Yeshiva University News » 2006 » September

Sep 24, 2006 — Sophie Lachmann came from Barranquilla, Colombia, to Stern College for Women so she could learn to incorporate a Jewish perspective into her everyday life.

The freshman did not realize that she would be a part of the second year of Stern’s Basic Jewish Studies Program, which helps students coming from public high schools get up to speed in their Judaic studies courses.

“When I went through placement and this is where they put me. I was so happy, because that is what I came to Stern for,” Ms. Lachmann enthused.

The program, spearheaded by program coordinator Shoshana Schechter and Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, was created to give students with less Judaic studies background more support during their first year on campus.

“As a beginner it is very easy to get lost,” Mrs. Schechter said, explaining that many of the program participants come to Stern without a social network in place. The Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies at Stern College for Women wanted to develop a special program “to give the students dynamic classes on Bible and basic Jewish concepts at a high intellectual level.”

The students meet every morning for formal classes. Two days a week they learn Bible and two days they study introductory Jewish texts and concepts.

Ms. Lachmann’s parents became observant before she and her older sister, a Stern College senior, were born. Her family has been growing in their observance and learning as much as they can. When she and her sister, Raquel, heard about Yeshiva University, “We knew we had to go,” Ms. Lachmann said.

In her Basic Jewish Studies classes, Ms. Lachmann is learning “how to think like a Jewish person,” with other people whose Judaic Studies backgrounds are limited.

Approximately half of the students on the Basic Jewish Studies program come to Stern from foreign countries, including France, Colombia, Sweden, Russia, and Morocco. They often make significant life changes during their first year at Stern College, including taking on a more observant lifestyle than what they were used to at home.

“Obviously the women who come here with little formal Jewish education are searching for something they haven’t gotten elsewhere,” Mrs. Schechter said. “We want to integrate them into that experience.”

By the end of the year, the students are expected to have a basic knowledge of Bible and Jewish Law and an understanding of “rabbinic Hebrew” that is used in general Hebrew language and Judaic studies courses. During their second year on campus, students usually move to intermediate courses.

“This is a stepping stone to the higher level Hebrew classes and general Torah landscape,” Rabbi Hajioff, who teaches a lower-intermediate level course that many of the second-year students take.

Grace Charles, a sophomore who grew up in Connecticut and now lives in Manhattan, was a student in the Basic Jewish Studies program during the 2005-2006 school year. She attended an after-school Talmud Torah twice a week and her interest in Judaism was piqued.

“There was so much knowledge to be gained, and so many questions I have always had about our religion,” said Ms. Charles, a participant in the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Stern College. “I decided at 13 that I wanted to come to YU. I hoped at YU I would be able to learn everything I ever wanted to know about Judaism.”

Ms. Charles recalls memorizing the first perek of Pirkei Avot as an extra-credit assignment for Rabbi Hajioff’s class.

“It was really an experience for me, who barely knows Hebrew vocabulary, to memorize all these Hebrew words and their meanings,” Ms. Charles explained. “I am so glad I did it –– I recite it every week so I will not forget.”


Sep 21, 2006 — History was made on the Wilf Campus at a groundbreaking ceremony for the Jacob and Dreizel Glueck Center for Jewish Study. The Glueck Center is the first building to be constructed on the Wilf Campus in over 20 years and will house a two-story, 470 seat Beit Midrash, the largest at YU. The Center and the Beit Midrash bear the names of Jacob and Dreizel Glueck z”l in gratitude to the Glueck family for their visionary lead gift toward construction of the new facility.

To view photos of the groundbreaking click here.

