Beyond Zika and Ebola

December 4 Student Medical Ethics Society Conference Will Explore History and Threats of Infectious Diseases

Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society (MES) will partner with YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF) to explore the history, challenges and impact of infectious diseases at the Tenth Annual Fuld Family Medical Ethics Society Conference. Titled “Humanity’s Oldest Rival: Infectious Diseases: Then, Now and Beyond,” the conference will feature experts in the worlds of medicine and Jewish law and take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 4, 2016, at 500 West 185th Street, New York, New York, 10033.

“We feel it important to tackle the topic of infectious diseases considering the current climate,” said Yael Mayer, co-president of MES. “The Ebola Zaire viral epidemic in Africa, and its sudden appearance on our shores, spurred a great deal of panic; however, the general population had limited access to concrete knowledge of the disease. Similarly, the rising count of Zika infection in the United States is being met with much apprehension, but little understanding of the virus and its halachic implications.”

“The goal of this conference is twofold: to give people the opportunity to become aware of the science and halacha relating to infectious diseases and to give them an appreciation of the dedicated men and women who work tirelessly to combat this mounting threat,” added Ari Garfinkel, co-president of MES. “To achieve that goal, the conference has been expanded to include other highly relevant issues, such as a look at the history of infectious diseases, and the rise of superbugs (antibiotic-resistant microbes), particularly in hospital infection.”

A panel featuring Dr. Nancy Tomes, Distinguished Professor of History at Stonybrook University and past president of the American Association of the History of Medicine, and Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, conference chair and professor of clinical emergency medicine and clinical epidemiology and health at YU-affiliated Albert Einstein College of Medicine, will explore the history of infectious diseases and how Jewish legal quandaries that arose from their existence were discussed in rabbinic literature.

Dr. Priya Nori, director of antibiotic stewardship at Einstein, will discuss antibiotic-resistant microbes—“superbugs”—and the dangers of hospital infections. A third panel will be dedicated to the emerging Zika and Ebola epidemics and the immediate and long-lasting risks they post to the global community. Dr. Neil Vora, an epidemics intelligence officer at the Center for Disease Control, will discuss the global health perspective on these viruses, while Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rabbi Dr. Sol Roth Chair in Talmud and Contemporary Halacha at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), and Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, assistant rabbi at the Young Israel of Woodmere and an infectious diseases specialist, will address halachic issues that arise from the Zika and Ebola epidemics, ranging from birth control to taharot [preparing corpses for burial].

“It is a privilege for the CJF to work with YU students in bringing this conference to the broader Jewish community,” said Rabbi Yaakov Glasser, the David Mitzner Dean of the CJF. “This program is a shining example of how YU works to infuse its student body with a passion for leadership, and devotion to the larger Jewish world. The issues of medical ethics come alive when we empower our students to create a forum to educate and inspire our community.”

For more information or to register, visit