2011 | In the Public Eye: Jewish Perspectives on Public Health

At this year’s Fuld Family medical ethics conference, participants will be provided with the broad medical and legal foundation needed to understand public health issues. They will also be exposed to the social issues surrounding these challenges as they relate to society as a whole and to the Jewish community in particular. Topics covered include obesity, smoking, global responsibility, vaccinations, circumcision, and more. Participants will hear from experts such as Professor John Banzhaf of George Washington University Law School who, over the past few decades, has made major contributions towards anti-smoking laws and who is now fighting the obesity epidemic, as well as Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler, Ph.D. and Rabbi Edward Reichman, M.D., some of the leading experts in Jewish medical ethics today. Mati Goldstein, Chief Officer of the ZAKA International Rescue and Recovery Team, and Dr. Ofer Merin, Director of the Emergency Preparedness & Response Program at Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem, will be describing their experiences responding to tragedy around the world. This conference will provide an overview of the fundamental ethical dilemmas surrounding public health, and discuss how the system of Halacha (Jewish law) approaches these complex issues.

Plenary I: Obesity and Smoking

Professor John F. Banzhaf III J.D., Sc.D. , Rabbi Asher Bush , Richard Friedman M.D. , Rabbi Mordechai Willig

Moderators: Dr. Edward BurnsAt this plenary session, participants will be exposed to various medical, ethical, and halachik (Jewish-legal) considerations surrounding obesity and smoking. They will hear how legal action has been used over the past few decades to directly impact the decline in smoking rates throughout the country and how new laws are being passed to fight the drastically-increasing obesity epidemic. Our speakers will discuss how Jews have responded to the need for legal action both in the secular legal system as well as within the halachik system. Our audience will be able to compare the way halacha (Jewish law) has dealt with smoking and the way halacha should be dealing with obesity based on various halachik responsa as well as Jewish communal statistics.

Plenary II: A Light Unto the Nations: A Discussion on Global Responsibility

Rabbi Kenneth Brander , Mati Goldstein , Ofer Merin M.D.

Moderators: Dr. John LoikeParticipants at this plenary session will have the extremely unique opportunity to hear first hand from the leaders of Israel’s international disaster response units representing ZAKA as well as Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Speakers will discuss their experiences in tragedy-stricken areas including Mumbai, Haiti, Japan, and more. The medical-ethical dilemmas that arise at a makeshift hospital in a devastated region will be presented by those who have dealt with them on-site. This session will also address the issue of global responsibility from a halachik (Jewish-legal) standpoint and discuss the role of the Jewish people within a global context. Our audience will walk away with the mind-blowing first hand accounts from the darkest depths of devastation as well as with an understanding of what halacha has to say about these ethical issues.

Plenary III: Vaccinations

Rabbi Aaron Glatt M.D. , Warren M. Seigel M.D. , Rabbi Moshe Tendler Ph.D.

Moderators: Dr. Karen BaconThis session will explore the halachic (Jewish-legal), medical and ethical aspects of vaccination as well as consider the risks and benefits associated with preventative medicine. Some of the issues that will be explored include: the halachic standpoint on parents’ obligation to care for their children and whether vaccination is included in that, the ethics of imposing vaccination on healthcare workers and school-aged children, and what legal measures are permissible in order to prevent illness. An important question that will be discussed throughout the conference is, how much governmental intervention is too much? This question is much stronger when vaccination, such a personal matter, is being considered. This session will address that question as well as specifically look at the ethical issues surrounding the treatment of minors and adolescents, using the new controversial HPV vaccine as a springboard for the conversation.

Breakout Sessions

Breakout 1: A Discussion on Healthy Lifestyles and Healthy Communities

Rabbi Eliezer Zwickler

Moderators: Yitzchok Pinkesz, Ari Rosenberg
In this interactive session, Rabbi Zwickler will lead a discussion on various health programs and opportunities that shuls and communities can offer their constituency. The audience will walk away from this session with concrete suggestions to implement in their respective communities.

Breakout 2: Alternative Medicine through the Eyes of Halacha: Medicine or Quackery

Rabbi Aaron Glatt M.D.

Moderators: Sarah Lazaros
What does the halacha say regarding alternative medicines: Permitted, Assur, or Neutral? At what point is something considered “standard” medicine? At what point can one be “mechalel Shabbos lehalacha” (desecrate the shabbos) to take alternative medicines?

Breakout 3: Bariatric Surgery: Medical and Halachik Perspectives

Richard Friedman M.D.

Moderators: Dina Golfeiz
This informative breakout session will discuss the various forms of bariatric and weight loss surgery and analyze the advantages and disadvantages associated with each type. Dr. Friedman will also examine the different viewpoints within halacha (Jewish law) concerning such surgery.

Breakout 4: Controversies in Circumcision

Rabbi Dovid Fuld , Aaron Jesin M.D.

Moderators: Avi Fink
This session will include the sources for metzitza [suction], a discussion on whether metzitza is intrinsic to the commandment of circumcision or only a health issue, a short review of medical opinions regarding transmission of disease, and the Halachic (Jewish legal) opinions regarding metzitza b’peh [oral suction] vs. metzitza b’kli [suction by instrument]. It will conclude with an overview of several anti-circumcision movements including examples of threatening mail and debates in which Dr. Jesin has been personally involved.

Breakout 5: Screening: Lives or money in the balance?

Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller Ph.D.

Moderators: Avital Meiri
This session will cover issues raised in screening for cancer. We will talk about the distinction between prevention and detection. We will discuss the ethical implications of various Task Force Recommendations. How many lives saved make the costs worth it? And who decides?

Breakout 6: SWITCHH – The Soveya Wellness Initiative To Create Healthy Habits: Combatting Obesity and Unhealthy Eating Behaviors in the Jewish Community.

Rabbi Eli Glaser

Moderators: Chanoch Berenson
A look at the groundbreaking work Soveya has been doing with Jewish Day Schools regarding the issues of unhealthy eating, obesity and poor nutritional practices that are so widespread today. More than 80 schools across the country participate in SWITCHH, receiving Torah-based educational programming via weekly newsletters, age-appropriate presentations for students, seminars for parents and in-service training for Rabbaim and teachers. Many schools have begun implementing positive changes in their food environments such as removing soda machines from school property and instituting healthy-snack policies.

Breakout 7: Question and Answer Session for Rabbis

Rabbi Hershel Schachter

Moderators: Mordechai Smith
Led by prominent Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Rabbi Hershel Schachter, this session will be a Q&A forum exclusively for Rabbis, smicha students and community leaders to inquire about issues that they face both on a day-to-day basis, and on rare occasions regarding public health matters. Rav Schachter will use his personal experience as a renowned Posek as a guide to answering these questions.