Philanthropist Jacob Glueck is a Holocaust survivor who came to the US virtually penniless, built one of the country’s foremost flavor houses, and turned Citromax S.A.C.I. into a leading lemon producing and processing company. Mr. Glueck and his wife became major philanthropists in the US and Israel. In 1998, Mr. Glueck was the recipient of the Eitz Chaim Award, the highest honor the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) can bestow for advancement of Jewish scholarship. Vivian Glueck Rosenberg, Mr. Glueck’s daughter, is a member of YU’s Board of Trustees and the Board of Directors of Stern College for Women, as well as co-founder of the Dreizel Glueck Bikur Cholim Foundation. She and her husband, Henry Rosenberg, are continuing her father’s example of leadership in the Jewish community.

“I am delighted that the first new construction of my presidency – a project that was begun by Dr. Lamm – is a Beit Midrash, a house of study for our sacred texts which will without doubt spread so much light and warmth and enrich the world in so many ways,” said President Richard M. Joel.

The Center will contain two large, modern lecture halls, 50 faculty offices and 11 classrooms, facilities for seminars and conferences, and will be connected to the adjacent Mendel Gottesman Library. It will be a venue for faculty and students to study and meet informally to share ideas.

“It is so meaningful that the Beit Midrash will be connected to the library because it underscores our commitment to study the sacred texts with open eyes to allow these profound values to enrich the world,” Mr. Joel noted.

The facilities will incorporate state-of-the-art technology. Students will have electronic access to the resources of the Gottesman Library and to the growing array of texts, research and commentaries available online from the world over.

The university’s mission of Torah Umadda (the synthesis of general and Jewish studies) will be represented by the symbolic linking of the Glueck Center and the Gottesman Library via a ground floor atrium. This spacious and light-filled facility will be known as the Nagel Family Atrium and Student Commons, in tribute to YU Benefactors, Jack and Gitta Nagel and their children.

Michael and Fiona Sharf provided the aron hakodesh (ark), and the Samuel and Claire A. Mozel Charitable Trust endowed the fourth floor of the Center which will be named for them. A classroom has been dedicated by Dr. Susan Dworken in memory of her husband, Rabbi Steven M. Dworken, former Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Council of America and Director of the Morris and Gertrude Bienenfeld Department of Rabbinic Services at RIETS.


Sep 20, 2006 — Representatives of the families of the Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah spoke to an overflow crowd of Yeshiva University students and staff on Sept. 19 at the Schottenstein Cultural Center on the Beren Campus.

Karnit Goldwasser, wife of Ehud Goldwasser, and his father, Shlomo Goldwasser, spoke to the more than 350 students and gave a multimedia presentation about their family member as well as Eldad Regev who was kidnapped at the same time, and Gilad Shalit, a soldier kidnapped by militants in Gaza on June 25. Students sat on the floor in the front of the auditorium and some were forced to stand in the lobby of the building because the room was filled to capacity. Many in the audience were visibly moved and shaken by the speakers’ talk.

The program was organized by the Israel Club, YU’s Center for the Jewish Future and the Office of Student Affairs.

Students had an opportunity to sign a petition urging Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to make the release of the soldiers a priority. Communal prayers were said for the soldiers’ safe return.

Mrs. Goldwasser urged the students to attend the Rally for Israel at 47th Street and Second Avenue at noon on Wednesday. The family members said that the assurances of Kofi Annan and the Israeli Prime Minister were encouraging, but meaningless without action to back them.


Stern student Shoshana Fruchter, president of TAC, and Ariel Fisher, a Sy Syms School of Business student, hold signs at the Darfur rally in Central Park.

Sep 20, 2006 — More than 200 Yeshiva University students were among the more than 20,000 people who attended a rally in New York City’s Central Park on Sept. 17 to protest the genocide taking place in Darfur, Sudan.

For photos of the rally click here.

The student YU Society for Social Justice cooperated with the Yeshiva Student Union, the Stern Student Council, the Department of Student Affairs and the Office of University Life to promote the event and provide transportation for students.

During the week prior to the rally, students set up tables on the Beren and Wilf Campuses, emailed the student body, and held a teach-in on Sept. 13 where students in every undergraduate course in YU educated their peers about the genocide in Darfur and the importance of attending the rally.

