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Yeshiva University Medical Ethics Society

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Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society
One heartbeat, surrounded by three six-pointed stars of David. The numbers six, one, and three, represent the six hundred and thirteen biblical commandments of the Jewish faith. Above the stars stands Yeshiva University, the center of Torah-U-Mada (coexistence of Jewish and secular studies) Below the stars lay the Medical ethics society, supporting Jewish medical ethics by using Jewish and secular studies.
Mottoוחי בהם (Hebrew)
V'Chai Ba'Hem (transliteration)
"And you shall live by them" (translation)
FormationSeptember 2005; 16 years ago (2005-09)
TypeUniversity society
Headquarters500 West 185th Street, New York, NY 10033 USA
Region served
Yeshiva University undergraduate students
Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Rabbi Aryeh Czarka, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Rabbi Edward Reichman, M.D., Yonah Bardos, M.B.E, and Kalman Laufer
Key people
Current Presidents: Eli Nemetz and Gabriel Sturm Vice Presidents: Adira Koppel and Chaim Sandler
Parent organization
Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future

Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society (MES), is an undergraduate student-run organization of Yeshiva University founded by students in the fall of 2005 with the help of the Center for the Jewish Future toward the goal of promoting education and awareness of Jewish medical ethics in the university and the community at large. Since its founding, the society has grown from a small group of students with common interests to running large-scale events with university-wide participation. They have hosted diverse programs of lectures by experts in medical ethics and halacha (Jewish law), on topics such as stem cell research, cloning, do not resuscitate orders, genetic testing, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and birth control. They also host genetic testing events to help decrease the incidence of various genetic diseases in the Jewish community. The society hosts events throughout the year, including a large annual conference focused on a topic in medical ethics. Events are open to anybody with an interest in Jewish medical ethics. Students, teachers, rabbis, physicians, and laymen are welcome.[1]

Founding and establishment[edit]

The society was founded in the fall of 2005 by Yonah Bardos, a Yeshiva College undergraduate student, and Rabbi Edward Reichman, M.D., a professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It started as a club discussing Jewish medical ethics and became a tour de force on campus. The society was the first student organization to work with athe Center for the Jewish Future. It stemmed from a conversation with Rabbi Kenneth Brander, who had just become the Dean of the new Center for the Jewish Future. Rabbi Brander then met with Rabbi Dr. Reichman and Rabbi Josh Joseph, who supported and guided the society members. The society was established in order to further the commitment of Yeshiva University to its philosophy of Torah Umadda (Jewish and secular knowledge), specifically in medical ethics and (Jewish Law). A secondary goal of the society was to create leaders in medical ethics through its leadership training program.[2]

Under the guidance of Rabbis Brander and Joseph, they began running events that attracted large audiences and gained attention in the university. The second event the society ran attracted over 250 students from various Yeshiva University and other New York City schools.[3]

Mission statement[edit]

The Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society is a student-run organization dedicated to educating the student body and surrounding community about issues in medical ethics. It works to increase sensitivity to ethics in medicine, and addresses controversial topics with medical and ethical authorities, using relevant halacha (Jewish law) and Torah values. The society strives to become a resource for Jewish medical ethics, serving laymen, rabbis, patients, and doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Members of the board[edit]

At end of each semester, students who have shown vision and leadership skills may be nominated for the society's board. Many student volunteers also help run and coordinate events and through their mentor program, and many remain involved, eventually becoming board members themselves. Volunteers help with setting up for conferences, guiding guests at events, and apprentice board members through their mentor program.

Current board[edit]

  • Gabriel Sturm - President
  • Eli Nemetz - President
  • Chaim Sandler - Vice President
  • Adira Koppel - Vice President
  • Ariel Sacknovitz - Volunteer Coordinator
  • Michal Auerbach - Volunteer Coordinator
  • Ariel Rafie - PR chair
  • Golda Aharon - PR Secretary/Food
  • Aviva Cantor - MHC
  • Sara Leora Wiener - MHC
  • Binyomin Shtaynberger - MHC
  • Menachem Seleski - MHC
  • Ari Gordin - Registration
  • Julia Fisher - Photography: PR

Board of Directors[edit]

The purpose of the Board of Directors is to maintain continuity of student leadership. The board is included on decisions that can change the course, the position and/or the mission statement of the society.[4]

Executive Directors:

  • Kalman Laufer - Chairman of the Executive Board
  • Yonah Bardos - Founder
  • Rebecca Garber
  • Liat Weinstock
  • Yitzy Mayefsky
  • Yael Mayer
  • Aaron Kogut

Advisory board[edit]

