A Beautiful Mind

Student Medical Ethics Conference to Explore Jewish Approaches to Mental Health on Oct. 31

Yeshiva University’s Student Medical Ethics Society (MES) will be hosting its fifth annual conference, entitled A Beautiful Mind: Jewish Approaches to Mental Health on Sunday, Oct. 31 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at YU’s Wilf Campus, 500 West 185th Street, New York, NY. The conference is sponsored through the generous support of Rabbi Dovid and Mrs. Anita Fuld.

MES, a student run organization under the guidance of YU’s Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), was founded in fall 2005 to promote education and awareness of medical ethics at YU. Since that time, it has grown from a small group of students with common interests to a major campus organization running large-scale events and educational programming with University-wide participation. Its previous conferences dealt with organ donation, fertility, end-of-life issues in Jewish law and modern genetics.

The Oct. 31 conference will provide participants with a broad foundation for the medical background needed to understand mental health, as well as the advanced medical research and practices used today to prevent and manage mental health challenges. Topics covered include suicide, depression, eating disorders, addictions, substance abuse and more. Participants will also be introduced to an overview of the fundamental ethical dilemmas surrounding mental health, as well as how the system of halacha [Jewish law] approaches these complex issues.

Jennie Kraut, a student at Stern College for Women who along with Adiel Munk, a student at Yeshiva College, serves as co-president of MES, hopes the conference will provide a public forum for issues that are considered taboo in the Orthodox Jewish community.

“We want people to recognize that the mental health issues that either they themselves, or someone that they know, is grappling with are legitimate and that it’s okay to talk about these issues” explained Kraut. “There is a large stigma against people who are struggling with mental health issues in the Jewish community and we are hoping that by educating them we will, at the very least, spark some discussion in the Orthodox Jewish world.”

“We felt that there was no better way to bring these issues to light than by convening the top experts in the country who are not only familiar with these kinds of topics but also with the Orthodox Jewish community,” added Munk.

Rabbi Kenneth Brander, The David Mitzner Dean of CJF, helped launch MES five years ago and serves as one of the group’s mentors.

“These are issues that affect all of us in one way or another,” said Rabbi Brander. “As members of families, communities and society we must not shy away from the tough issues we face. It is important that we deal with these issues with first-rate medical experts and through the prism of halacha.”

In addition to gaining broad knowledge in medical, ethical, and halachic issues of mental health, conference participants will be able to choose from a series of specialized tracks, each geared toward in-depth analysis of the most pressing issues in the field. These tracks include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Bullying and Harassing, Child Abuse, Living with a Mentally Ill Family Member and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

“Yeshiva University is the embodiment of Torah U’madda,” said program director and mentor, Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman, associate professor of philosophy and history of medicine at YU’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “The philosophy of the institution permeates its students, who are infused with a love of learning and acquiring knowledge. The Medical Ethics Society consists of men and women who truly reflect the University’s ideals.”

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

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