“The Darfur Rally Against Genocide marks the second year in a row in which the YU student body has taken stand as Jews and as global citizens,” said Sammy Shapiro, co-president of the YU Society for Social Justice. “I hope that our momentum will not dissipate as the semester continues, but instead snowball into a vibrant, compassionate, cogitative student body.”

In addition to organizing participation in the Darfur rally, the YU Society for Social Justice is planning a literacy program in local public schools and volunteers at The Manhattan Center for Domestic Violence.

A diverse mix of activists, students, concerned citizens, and communities of faith assembled at the rally to support action for Sudan. Activists came from across the Northeast to make their voices heard.

“The world has to act, and it has to do so now,” said former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, who kicked off the rally. “This is not about politics. This is about people. We need to get the U.N. in there. President Bush at the U.N. General Assembly has to make clear that the U.N. has to go inside.”

Others at the rally included Ethan Rafal, a journalist who recently returned from a trip to Darfur and Eastern Chad where he was detained and jailed; actress Mira Sorvino; Simon Deng, a Sudanese man who was enslaved in Sudan while still a child; and musical performances by Suzanne Vega, Big & Rich, and O.A.R.


Sep 20, 2006 — Growing up in Ghana, malaria was as common an occurrence as getting a cold is here in the northeastern United States, recalls Louis Nkrumah, an M.D.-Ph.D. student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

“Malaria is something you see all the time,” he says, describing the throbbing headache, fever, aches and pains that accompany each outbreak. “If you survive the first five years of life, then usually you become semi-immune to its worst effects.” Yet, this deadly disease continues to claim up to 3 million lives each year, mostly children.

Having had the disease frequently from the time he was a small child, malaria was very much on his mind when it came time to select a Ph.D. research project. (He earned his Ph.D. earlier this year.) “I wanted to do research that would allow me to give something back,” he says.

In August, Dr. Nkrumah had that opportunity, publishing the cover story in Nature Methods, about his findings concerning the use of a bacterial phage (virus that infects bacteria) to perform a genetic manipulation that could help develop therapeutic targets for treating drug-resistant malaria. The paper was part of his research thesis.

In many ways, malaria is an inescapable topic for Dr. Nkrumah. When he arrived in the United States 10 years ago as a freshman at Yale University, he was sick with the disease. “I was shivering with fever and had blisters on my lips,” he recalls. “I arrived a month before classes started and stayed with a fellow countryman who was a senior. I used the time to take the medicine I had brought with me and get well.”

At Yale, Dr. Nkrumah studied biology while fulfilling pre-med requirements, despite advice that it is difficult for foreign students to gain entry into American medical schools. During his four years there, with support from a full scholarship, he earned dual degrees (B.S. and M.S.) in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. He then applied to leading medical schools including Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yale, Cornell, and Johns Hopkins, among others.

“I came to the United States determined to become a doctor. In Ghana, I had been enrolled in the University of Ghana Medical School, but when the school closed for eight months because of a faculty strike, I knew I needed to explore other options,” he says. “My undergraduate education provided excellent opportunities in the laboratory and the classroom.

As one of nine surviving children (there were originally 13) in his family, Dr. Nkrumah is the only among his siblings to get a college education, although the others have completed the equivalent of high school, and his only brother has completed training at a technical school. His parents recognized his brightness and ambition and encouraged him throughout his schooling.

He did not learn English until he was 13, when his family moved from their rural village, Asankrangwa -– where there was no electricity or good drinking water –- to the capital city of Accra. At the same time, he prepared for the G.C.E. Common Entrance Examination and ultimately received the highest score of any student in all of Ghana – among some 10,000 students. As a result, he received a full scholarship to cover the remaining seven years of his secondary schooling.

