic of genetic screening and fetal research as it pertains to the Ashkenazi breast and colon cancer genes.

Rabbi Tzvi Flaum, chairman of the Vaad Harabonim (Rabbinic Council) of Far Rockaway and Lawrence, Dr. Velvel Greene and Dr. Benjamin Safirstein - the panel on "Ethics of Managed Care" - confronted the disparities between the realities of the managed care "industry" and the halachic standpoint on proper care for every person. According to Dr. Greene from Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, the speakers reached a consensus - "it is clear that you morally can not under treat a patient, but it is equally clear that you can not allow a physician to over treat a patient as well, because this would be a waste the communities money."

At the session on the "Ethics of Organ Transplantation", Rabbi Yizhok Breitowitz, of Baltimore, expressed his concern that orthodox jews might face discrimination in receiving organ transplants because of their halachicly limited ability to donate organs. Dr. Eli Friedman, Distinguished Professor and Chief of Renal Division, sympathized and felt that this would not be a practical concern. Dr. Yizhak Kupfer, the chairperson characterized the meeting "as high caliber, and producing a real meeting of the minds".

Another popular session was called "Relationships and Intimacy", and featured Dr. Judith Mishell from Los Angeles, author of "Beyond Your Ego - a Torah Approach to Therapy" and Rabbi Mattis Kantor, author of Ten Keys for Understanding Human Nature - Chassidic Insights. They stressed the importance of family life and defined the Torah approach to marital relationships. They stressed that the Torah approach to these issues is so vastly different from the secular approach that people should be very careful with what they read and with their choice of therapist.

Other sessions held throughout the day included "Reinventing Reproduction - Issues in Fertility", with Dr. Richard Grazzi, "Ethics of Practice Guidelines", with Dr. Lawrence Resnick and Rabbi Yizhak Breitowitz and "Spirituality and Healing" with Rabbi Mattis Kantor and Dr. Samuel Klagsbrun.

Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver served as keynote at the conference luncheon program. In addition to illustrating the government's role in regulating the health care, Speaker Silver spoke on a more personal level. He discussed how being an observant Jew has affected his position and the decisions he makes every day. Dr. Moshe Akerman, Executive Director of the National Association of Judaism and Medicine stated that "Speaker Silver serves as a role model to me and to all professionals seeking to integrate Judaism with those issues which they confront on a daily basis,"

During the luncheon, Dr. Roger Cracco, the representative from the State University of New York - Health Science Center at Brooklyn spoke about the work of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and thanked the Rebbe for his encouragement to hold the first conference back in 1988. He quoted the Rebbe as saying "whenever two people get together their encounter should lead to helping a third person". Dr. Cracco then distributed dollars to all the participants as messengers to give charity - tzedakah to others.

November 9 marked the eve of Krishtalnacht. The conference closed with the plenary session "50 Years Since Nuremberg" where Dr. Michael Berenbaum, former Director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum , Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, of Toronto, Canada, and Dr. J.J. Steinberg, discussed the lessons to be learned from the Nuremberg Trials. Addressing the long-standing notion that governmental bureaucracies and medical professionalism have and continue to cloak the indecencies man commits against his fellow man, both Dr. Berenbaum and Rabbi Schochet upheld that by maintaining the Second Commandment - the prohibition against creating other gods - we can insure that the Holocaust does not repeat itself. But, when we play G-d, when medical and government leaders consider themselves akin to a G-d, then it can and will happen again.

In addition to the National Association of Judaism and Medicine, and the State University, the conference was organized in conjunction with the Merkos L'inyonei Chinuch and the Lubavitch Youth Organization.

Editor's Note: The National Association of Judaism and Medicine will be holding

Its 10th Anniversary Conference on Judaism and Medicine from Thursday,

October 30 through Sunday, November 1, 1998.

Tentatively to be held
May 2006 in New York City

CME accreditation provided by:
the SUNY-Downstate Medical Center

For more information, contact us:

Michael Akerman, MD, Chairman, Conference on Judaism and Medicine
c/o SUNY-Downstate Medical Center
450 Clarkson Avenue, Box 19
Brooklyn, New York 11203

Telephone 917-760-2770

Copyrights 2002 - National Association of Judaism and Medicine - All Rights Reserved