Meredith Hawkins to Receive Top Award from American Federation for Medical Research

Meredith Hawkins, M.D., professor of medicine and director of the Global Diabetes Initiative at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, will receive the American Federation for Medical Research’s (AFMR) highest honor for medical research, the Outstanding Investigator Award. The prestigious prize is given annually to one exceptional investigator aged 45 or younger for excellence in biomedical research.

Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Meredith Hawkins, M.D., will receive the American Federation for Medical Research’s (AFMR) highest honor for medical research, the Outstanding Investigator Award

Dr. Meredith Hawkins

Hawkins was selected for her diabetes research, which examines the liver’s role in glucose regulation and production, and how elevated fatty acids contribute to insulin resistance and inflammation in humans with glucose intolerance or obesity. While insulin’s role in regulating blood glucose has been widely studied, Hawkins’ group did pioneering studies showing that, in susceptible individuals, the liver fails to sense an increase in blood glucose—findings that may lead to novel diabetes drugs. They also study malnutrition diabetes, a poorly understood form of the disease that particularly affects the developing world.

“Dr. Hawkins is an innovative clinical scientist, committed mentor, prolific member of our Diabetes Research Center and an international force through her leadership of Einstein’s Global Diabetes Initiative,” said Harry Shamoon, M.D., director of the Einstein-Montefiore Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and one of her former research mentors. “This is well-deserved recognition for Dr. Hawkins’ stellar track record as a clinical and translational investigator.”

A previous recipient of AFMR’s Junior Physician-Investigator Award, Hawkins will present an overview of her work at AFMR’s Henry Christian Awards dinner on April 17, 2012. She will then accept the award at the Translational Science 2012 meeting on April 19, 2012 in Washington, DC.

“I am honored and thankful to receive this award,” said Hawkins. “As the rate of diabetes and its serious health complications continues to rise worldwide, support and validation from organizations like the AFMR are necessary to help investigators like me continue to identify and develop effective and practical treatments.” Dr. Hawkins is also an attending physician in endocrinology at Montefiore Medical Center, the University Hospital for Einstein.

Established in 1940 as the American Federation for Clinical Research, the AFMR is an international organization that bridges basic and patient-oriented research in multiple medical disciplines. Their broad medical sciences constituency includes basic, translational and clinical researchers.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech: The Five Most Important Things to Know About Passover

Scholars have long wondered why Jews who number less than one quarter of one percent of the world—as Milton Himmelfarb memorably put it, “The total population of the Jewish people is less than a statistical error in the annual birth rate of the Chinese people” – have had such a profound influence on almost every field of human endeavor.

Rabbi Benjamin Blech

Rabbi Benjamin Blech, YU professor of Talmud

What accounts for the remarkable fact that in the 20th century, Jews, more than any other minority, have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, with almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates being Jewish?

Perhaps it all goes back to the very beginning of the birth of our people and the Passover holiday that we will shortly be celebrating.

Passover conveys five major concepts that became our mantras for how to lead successful and productive lives. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. Because we’ve absorbed them into our national psyche for the thousands of years since the Exodus, we’ve been privileged to fulfill in great measure our prophetically mandated role to become a light unto the nations.

They are our greatest contributions to the world and can be summarized in five words: memory, optimism, faith, family and responsibility.

The Importance of Memory

The Irish Catholic writer Thomas Cahill was so overwhelmed by how the Jewish people literally transformed the world that he authored what proved to become an international bestseller, The Gifts of the Jews. One of the major gifts he credits to Jewish genius is the invention of the idea of history.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” “Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.” Remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory.

Henry Ford was famous for his belief that “history is bunk.” The Ford motor company is also famous for producing the Edsel. And both were probably equally stupid blunders. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.” Read full article at

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is Professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside. He is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and Creed, If God is Good, Why is the World So Bad? and the international best-seller, The Sistine Secrets. The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Yeshiva University.

Yeshiva College Writing Faculty Publish Books, Plays

Several professors who teach writing courses in Yeshiva College’s English department are also award-winning authors, playwrights and poets whose works have been published on a national scale or soon will be.