In August of 2000 Dr. Nkrumah started his M.D.-Ph.D.studies at Einstein. Two years later, when it came time to select the focus for his research, he knew he wanted to study malaria. “At first I began working in a laboratory studying epigenetics (identifying genetic abnormalities in cancer), but even though I loved what I was doing, I had this feeling that I should be doing something that connected more closely to my experiences back home,” he explains.

So, he sought a placement in the laboratories of Dr. David Fidock and Dr. William Jacobs, Jr. Both Dr. Fidock, who is associate professor of microbiology & immunology at Einstein and a renowned malaria researcher, and Dr. Jacobs, a Howard Hughes investigator and professor of microbiology & immunology and of molecular genetics at Einstein, as well as a world-renowned tuberculosis researcher, had been among the faculty members who interviewed Dr. Nkrumah when he was applying to the medical school. Each had encouraged him to come to Albert Einstein College of Medicine and was influential in his decision to do so.

They then served as co-mentors to Dr. Nkrumah as he conducted research for his thesis and wrote the article that would be featured as the cover story in the August 2006 issue of Nature Methods.

Using the enzyme from a bacterial phage nicknamed the “Bronx Bomber” – which had been discovered by Dr. Jacobs from a soil sample in his Bronx backyard and been used with great success in his tuberculosis research –- Dr. Nkrumah introduced genes into P. falciparum, the most deadly strain of Plasmodium (malaria) that is proving increasingly resistant to treatment. The technique proved remarkably successful.

“This method should significantly benefit genetic strategies for exploring the biology of this malarial parasite,” notes Dr. Fidock. “And it represents the first efficient technique for inserting any gene of interest into the P. falciparum genome to gain biological information that could lead to more effective treatments.”

Having fulfilled the Ph.D. portion of his M.D.-Ph.D, Dr. Nkrumah is currently rotating through various clinical wards, completing his training as a physician. For now, he is keeping an open mind as to what his future holds.

“Science has always excited me, particularly biological systems,” he says. “My research of infectious diseases certainly puts that field in the running, but surgery also is of interest so I’m going to keep an open mind and focus on the best way I can make an impact back home.”


Sep 20, 2006 — Allan W. Wolkoff, M.D., professor of medicine and of anatomy & structural biology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, will receive the 2006 Distinguished Service Award presented by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) at its annual meeting this October.

Presented annually, the Distinguished Service Award will honor Dr. Wolkoff for his service to AASLD while also recognizing his lifelong commitment to the field of liver disease research.

Throughout his career, Dr. Wolkoff, who is also associate director of the Marion Bessin Liver Research Center at Einstein and director of its Belfer Institute for Advanced Biomedical Studies, has been a pivotal contributor to the overall mission of AASLD in many different ways. This includes serving as an editorial board member and an associate editor of HEPATOLOGY, as an AASLD councilor-at-large, as a member of the Basic Research and the Training and Workforce Committees, and as an AASLD representative to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. He currently chairs the Hepatobiliary Pathophysiology Study Section at the NIH. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the American Liver Foundation, serving as Chair of Public Policy.

During his career, Dr. Wolkoff has been a major contributor to the literature that has defined the basic mechanisms contributing to liver disease. He has authored more than 150 peer reviewed research papers, review articles, and book chapters; and his work is regularly selected for presentations at AASLD meetings. His work has consistently been funded by the NIH, published in leading scientific journals, and recognized nationally and internationally by distinguished lectureships and honors.

Dr. Wolkoff received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, where he also completed his first two years of medical school. He completed his medical education at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He has been a member of the Einstein faculty since 1976 and lives in Mamaroneck, N.Y.


Sep 18, 2006 — Rabbi Harold J. Reichman became the newest member of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary faculty to occupy an endowed chair when he was invested by President Richard M. Joel as the Bronka Weintraub Professor of Talmud on Sunday, Sept. 17, in the Harry Fischel Beit Midrash of Zysman Hall on the Wilf Campus.

President Joel praised Rabbi Reichman, who has taught at RIETS for over 30 years, for “his ability to beautifully convey Torah, to sing Torah, and to make Torah come alive” for his students.

Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS, fondly recalled successfully appealing some 34 years ago to Dr. Samuel Belkin, ztz”l, then president of YU and RIETS, for permission to hire the young rabbi, who, at the time, was the assistant to The Rav, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, ztz”l, and an activist sending Jews to settle in Northern Israel.

Julius Berman, RIETS Board chairman, noted that the Bronka Weintraub Chair now held by Rabbi Reichman is the institution’s 24th endowed chair, “which tells the world just how much our roshei yeshiva are at the heart of our yeshiva and especially RIETS.”

In his acceptance remarks, Rabbi Reichman said, “This is a very special occasion for me. I have the chance to thank the people who really made a difference in my life: my late father, who was my first rebbe; my mother, Mrs. Ella Reichman, an outspoken supporter of Israel and leader in Emunah for many years; Rav Soloveitchik, who, for us, is still alive through his teachings; Rav Belkin and Rav Lamm, for giving me the privilege of teaching; President Joel, for his caring and encouragement; and my talmidim (students), who have taught me so much.”

Rabbi Reichman then gave a shiur on the enduring presence, both spiritual and halakhic of the site where the Beit Hamikdash stood, using biblical, Talmudic and rabbinic sources.

He then segued into a discussion on the levels of sanctity and priority importance attributed to the synagogue and beit midrash (study hall) and explained why the beit midrash has a higher degree of sanctity. Rabbi Reichman dedicated his remarks, which were filled with warmth and humor, to the enduring memory of Bronka Weintraub, z”l, whom he called “a devoted daughter of Israel.”

Mrs. Weintraub’s nephew, Carmi Schwartz, was the guest of honor at a luncheon in Weissberg Commons which followed the investiture ceremony. Rabbi Lamm praised Mr. Schwartz who, as executor of Mrs. Weintraub’s estate, arranged for the chair to be endowed in her memory. Mr. Schwartz, a distinguished Jewish communal professional who has been a consultant and lay leader for numerous organizations since his retirement as executive vice president of the Council of Jewish Federations, received an honorary doctoral degree from YU in 1987.

After receiving a symbolic replica of the Weintraub chair, Mr. Schwartz spoke of Mrs. Weintraub’s lifetime of devotion to Israel and Jewish causes. He explained that she grew to love YU and RIETS through her leadership affiliation with the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, of which she and her third husband, Jacob W


Sep 14, 2006 — Rabbi Elie Abadie, MD has been appointed director of Yeshiva University’s (YU) Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies. Rabbi Abadie will coordinate all activities of the Academic Sephardic Studies Program and will also offer courses on Sephardic halakhah (Jewish law) and tradition at Yeshiva College and Stern College for Women. The Safra Institute prepares students for leadership roles in Sephardic communities.

The position was last held by the Haham, the late Rabbi Dr. Solomon Gaon, one of the leading rabbinical figures of the 20th century and lecturer on Sephardic culture. He was co-founder of YU’s Sephardic Studies Program.

Rabbi Abadie is a graduate of Yeshiva College and the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. He was ordained at YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and received his medical degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Rabbi Abadie has been a pulpit rabbi since 1984 and since 2003 has been the spiritual leader of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue. Simultaneously he has maintained a thriving medical practice.

A native of Lebanon, Rabbi Abadie grew up in Mexico City. He speaks four languages and has published widely on topics related to Sephardic traditions, philanthropy, medical ethics, and halakha (Jewish law).

The Sephardic student body at YU includes more than 300 undergraduates and 100 graduate students. Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, vice president for university affairs and co-founder with Rabbi Gaon of the Sephardic Programs at YU, serves as consultant to these programs. The Safra Institute has heightened interest in Sephardic studies and courses on Judeo-Persian and Jewish Middle Eastern Studies are now being taught at YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies.