The advisory board of the Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society is composed of members of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future and leading medical ethicists. An advisory board of rabbis and doctors consisting of no less than three members is always be maintained. Any changes to the advisory board must be approved by a majority of the advisory board and the board of directors. The purpose of the advisory board to guide and assist the society regarding choosing topics and speakers for events. They serve as sounding boards, mentors and guides to insure the continuity of the society. The advisory board must be included on decisions that would change the course, the position and/or the mission statement of the society.[5]

  • Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, Dean of the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future, works closely with the Executive Board to spearhead planning and coordination of community events such as the annual conference, genetic screening, and Kollel Yom Rishon.
  • Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Vice President of University and Community Life, infuses the student body with a spirit of leadership and sense of commitment to the Jewish people and society.
  • Rabbi Edward Reichman, M.D., an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Associate Professor in the Division of Education and Bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, has been a mentor for the society since its inception.
  • Rabbi Aryeh Czarka heads the Yeshiva University Speakers Bureau and their Kollel/Midreshet Yom Rishon, and coordinates the Yeshiva University Leadership Conference at ChampionsGate
  • Jonathan Cohen is the Operations Manager at the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future

Previous conferences[edit]

  • 2016 - Humanity's Oldest Rival: Infectious Diseases: Then, Now, and Beyond - This conference reviewed the history and rabbinic literature of infectious disease, the recent outbreaks of the Zika and Ebola viruses, and hospital infection and antibiotic resistance. Speakers included Dr. Nancy Tomes of Stony Brook University and a past president of the American Association of the History of Medicine on the history of infectious diseases, Rabbi Dr. Reichman on the Jewish legal quandaries in infectious diseases, Dr. Priya Nori, Director of Antibiotic Stewardship at Montefiore Medical Center, on hospital infections and antibiotic-resistant microbes, Dr. Neil Vora of the U.S. Center for Disease Control on the epidemiological aspects of the Zika and Ebola epidemics, Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt on the halachic issues of the Ebola epidemic, and Rabbi Mordechai Willig, a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, on Jewish legal and ethical issues posed by Zika and Ebola.
  • 2015 - Protecting Their Future: Medical and Jewish perspectives on Pediatric Physical and Mental Health - The conference covered controversies about immunizations, discussed depression and ADHD as important but poorly understood issues crucially affected by children’s surroundings, and covered a Adolescent suicide, consumption of alcohol, and their preventive and educational measures. Speakers were Rabbi Dr. Reichman; Dr. Glenn S. Hirsch, medical director at the NYU Child Study Center; Dr. Barry Holzer, director of the Center for Attention Deficit Disorders; Rabbi Yaakov Neuberger of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; Dr. David Pelcovitz of the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; Dr. Susan K. Schulman of Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Yoni Schwab of the Shefa School.
  • 2012 - Out of the Ashes: Jewish Approaches to Medical Dilemmas Born out of the Holocaust - The conference reviewed the contemporary relevance of ethical challenges that arose during the Holocaust. Participants were presented with issues that rose during the Nazi regime as well as issues that were products of the Holocaust. The conference was opened by Michael Grodin, M.D., of Boston University, a leading expert in bioethics as well as in medicine and the Holocaust. This was followed by a plenary on human experimentation which consisted of a firsthand account by Irene Hizme, a survivor of Josef Mengele’s experiments on twins, and a discussion of the halachic and ethical viewpoints by Rabbi Moshe David Tendler, Ph.D. Breakout session covered trans-generational trauma of survivors and the Jewish attitude on life through the lens of the mentally disabled. Participants also heard from experts in the fields of halacha and medicine such as David Pelcovitz, Ph.D, Rabbi Michael Taubes, and Rabbi Reichman.[6][7]
  • 2011 - In the Public Eye: Jewish Perspectives on Public Health - The conference reviewed the broad medical and legal foundations needed to understand public health issues. Discussions focused on social issues as they relate to both general society and to the Jewish community. Topics covered included obesity, smoking, global responsibility, vaccinations, circumcision. Participants heard from experts such as Professor John Banzhaf of George Washington University Law School who, has contributed to anti-smoking laws and fought against the obesity epidemic, as well as Rabbis Tendler and Reichman. Mati Goldstein, Chief Officer of the ZAKA International Rescue and Recovery Team, and Dr. Ofer Merin, Director of the Emergency Preparedness & Response Program at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, described their experiences responding to tragedies around the world. The conference provided an overview of fundamental ethical dilemmas surrounding public health, and discussed how the system of halacha (Jewish law) approaches these complex issues.[8][9]
  • 2010 - A Beautiful Mind: Jewish Approaches to Mental Health - The conference provided a broad foundation for the medical background needed to understand mental health, as well as the advanced medical research and practices used today to prevent and manage mental health challenges. Topics covered included suicide, depression, eating disorders, addictions, substance abuse, and more. Additionally, emotional stories were told by students dealing with mental health challenges.[10][11]
  • 2009 - The Human Blueprint: Jewish Perspectives on Modern Genetics - The conference provided the medical background needed to understand human genetics, as well as the technologically advanced medical research and practices for the prevention and management of genetic diseases. Topics covered included reproductive genetics, cancer genetics, personalized medicine, aging and longevity and more. Participants were also introduced to an overview of the fundamental ethical dilemmas surrounding genetics, as well as how the system of halacha (Jewish law) approaches these complex issues. .[12][13]
  • 2008 - The Sanctity of Life: A Jewish Approach to End of Life Challenges - The conference addressed the wide range of medical, ethical, psycho-social and halachic (Jewish legal) issues that arise at the end of life. Sessions included a general introduction to the medical background and ethical issues that are pertinent to adult terminal illness, how medicine and halacha interact in modern hospital settings, hospice care, pain management, proxy decision-making, do-not-resuscitate orders, and the sanctity of life. The final session addressed the issue of pediatric end-of-life care, focusing on decision-making for the pediatric patient, as well as issues relevant to family and friends of children facing serious illness.[14][15]
  • 2007 - Partners in Creation: Fertility, Modern Medicine, and Jewish Law - Topics included a broad foundation for the medical background needed to understand fertility problems, technologically advanced medical practices that help families struggling with infertility including in-vitro fertilization, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, and sperm injection, and an overview of fundamental ethical dilemmas surrounding fertility.[16][17]
  • 2006 - Organ Donation: A Matter of Life and Death - The complex issues and dilemmas relating to organ donation in Jewish law were discussed, including living organ donation, end of life issues, advance directives, organ trafficking, and psycho-social issues.[18]