Hugh Sheehy

Hugh Sheehy, a second-year faculty member at Yeshiva College, recently won the Flannery O’Connor Prize, a prestigious annual competition that grants aspiring writers the opportunity to have their work published. Sheehy’s “The Invisibles” is a collection of short fictional stories that includes “literary mysteries, thrillers, coming-of-age stories, recognition narratives and other kinds of genre stories intended to be page-turners,” according to Sheehy. The book—Sheehy’s first—will be published by the University of Georgia Press and will be coming out in October 2012.

Sheehy’s fiction has already been published in several literary journals, including Crazyhorse, Glimmer Train, The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, The New Orleans Review, Southwest Review, Redivider and in the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2008. He is now working on a second novel.

Barbara Blatner, who has been teaching at Yeshiva College for close to a decade, is an established poet. At the end of March, a book of her poetry called “Living With You” was published. The book is a collection of lyrical, abstract poems centering on her marriage to her husband of over 20 years. In September 2010, her first book of poetry, “The Still Position,” came out, a memoir written in verse about the last five days of her mother’s life.

Barbara Blatner

Blatner is also an accomplished playwright. Her short play, “Guernica 2003,” will be performed at the American Globe Theater in Manhattan on April 25. She described it as “a surreal play about Colin Powell making his speech at the United Nations about going to war in Iraq, and Picasso painting Guernica and undermining Powell’s confidence because Guernica is an anti-war masterpiece.”

Next winter, another one of Blatner’s plays, “Years of Sky,” is slated to be produced by the Scripts Up company and performed off Broadway at the 59E59 Theater. Blatner wrote a version of the play in the 1990s, when it was performed in Boston, and later did a reading of it several years ago for YU students and faculty. “It’s about a bi-racial couple who witnessed John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 and then they meet again in 1968 after Robert Kennedy’s assassination and once again in Dallas in 1992 to try to figure out what happened in their relationship,” said Blatner.

Several of her other works were aired on National Public Radio, performed in workshops and theaters in Boston and New York and published in various acclaimed literary journals and anthologies.

Blatner’s talents extend beyond the literary realm. In addition to teaching English composition, poetry and script-writing courses, she is a musician, having worked as a cocktail pianist, performing in lounges and bands early in her career. At YU, she has been involved in several productions of the Yeshiva College Dramatics Society (YCDS)—writing songs, playing piano and acting as the musical director for “1776,” which was performed this past fall and for the 2007 production of “Newsies,” among others YCDS plays.

Johanna Lane, who’s been teaching full-time at Yeshiva College for the past five years, was recently awarded a contract with Little Brown for international rights to her novel. Though she and her editors have not yet settled on a title for the book, it is a work of literary fiction set in the late 1990s in Ireland—Lane’s native country.

“The novel is about a family who has had an ancestral home for hundreds and hundreds of years and can’t afford to take care of it anymore, and so it gets turned into a tourist attraction and the family has to cope with all these tourists coming through their space,” said Lane.

The novel—Lane’s first—is based on her thesis project from Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in fiction writing. “I’ve always wanted to be a writer and I never actually thought it would happen, so this is a dream,” she said.

After the final rounds of editing are complete, her book will be published in fall 2013, in English-speaking countries around the world. She hopes to continue writing, in addition to teaching at Yeshiva College, where she enjoys the “nice, very supportive English department that lets me pursue interesting courses in creative writing,” said Lane.

YU Panel Explores Solutions to Modern-Day Agunah Crisis

Members of the Yeshiva University community flooded Weissberg Commons to hear a multifaceted discussion of the plight of the modern-day agunah, a woman whose husband cannot or refuses to give her a get [writ of Jewish divorce], on March 29.

Agunah Panelists

"Fighting the Agunah Crisis" Panelists: Dr. David Pelcovitz, Rabbi Jeremy Stern, Tamar Epstein and Rabbi Hershel Schachter.

Titled “Fighting the Agunah Crisis,” the panel offered rabbinic, psychological and devastating personal insight into the complicated status of an agunah and the challenges she faces. That included testimony from Tamar Epstein ’04S, a nurse-practitioner and current agunah whose case has received a great deal of media attention due to the coordinated efforts of committed friends and the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA).