Rabbi Moshe Tessone serves as Director of Sephardic Community Programs and Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim and Rabbi Zvulum Lieberman both are Maxwell R. Maybaum Professors and Sephardic Halakhah.


Sep 12, 2006 — Yeshiva University is starting off the 2006-2007 school year with a state-of-the-art digital communications lab at the Wilf Campus that will provide students with hands-on experience with the video, audio, and graphic production tools found in the professional workplace.

The digital media communications lab on the 13th floor of Belfer Hall will be used both for classes and independent projects. The Wilf Campus faculty will enable projects and class work in media creation, media analysis, web development and graphic programming. This opens new horizons in media production, news, politics, psychology, marketing, public relations, journalism, politics, e-commerce, education, computer graphics, and animation as well as other emerging digital technologies that affect the varied areas of communications.

Students will have an unprecedented opportunity to learn about electronic media, analyze message-making strategies, and create their own portfolios, so they will be prepared to participate in the contemporary message-market effectively.

The lab will be utilized by departments that use different forms of video, audio and graphic tools in both the physical and social sciences. The Physics Department has expressed an interest in using the lab for modeling and Wurzweiler School of Social Work is interested in using the lab to edit video of students doing interviews to be reviewed in classes.

YU alumnus Samuel Solomon, CEO of DOAR Litigation Consulting, is a Yeshiva College board member and one of the major contributors toward the $400,000 lab. He chose to donate funds towards the lab because “this whole area interested me from our company’s perspective, creating an interdisciplinary approach to digital communications and multimedia using the latest media, graphics, methods of communication, and persuasion. Though my personal interest is multimedia and the law, this facility will serve a host of disciplines.”

The lab houses eight Macintosh workstations with tools for creating and editing, multi-track audio, video with digital effects, music composition, graphics, photo and image editing, animation tools for video production, and web development tools, according to Gary Olson, principal of the independent consulting group VDO Ltd., which assisted in assembling the lab.

Each workstation is equipped with the full Apple Final Cut HD Pro package and Adobe Creative Suite software. Together, these workstations form a network with more than 2.8TB of SAN Storage. Each workstation has DVD recording ability and a dedicated DV Player/Recorder connected via Firewire.

Students will be able to use eight new DV Camera field kits with lights, tripods, and audio equipment; four digital audio file mixers with Hard disk recorders and microphones; and four Canon Rebel Digital cameras for still photography. The lab also has a high-resolution scanner, high-resolution large-format color laser printer, and standard production color laser printer. There is a large plasma display and audio system for screenings and demonstrations.

“We are proud to announce the creation of the new Digital Communications Lab at the Wilf Campus,” said Dr. Morton Lowengrub, vice president for academic affairs. “Today, more than ever, an understanding of how electronic messages are made, transmitted, and received is critical to participation in the larger world.”

“Some young, bright Orthodox student is going to make a great motion picture some day because he took a course in film-making here,” said Dr. Norman Adler, university professor of psychology and special assistant to the vice president for curriculum development and research initiatives, who spearheaded the project.


Sep 11, 2006 — Rabbis, doctors and computer scientists and nearly 400 people from varying backgrounds came to Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus on Sunday, Sept. 10 to attend “Organ Donation: A Matter of Life and Death,” a conference organized by the student-run Medical Ethics Society and the Center for the Jewish Future.

Adinah Raskas of St. Louis spoke about receiving a donor kidney. Several people in the audience approached Mrs. Raskas after her talk to tell her that they were considering being kidney donors.

“Getting a transplant is unbelievable,” Mrs. Raskas said in her address. “Someone in the community … called me and offered me her kidney. She saved another person’s life, my life. You can’t even imagine what it feels like to be offered a kidney: it’s the highest form of chesed, kindness, a second chance at life.”

Dr. Stuart Greenstein, professor of surgery at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and consulting surgeon in the division of transplantation at Montefiore Medical Center, discussed live organ donation from a medical perspective, noting that 95 percent of the transferred kidneys are still working a year later and that the risks to the donor are minimal.

