Out of the Ashes

Student Medical Ethics Society Presents Oct. 21 Conference on Jewish Approaches to Medical Dilemmas Borne Out of the Holocaust

Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society (MES) will host its seventh annual Fuld Family Medical Ethics conference, titled “Out of the Ashes: Jewish Approaches to Medical Dilemmas Borne out of the Holocaust”, on Sunday, October 21 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Furst Hall on the University’s Wilf Campus, 500 West 185th Street, New York, NY.

The conference, sponsored through the generous support of Rabbi Dovid and Mrs. Anita Fuld, will explore the contemporary relevance and Halachic significance of ethical challenges that arose during the Holocaust as well as issues that surfaced later as products of the Holocaust.

Mordechai Smith and Yosefa Schoor are co-presidents of YU's Student Medical Ethics Society.

Dr. Michael A. Grodin, a professor of Family Medicine and Psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and the director of the Project on Medicine and the Holocaust at the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies, will open the conference with a keynote address on the impact of the Nazi regime’s “Final Solution” campaign on contemporary medicine and bioethics.

Additional topics of discussion will include genetic research, forced sterilization, end-of-life decisions, psychological impact of the Holocaust on second and third generation survivors, the Jewish attitude on the value of life through the lens of the mentally disabled and the usage of Nazi data.

“What makes this conference so unique is that we will be analyzing the Holocaust—a subject that has overwhelmed Jewish thought and discussion for nearly 70 years—from an entirely new angle,” said Mordechai Smith, a junior at Yeshiva College and co-president of MES. “Hopefully, by asking some tough questions, the conference will force the general populace to rethink their own standards of morality and will help participants in the medical field recalibrate their ethical and moral compasses.”

A highlight of the conference will be a plenary session on human experimentation featuring Irene Hizme, a retired biochemist and a surviving member of the group of Jewish twins handpicked by Nazi physician Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp for his infamous medical experiments.

“As a survivor and a medical professional, Irene has the unique insights of one who was abused by medicine but chose to honor its ethics later in life,” said Yosefa Schoor, a junior at Stern College for Women and co-president of MES. “Irene’s involvement is one of the most important elements of our conference: a survivor of the horrors of the Holocaust and a veteran medical researcher speaking to the next generation of medical professionals, relaying a unique understanding of the imperative necessity for ethics across all medical disciplines.”

The conference’s impressive list of speakers also includes Rabbi 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 Kenneth Brander, the David Mitzner Dean of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future; Dr. David Pelkovitz, Gwendolyn and Joseph Straus Chair in Psychology and Jewish Education at YU’s Azrieli Graduate Shool of Jewish Education and Administration; Dr. Michael Berenbaum, director of the Sigi Ziering Institute for the Exploration of the Ethical and Religious Implications of the Holocaust; Dr. Edward Burns, executive dean of YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Dr. Harry Ostrer, professor of pathogoly, genetics and pediatrics at Einstein; and Rabbi Michael Taubes, head of school at Yeshiva University High School for Boys.

MES, a student-run organization developed and under the guidance of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), was founded in 2005 to promote education and awareness of medical ethics on campus.  In just a few short years, it has grown from a small student group into a major campus organization running large-scale events and educational programming with University-wide participation.  Previous MES conferences have dealt with organ donation, fertility, modern genetics and Jewish approaches to complex mental health issues.

“Yeshiva University is the very embodiment of Torah U’madda, the fusion of high-level Jewish and secular studies,” said Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, conference chairman, mentor of the MES program and associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Einstein. “The Medical Ethics Society  is comprised of exceptional men and women who exemplify these ideals and whose profound love of learning and dedication to Jewish education and activism is a source of great pride for the YU community.”

The conference is open to the public but registration is required. For more information or to register, please visit www.yumedicalethics.com or contact yumedicalethics@gmail.com.

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