Before a crowd that overflowed into the hall, Epstein detailed her struggle to extract a get from her ex-husband and described the situation’s impact on her life, as well as her young daughter. “Divorce is always painful but the healing process can’t begin until the two parties have completely disentangled themselves from each other and can begin to move on with their lives, and that’s exactly what the agunah can’t do,” she said.

“That someone in our community is twisting halakha [Jewish law], not only selfishly, but also maliciously, must be intolerable to us,” said Ahuva Yagod, a sophomore at Stern College for Women and president of the Agunah Advocacy Club, one of the night’s sponsors. “We must be aware when someone is manipulating the divorce proceedings and we must stand united to eradicate this problem.”

The panel was co-sponsored by Stern’s Torah Activities Council as the final event in a week of programming for Domestic Violence and Abuse Awareness Week. In addition to Epstein, it featured Rabbi Hershel Schachter, rosh reshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud; Dr. David Pelcovitz, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration; and Rabbi Jeremy Stern ’07YC, ’09A, ’10R, executive director of ORA.

While touching on aspects of Epstein’s individual case, each of the panelists emphasized that the issue of agunah was communal and underlined the need to support agunot by upholding a zero-tolerance policy for get refusal.

“When ORA takes on a case, we always try to solve it amicably at first, looking deep into its facts and following the paper trail, making sure we’re hearing as many perspectives as possible,” said Stern. “But once a marriage is deemed irreconcilable, an unconditional get must be furnished in a timely fashion. Withholding a get is not a means of negotiation—negotiations can’t be conducted when someone is holding a gun to your head or a get over it. ”

Epstein agreed. “My ex-husband did not become a get refuser overnight,” she said. “I believe a get refuser is formed in large part by messages conveyed to him, both implicitly and explicitly, by his community.” She added: “The agunah is amongst the most vulnerable people in our community. We, as a community, have a responsibility to protect her and ensure her release and we can achieve that goal if we ourselves, our institutions and our leadership accept a zero-tolerance policy on get refusal.”

Panelists also noted the importance of making the halachik prenuptial agreement a standard component of the marriage process for all Orthodox couples. This is the goal of an ORA initiative titled, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Get Married Without A Prenup.” Copies of the agreement, which contains a monetary incentive to give a get and preselects a beit din [Jewish court] to hear any divorce proceedings, were distributed at the event and slid under dorm room doors across both campuses.

YU alumni, Stern and Epstein, are raising awareness of the plight of agunot.

“If every YU student signed a prenup, we could eradicate this problem from our community,” said Stern. “Don’t sign it for yourselves. Sign it for someone who might not be here tonight and might not otherwise hear this message and might need to.”

Ilana Gadish, ’11S a current student enrolled in Stern’s Graduate Program for Talmudic Studies, actually signed the same copy of the agreement that was slipped under her dorm room door last year before her recent marriage. “The issue of agunot is one of the most important in the modern Orthodox community,” she said.

Gadish felt the night’s panel helped her understand the necessity of uncomfortable tactics, such as rallying and signing petitions, to pressure husbands into granting a get. “I used to be more hesitant about attending rallies, but after hearing Tamar speak in person, I would definitely go.”

Another young couple filled out the prenup on the spot.

“We were planning to do this before, but they had notaries here, so we thought, ‘Why not?’ ” said Sarah Marvin, a junior at Stern College majoring in English literature. “After seeing all the publicity about agunot, I’m just making sure it doesn’t happen to me.”

“I have fond memories of my years at Stern and a great appreciation for the education I’ve received here, but over the past years I’ve developed a deeper sense of pride in my status as a YU alumna,” said Epstein. “I’ve witnessed and personally benefited from the courage, innovation and sensitivity of the roshei yeshiva and administrative leadership of this institution in tackling the problem of the modern day agunah.”

To learn more about the campaign for Epstein’s get, visit Information about ORA can be found at

Joshua Gortler Establishes Scholarship in Geriatric Social Work at Wurzweiler

Joshua Gortler ’54YUHS, ’58YC, ’60W had a more arduous journey than most young men enroute to Yeshiva University.