Recurring programs and events[edit]

  • Yeshiva University Bioethics Journal Club

The Bioethics Journal Club is a subsidiary of the society that gives students the chance to gather to discuss important issues in contemporary bioethics while gaining experience in presenting academic scientific works. On a bimonthly basis, student presenters prepare articles on topics in bioethics for presentation to their peers. Occasionally, experts in bioethics prepare their own published works and present an insider’s view of the bioethics field. The club aims to explore broader themes in bioethics and their various practical implications, increase the awareness of students seeking to enter the medical and biological fields about potential ethical issues they will face during their careers, increase student awareness of medical ethics issues that may arise throughout their lives.[19][20]

  • Bone Marrow Awareness Month

The society has dubbed every February in Yeshiva University “Bone-marrow Awareness Month”. During this month, the society holds events on campus dedicated to promoting awareness and discussions about the ethics of bone marrow and stem cell donations, and facilitates drives for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry to register potential donors into the international bone marrow database via buccal swabs. The society has helped thousands of people register and enabled several bone marrow donations.

  • Genetics Screening

The Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine has sponsored Jewish genetic disease carrier screenings on Yeshiva University's campuses exclusively to students for a fee. The program provides young Ashkenazi Jewish singles and couples with accessible and affordable options for “open” genetic testing that will identify “carriers”—individuals who themselves are not affected with the specific disorders but whose offspring are at risk if these carriers marry individuals who also are carriers for the same disorders. Approximately 1 in 4 Ashkenazi Jews are carriers for at least one genetic disorder, which include Tay-Sachs disease, familial dysautonomia, and Gaucher disease.[21]

Coordinating organizations[edit]

  • Center for the Jewish Future

The Center for the Jewish Future at Yeshiva University is the parent organization of the Medical Ethics Society.

  • Gift of Life Marrow Registry

The Medical Ethics Society has worked with the Gift of Life Marrow Registry for several years. They hold bone marrow oral swabbing events, a bone marrow awareness month and their board members volunteer for Gift of Life programs outside of Yeshiva University.[22]

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Although not directly affiliated with Yeshiva University's Albert Einstein College of Medicine, th eMedical Ethics Society has worked with the Einstein on events concerning bioethics and genetic screening, and is guided and advised by the deans, professors, and medical professionals on medical ethics topics. Einstein also hosts an annual weekend symposium for Yeshiva undergrads, run by the society. Both the society and Einstein are also involved in Yeshiva University's Program for Jewish Genetic Health.

  • JScreen

The society has run screenings in partnership with Montefiore Medical Center. In 2016 the society partnered with JScreen, a nonprofit genetic screening organization, to offer free screenings to about 1200 Yeshiva University students and other individuals in the community.

Recorded lectures[edit]

Many of the Medical Ethics Society's events have been recorded and can be downloaded for free at [14].


External links[edit]

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