Joint Certificate Program to Educate Rabbis on Medical and Halachic Issues Associated with Infertility
As former rabbi of South Florida’s Boca Raton Synagogue, Rabbi Kenneth Brander would regularly field questions from couples struggling with fertility issues. “I didn’t know how to answer these difficult questions,” said Brander, who currently serves as David Mitzner Dean of Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF).
After taking a sabbatical and studying at the Puah Institute (Machon Puah)—Israel’s renowned institute of fertility and medicine in accordance with halacha [Jewish law]— Brander realized just how important it was for young rabbis to be trained in this emerging field.
“With the advances in medical science that have allowed couples with fertility challenges the opportunity to actualize their dream of having a family, comes a whole host of halachic issues including definitions of paternity and maternity,” said Brander. “It is imperative that our rabbis are prepared to handle these questions in their respective communities.”
As such, the CJF and the Puah Institute have recently launched a joint certificate program for graduates of YU’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) that will feature six months of intensive online courses, as well as several yemei iyun [days of study] at YU’s New York campus, with the goal of educating rabbis on the halachic and medical issues involved with infertility.
The program will offer courses on topics ranging from fertility treatments, egg donation and sperm donation to surrogate mother, halachic status of the fetus, and birth control. With the combined resources of Yeshiva University and the Puah Institute, participants will have access to leading medical professionals and halachic experts in the field.
Upon their completion of the program, which runs from November 2011 through April 2012, participants will receive a certificate from the CJF and the Puah Institute.
“Participating rabbis will be exposed to the extensive practical experience of the Puah Institute and will have opportunities to maintain a connection with the Institute during and after the course as cases arise in their respective communities,” said Rabbi Gideon Weitzman, director of the Puah Institute.
Rabbi Dani Rockoff, a YU graduate currently serving as rabbi of Congregation BIAV in Overland Park, Kansas, chose to participate in the program because he felt it would give him “the knowledge and skills to properly deal with a very sensitive and complex area of halacha and Jewish family life.”
“I hope to learn from some of the foremost experts in the various fields that relate to infertility—halacha, science, counseling—and be properly trained to assist others,” said Rockoff.
In all, more than 40 rabbis from around the world have registered to take part in the program’s inaugural year.
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