Rabbi Mordechai Willig reviewed the halakhic issues associated with live organ donation, concluding that it is not a chiyuv (obligation) to donate, but it is a mitzvah (laudatory).

Four breakout sessions allowed attendees to explore different issues associated with organ donation. Dr. Fred Rosner, director of the department of medicine at the Queens Hospital Center and a visiting professor of medicine at Einstein, discussed end of life issues and advanced directives.

Rabbi Dr. Avraham Steinberg, director of the Center for Medical Ethics at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem and physician in pediatric neurology at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, discussed organ trafficking from a halakhic and practical perspective. He pointed out that organs are available for money outside of Western countries and many people travel to foreign countries to find them. He said that to stop the exploitation of poor or desperate people, some type of program should be created to compensate donors for their time and efforts.

“Everyone involved in organ donation is being compensated: The doctor gets money, the nurse gets money, the recipient gets the kidney, and yet the nicest person –– the donor –– receives nothing,” Rabbi Steinberg said.

Dr. Hindi Mermelstein, senior assistant attending psychiatrist at North Shore LIJ Health System in Manhasset and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, discussed the psycho-social issues of organ donation, explaining what kind of life changes are needed for a recipient to have a successful life and how difficult those changes are to make.

Dr. Edward Reichman, associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the chairman of the conference, addressed non-vital organ transplants. Over the last few years, there have been successful transplants of body parts including the face, hand, and uterus. Dr. Reichman discussed the general halakhic aspects of these new cases, which raise a host of new issues, as well as some of the specifics relating to each type of transplant.

Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the day was the discussion of brain death and halakha. Rabbi Hershel Schachter, a rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the Rosh Kollel at RIETS’ Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel (Institute for Advanced Research in Rabbinics), spoke on the topic by video conference from Los Angeles. Rabbi Dr. Moshe D. Tendler, Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Professor of Jewish Medical Ethics, professor of biology, and a rosh yeshiva at RIETS, spoke near the end of the conference.

Rabbi Schachter has deemed the question of brain death a safek, or a matter of doubt. Rabbi Schachter’s opinion would obligate its followers to act stringently in all cases of doubt, rendering a brain dead person not dead and ruling out the possibility of donating his organs.

The son-in-law of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi Tendler has interpreted his father-in-law’s stance to support the theory that complete and irreversible cessation of function of the entire brain renders a person “physiologically decapitated,” and is considered legally dead according to Jewish law. According to his opinion, removal of organs for donation is permissible upon pronunciation of brain death.

Medical students in the audience pressed both rabbis on a definitive course of action when they are confronted with this issue. But according to Rabbi Kenneth Brander, dean of the Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), the purpose of the conference was not to give pat answers, but to raise questions and awareness.

“There will be different rabbinic approaches to difficult issues,” Rabbi Brander said. “Intellectual honesty requires that they are presented by people who are recognized authorities on these positions.”

The keynote address was given by Rabbi Dr. Steinberg, who broke down the positions of Israel’s greatest halakhic decisors regarding brain death and organ harvesting and discussed how such issues are handled in Israel.

Many people in attendance commented on how well-organized and thought-out the conference was. “The organizers did a fantastic job of setting up the program and managing the flow of the conference,” said YU almnus Joshua Yuter. “Despite the complexities and nuances of the halakhic and medical issues involved, all speakers were clear, lucid, and articulate making these complicated topics accessibly to a lay audience.”

Yonah Bardos and Zahava Sinensky are the presidents of the student-run Medical Ethics Society. Mr. Bardos, a biology major at Yeshiva College and a first-year student at RIETS, said the conference was the first time to his knowledge that a student group ran an event to educate the greater Jewish community.

“Our ability to share the knowledge of Yeshiva University with the community was only successful because of our student board, our advisory board, the many volunteers, and the guidance of the CJF staff,” Bardos said.