Joshua Gortler

He arrived in the United States with his parents from Germany, where they had spent the previous five years living in three different Displaced Persons camps following World War II. At the start of the Holocaust, when Gortler was three years old, the Nazis occupied his shtetl (village) in Poland. With the assistance and protection of non-Jewish friends, the Gortlers managed to escape Poland and fled to Siberia and then Uzbekistan, where they stayed until the war ended. When they returned to Poland, they found a cold reception, and moved to German DP camps, awaiting resettlement in the U.S.

In 1951, sponsored by the Jewish Family Services of Phoenix, the Gortlers were brought to Arizona.

“At the time, there was little yiddishkeit there,” recalls Gortler, “so my parents decided to send me to New York so I could receive a Jewish education.”

Through the help of a rabbi, a YU graduate, at the local Conservative synagogue (there were no Orthodox synagogues in Phoenix at the time), the Gortlers were told that Yeshiva University High School, then called Talmudical Academy (TA), had agreed to educate and house their son for free. He also received a modest stipend from TA, since his parents had virtually no money.

Gortler, who knew no English when he arrived with his family in Arizona, was sent on a Greyhound bus by his parents. They had only packed a couple of sandwiches for him, not realizing the trip would be four days long. Read full article at Faces at YU

YU Screening of “Kony 2012” Sheds Light on Ugandan Rebel War Crimes, Offers Students Chance to Get Involved

On March 26 more than 150 Yeshiva University students filled the Koch Auditorium on the Beren Campus for a special screening of the short film “Kony 2012” and an open dialogue with members of the movement that created it.

Invisible Children volunteers Bony and Funk addressed YU students at the Stern College Social Justice Society event.

The video was produced by Invisible Children—a group that seeks to raise awareness of war crimes committed by Ugandan rebel militant Joseph Kony—and has taken the world by storm. Employing an innovative mix of social media, pop culture and documentary, “Kony 2012” has quickly become one of the most viral videos of all time.

In its first minutes, director Jason Russel narrates: “The next 27 minutes are an experiment, but for it to work, you have to pay attention.”

And people around the world certainly have.

The video has been viewed more than 137 million times over platforms like YouTube and Facebook since its March 5 release—about 136.5 million more than expected, according to Invisible Children volunteer Brian Funk. “This is our 14th tour with Invisible Children and we’ve never seen people as honestly and eagerly engaged,” he said.

Invisible Children

Addressing the students, Funk and fellow volunteer Bony, a survivor of the conflict from Northern Uganda, answered questions about Kony and spoke about their own experiences with Invisible Children. Bony told students about the long trek he and other children made from their homes to sleep in the city hospital each night, where armed guards protected them from being abducted by Kony’s forces into his Lord’s Resistance Army, largely composed of child soldiers. He also described United Nations refugee camps where natives fled to avoid being abducted or killed by the LRA, as well as some of the tactics Kony employed to keep his army in line.

“He forces young kids to kill their parents because he knows that if you do that, you probably know there is no one who will take care of you if you escape and run home,” said Bony.

Today, Bony is finishing vocational training and is about to begin university studies as one of 950 students sponsored by the Legacy Scholarship Program. He hopes to pursue a career in international relations and has come a long way, Funk noted, since he was filmed in Invisible Children’s first work, 2007’s “The Rough Cut,” making his nightly journey to the hospital to sleep.

“Bony’s story inspired me to get involved five years ago,” said Funk. “I never thought I’d actually be greeting him at an airport and living and working with him on a daily basis. I think that’s the power of human connection and how we truly are, through this social media revolution that’s taken place over the past few weeks, a world without borders.” He added: “We do have a commonality between all of us and Bony being here is a testament to that.”

Aviva Kott, president of Stern College for Women’s Social Justice Society and an organizer of the event, agreed. “I love that organizations like this invite students from across North America and Uganda to work together,” said Kott, a senior majoring in political science. “I’m proud of the close, tight-knit community we have on campus here but I think students also gain a lot from this kind of diverse interaction with the world around us.”

