Jewish Perspectives on Public Health

Student Medical Ethics Society Presents Sixth Annual Conference on November 6

Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society (MES) will host their sixth annual conference on Sunday, November 6, entitled “In the Public Eye: Jewish Perspectives on Public Health” at YU’s Wilf Campus, 500 West 185th Street, New York, NY.

The conference will provide participants with the broad medical and legal foundations needed to understand public health dilemmas including obesity, smoking, vaccinations, circumcision and the allocation of scarce resources. It will also offer exposure to social and ethical issues surrounding these challenges, both in American society and the Jewish community, as well as a discussion of how the system of halacha [Jewish law] approaches these complex difficulties.

“The line between medical ethics and legal ethics is a very fine one,” said Yeshiva College senior Daniel Elefant, who, along with Rachel Blinick, a senior at Stern College for Women, serves as co-president of MES. “Public health, the theme of this year’s conference, is an area where we will be able to see how halacha deals with the intersection between the ethics of health and healthcare and American legal ethics. By raising awareness about health issues that are widespread in our generation, we hope to influence healthier lifestyles for the individual, for the community and for society as a whole.”

John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University Law School and a leading anti-smoking and anti-obesity advocate, will be addressing these themes. “The conference offers me the opportunity to address these problems from a unique perspective—to use religious motivation as a novel weapon in the war on smoking and for nonsmokers’ rights, and to learn from young people coming from a different cultural background,” said Banzhaf.

In addition to Banzhaf, the conference will feature leading experts in medicine and halacha, including Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler, senior rosh yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) and the Rabbi Isaac and Bella Tendler Professor of Jewish Medical Ethics at Yeshiva College; Rabbi Hershel Schacter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professorial Chair in Talmud at RIETS; and Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, president and CEO at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, NY and professor of clinical medicine at New York Medical College.

“Conventional medical halacha has generally focused on issues of treatment,” said Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, conference chairman and associate professor at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “The Medical Ethics Society has chosen to draw attention to a topic that is often ignored: preventative medicine. The Rambam (Maimonides) was already acutely aware of the importance of health maintenance to facilitate religious observance, and as has been our practice for all our conferences, we will bring together renowned experts in medicine and halacha to address this theme.”

The conference is open to the public but pre-registration is required. For more information or to register visit or contact

Leave a Reply