The event was hosted by the Social Justice Society and co-sponsored by the YU Democrat and Republican Clubs. Kott noted that though Invisible Children has visited YU in the past, this year’s gathering drew a significant increase in attendance, up from 30 students last year. In addition to introducing the YU community to the complexities of this 26-year conflict, the event also offered them an opportunity to question Funk and Bony about the “Stop Kony” campaign and the media frenzy that has surrounded it. Students discussed financial concerns and future goals of the organization, including whether it planned to target other war criminals and its approach to rehabilitating former child soldiers.

“I saw the video on Facebook and wanted to learn more about what’s going on and how to help from people who know what they’re doing,” said Alan Verbitzky, a freshman studying finance at the Syms School of Business. “I think bringing Invisible Children to campus shows YU’s commitment to a global society and keeping its students aware of these world situations.”

Watch “KONY 2012″ below:


Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel Delivers Shiur to Students, Meets with Roshei Yeshiva

Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, paid a visit to Yeshiva University-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) on March 28. Upon arrival he was greeted by Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim, Maxwell R. Maybaum Memorial Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Codes; Rabbi Dr. Herbert Dobrinsky, vice president for university affairs and Rabbi Moshe Tessone, director of YU’s Sephardic Community Program.

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The chief rabbi, also known as the Rishon LeZion, delivered a shiur [lecture] to hundreds of students in the Glueck Beit Midrash, after which he participated in a luncheon with various roshei yeshiva and members of the YU faculty and administration including Rabbi Yona Reiss, Max and Marion Grill Dean of RIETS; Chancellor Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, Rosh HaYeshiva; Rabbi Zevulun Charlop, dean emeritus of RIETS; Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud; and Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rabbi Dr. Sol Roth Chair in Talmud and Contemporary Halacha, among others. This was Rabbi Amar’s third visit to the YU campus in recent years.

“Hakham [rabbi] Amar’s visit to Yeshiva strengthens the relationship between our roshei yeshiva, the RIETS administration and the office of the chief rabbinate of the State of Israel,” said Tessone. “His visit is also significant to the Sephardic population on campus which benefitted from hearing his words and participating in the mitzvah of kabbalat pnei hakhamim [receiving great Torah luminaries].”

YULA Panthers Defeat SAR Sting in Rematch of 2011 Sarachek Finals; Win Record Seventh Championship

After five days of thrilling basketball and friendly competition, the YULA Panthers of Los Angeles, CA were crowned champions of Yeshiva University’s 21st Annual Red Sarachek Invitational Basketball Tournament. The Panthers defeated the SAR Sting of Riverdale, NY by the score of 45-35 before a packed crowd in YU’s Max Stern Athletic Center. The win avenges last year’s championship game loss to the Sting and gives YULA its record seventh Sarachek Championship.

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The tournament, named for legendary former YU Maccabees coach Bernard “Red” Sarachek, featured 20 Jewish high school basketball teams in a dramatic tournament played before live crowds and broadcast to audiences in the thousands.

In addition to YULA and SAR, this year’s field includes schools from across the U.S. and Canada: Bnei Akiva Schools – Or Chaim (Toronto, ON); Columbus Torah Academy (Columbus, OH); Cooper Yeshiva (Memphis, TN); Frisch School (Paramus, NJ); Fuchs Mizrachi School (Beachwood, OH); Hebrew Academy High School (Montreal, QC); Houston Bnei Akiva (Houston, TX); Jewish Educational Center/RTMA (Elizabeth, NJ); Maimonides School (Brookline, MA); North Shore Hebrew Academy (Great Neck, NY); Samuel Scheck Hillel School (North Miami Beach, FL); Shalhevet High School (Los Angeles, CA); Torah Academy of Bergen County (Teaneck, NJ); Weinbaum Yeshiva High School (Boca Raton, FL); Yavneh Academy (Dallas, TX); Yeshiva Atlanta (Atlanta, GA); Yeshiva of Virginia (Richmond, VA); and Yeshiva University High School for Boys/Marsha Stern Talmudical Academy (New York, NY).

The second tier title went to Cooper Yeshiva, third tier went to Maimonides and fourth tier went to Columbus. YULA forward Jack Gindi won tournament MVP honors.

Excitement permeated Yeshiva’s Washington Heights Campus upon the invasion of fans and athletes of the tournament. For the first time in its history, those who could not attend the tournament  in person could still keep up with the action via broadcast in high-definition video provided by MacsLive. The broadcast was made possible with the support of Yeshiva University’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Center for the Jewish Future. Fans also kept up with latest tournament news in real-time via Twitter and Facebook updates.

But the tournament served a function beyond the court. For many of the participants and fans, the tournament offered an opportunity to be introduced or re-introduced to the culture of Yeshiva University. Throughout the weekend, tours were conducted all over the campus so the young all-stars could gain an early appreciation for the unique educational environment offered at YU.

“I love this tournament,” said Jacob Kestenbaum, a tournament rookie from the North Shore team.  “It’s a great experience and a great atmosphere and I look forward to returning next year.”

Jacques Kaswan, another first-timer from Hillel Miami described the whole weekend as “very cool,” he said. “Its amazing that YU puts this whole thing together every year.”

Friends, family and fellow students all crowded the bleachers to watch the games. Ira Shein, a grandparent of two Fuchs Mizrachi athletes who had no previous YU connection was impressed with the grand nature of the tournament. “This is a wonderful event,” he said. “I think YU is giving these kids a great opportunity to feel a part of the American sport scene within a Jewish environment.”

Aviva Schechter, an aunt of two Miamonides students shared these sentiments. “This is so much fun,” she said. “The boys are having such a great time.”

Cindy Ashwal drove the 8 hours from Cleveland to watch her son Eli, from the Fuchs Mizrachi team, play in the tournament. “I would not have missed this for anything,” she said. “This is fantastic for my son to meet up with Jewish boys from all over the country. I hope YU keeps it up every year.”

For complete coverage of the tournament, including scores, statistics, game summaries and awards visit MacsLive.

Exhibition Presented by YU Museum in Collaboration with Einstein Explores Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine

Modern medicine emerged in the second half of the 19th century, as innovative technologies and new theories of disease paved the way for extraordinary medical advances. For Jews, and for the Jewish community at large, the field of scientific medicine presented new opportunities, new challenges and new ways to engage with modernity. Through an array of original medical instruments, artifacts, documents, letters, photographs and video, Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860-1960, explores the Jewish encounter with modern medicine on an individual, communal and religious level. The exhibition, on display at the Yeshiva University Museum through August 12, brings the conversation up to the present, concluding with a specially produced film that examines key issues in contemporary Jewish bioethics.

Einstein's Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman speaks to local high school students.

On March 21, Trail of the Magic Bullet was the centerpiece of two educational initiatives. In the morning, in a program organized by Ilana Benson, museum educator at the YU Museum, 80 students from four Jewish New York area high schools used the exhibition as the jumping off point for discussions around the role of halakha in medicine and the training of the Jewish medical student across history. Science, pre-med and AP biology students from Yeshiva University High School for Boys, Yeshiva University High School for Girls, DRS Yeshiva High School and Yeshiva of Flatbush participated. In tandem with tours of the exhibition, Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine led the students in discussions of key medical case studies and gave an interactive lecture on the history of the training of Jewish medical students. In addition to seeing a range of rare medical artifacts, documents, posters and letters, the students from these schools had the chance to engage on topics such as organ donation, genetic testing and general Jewish medical ethics.

In the evening, the Yeshiva University Medical Ethics Society also brought 40 undergraduate students to the museum to experience the Trail of the Magic Bullet exhibition, and to participate in another lecture given by Reichman. The students heard about and discussed the experience of Jewish doctors in the modern medical field and developments that have facilitated the participation of Jewish doctors within modern medicine. The program featured a rich and engaging discussion around such issues as the acceptance of Jews into secular medical schools, advancements in medical technologies, and the role of halakha in connection to the medical field and contemporary bioethics.

Surgery, Newark Beth Israel Hospital, early 20th century / Collection of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey

These two programs highlight the educational impact and potential of the exhibition and attest to the value of the collaboration between the YU Museum and Einstein.

The exhibition celebrated its opening with a program on February 29, 2012, which featured a discussion by Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean of Einstein, on the Jewish role within the medical profession; and the screening of “Heal, You Shall Heal” (produced and directed by Ilana Trachtman), a film that was commissioned and developed by YU Museum in conjunction with the exhibition.

Looking Beyond the Upcoming “Bully” Documentary, Dr. Rona Novick Offers Another View of Bullying

I haven’t yet seen the much anticipated and publicized soon-to-be-released “Bully” movie. I am certainly pleased with the attention and awareness it has already generated, with movie stars, advocates, educators and politicians weighing in on the R rating it was given for “language.” When I have wondered aloud to friends and colleagues why the movie makers, hoping the film would be shown to schools and other teen or children’s groups, would include material that might be inappropriate, I’ve been told that the harsh language may be central to bullying, and removing it, bleeping it or any other editing would compromise the power of the story.

Rona Novick

Dr. Rona Novick is a clinical child psychologist and noted parenting expert.

I am very hopeful that a film that is receiving such widespread national attention will make a difference. But the conversations I am having even before seeing it are causing me some worry. I worry about what I often experience in consulting with school and parent groups that I call the “not here” phenomenon. This is the all too common denial, as I describe or discuss bullying, that such things do not happen in “our school” or are not done by “my child.”

The “Bully” movie, I would expect, likely portrays powerful examples that clearly exemplify bullying, children using harsh language, physically violent acts, emotional harassment writ large. So much of the devastating bullying I see would not play on the big screen. It is the popular girl who flicks her hair, sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes as a less popular classmate joins her lunch table, all barely noticeable by others but painfully felt by the victim. It is the overweight boy who joins the laughter of his classmates when they use the nickname “blubber” they have given him, making it appear to all that this is typical male middle school bonding. It is the subtle social machinations and undercurrents that tell students who to avoid as a social “cootie” and whose good graces to cultivate. So much of it looks fairly innocent and so much of it is complex and continuous and without understanding the larger social context it is difficult to discern. I once visited a third grade classroom and observed one girl ask another for a pencil. “Did you see that?” the astute teacher asked, “she is such a bully.” I responded that I didn’t see any evidence of bullying and the teacher enlightened me. The pencil requester is the richest girl in the class. While holding her fancy, fluffy topped pen, she asked her peer, a rather disorganized student in tattered shirt, who lives in the poorest area of town to borrow a pencil to highlight that she has nothing, and often needs to get her school supplies from class donations. What looked to me as an innocent gesture could now be seen as a cruel, deliberate and hurtful interaction.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a picture, because it is so specific, can make material less relatable and easier to deny. When we see images of ravished far-away lands and starving children, do we realize that within US borders, many children are malnourished and hungry? Do pictures of industrial dumping and waste prompt us to pick up the litter in our environs? I hope that this movie, in documenting evident and painful realities of bullying that translate to the big screen will help parents, educators and students become more aware. I hope it will help all of us see both the obvious and the subtle bullying that is under our noses and not see bullying as a story that happens to someone else, a tragedy “that doesn’t happen here.”

After a high-profile bully related suicide, I asked a group of middle schoolers in a faith based school if they thought this could happen in their school. Quickly and in unison they replied, “no, never, not here.” I told them, that’s exactly what the students at the school of this young suicide said until it happened to them. Bullying is in every school and every community.  Maybe not looking like it does in the movies. Maybe different from the over the top portrayals in Hollywood or in child and teen literature. It’s hidden in the social details and small comments and everyday actions that can be brutally cruel and cripplingly painful. It is time we commit our attention, our resources and our efforts to battling bullying. If we continue to say “this doesn’t happen,” if we fail to see it and if we fail to address it, we expose our children to much more danger than an R rated movie.

Watch the “Bully” trailer below:


The author, Dr. Rona Novick, is the director of the Fanya Gottesfeld Heller Division of Doctoral Studies at YU’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration and a senior fellow at YU’s Institute for University-School Partnership. A noted clinical child psychologist, parenting expert, author and lecturer, Novick helped develop the BRAVE bully reduction and social emotional leadership development program at YU School Partnership. Read her blog, Life’s Tool Box, a guide for parents and educators.

July 2014
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