The recent brouhaha surrounding the Puah Institute Conference in Jerusalem (the distinguished panel of speakers did not include women) completely missed the point. In a typical rush to judgment, the media and other detractors turned a heretofore non-issue into an outcry over discrimination, and therein lies the rub.
Puah Institute is the world’s largest Jewish organization offering counseling and assistance to individuals and/or couples coping with issues of infertility. Its acclaim is based on the trust that thousands of men and women throughout the world place in the training, expertise and commitment of its staff and volunteers on four continents.
Its reputation is pristine because Puah is strictly apolitical and its agenda is purely focused on fostering understanding and awareness of infertility among all sectors of Israeli and Diaspora Jewry, regardless of religious affiliation, gender, social or economic status.
To claim otherwise and thus to blemish this 20-year record of gratitude by families who attribute their childbearing to the efforts of Puah Institute is a distortion of the organization’s mission, goals, objectives, policies, and non-discriminatory past and present performance.
To ignore the praise showered on the organization by doctors, social workers, psychologists, therapists, clergy and civic leaders in Israel, the United States, Europe, South America, South Africa, and Australia reflects negatively on the naysayers who disregard the genuine attributes of Puah Institute and ascribe false characteristics to its inclusive modus operandi.
Here are the facts:
Puah is a highly professional, heterogeneous organization with a trained and licensed staff of both male and female therapists, educators, supervisors, and counselors. Its affiliates include male and female doctors and nurses who specialize in human reproduction, gynecology and obstetrics. Its legacy is based on an ability to synthesize modern medical and scientific know-how with time-honored Jewish scholarship, ethics and tradition.
The 1,800 babies born last year alone as a result of Puah’s intervention have contributed to the growth of the world’s Jewish population and to the happiness of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and unaffiliated families – among them friends, relatives and patients of those who suddenly decided to tarnish the organization that, only yesterday, they thanked profusely and unequivocally.
The aggregate result of these attributes is manifest through its gamut of unmatched services:
● Puah combines a comprehensive understanding of cutting-edge reproductive medicine with a deep commitment to Jewish law and ethics. Its counselors accompany every “client” throughout all stages of treatment, in a supportive and discreet environment.
● Beyond counseling and referrals, Puah utilizes the expertise of male and female health practitioners to address issues dealing with medical aspects as well as ethical and halachic facets of fertility treatments.
● Puah’s male and female staff members offer information about accessible disease-prevention strategies through genetic counseling, referrals, and guidance.
● To prevent human error in fertility laboratories, Puah’s supervisors in most medical centers in Israel as well as in over 70 medical centers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Philadelphia are trained to monitor, control, manage and guard all sensitive facets of the fertility process.
● Puah also offers counseling on prenatal screening for birth defects. Its counselors are prepared to discuss acceptable options that are available upon discovery of fetal disorders and/or other pregnancy related complications.
● Disseminating Community Information, Puah’s male and female affiliates dynamically raise at-large public awareness about male conditions that can lead to infertility if left untreated, with the goal of facilitating early diagnosis and treatment.
● Puah is concerned about the rising costs of medical services and offers Cost of Treatment Advocacy. It counsels clients about their medical insurance rights and presents recommendations regarding loan options and grant providers.
● Finally, throughout the year Puah counselors respond to hundreds of multilingual inquiries from all segments of society. Puah’s staff fields queries through personal consultations, telephone calls, or e-mails, as well as periodic personal meetings in clients’ home communities or at mutually convenient and confidential locations.
Most importantly, as a non-partisan and non-discriminating organization, Puah Institute maintains ongoing cooperation and coordination with other organizations in order to avoid duplication of services. Male and female physicians, community leaders and clergy constantly commend Puah Institute as a foremost organization of its kind, clearly filling an important need in the community.
Despite all of the above, in a knee-jerk response to the currently charged atmosphere of Israeli society, media and medical individuals “discovered” a cause for conflict where none exists. Ignoring the fact that Puah’s annual conference is always well attended by a cross-section of the professional community – men and women alike who register for its informative, high-caliber sessions – the media and the IMA suddenly decided to publicize their trendy disapproval of the Conference and its prestigious panel of speakers.
Misconstruing Puah’s sensitivity to traditional observance of modesty, they initiated a last-minute intimidation campaign, called upon participants to cancel their important presentations and urged the registrants to boycott it.
Puah has nothing to hide, nor is there anything that warrants apology, contrition, clarification or vindication. Everyone who participated in the past eleven annual conferences appreciates their high caliber, their forum and program. As a matter of fact, the annual Puah Conference has become “the place to be” – the place to be seen and to network for more than a thousand concerned professionals who care about the plight of individuals who want to have a baby.
Indeed, the men and women who devoted time and talent to this year’s Conference formed a rainbow of medical and cognate professionals who gained state-of-the-art knowledge that will hopefully enhance their ability to improve the quality of life of other men and women suffering the pains of infertility.
This care and concern transcends any ephemeral civic angst, trendy protests, cultural struggles or religious/secular feuds that have recently flared up in Israel. Sadly, super-imposing these controversies on the high caliber Puah Conference raises questions about the sincerity of the detractors.
Puah will continue to emulate the example set by Moshe Rabbeinu, who despite his impediment redeemed his people from personal plight and national suffering. Puah will not let the latest indiscriminate finger-pointing detour it from its course. Instead it will continue to earn its laurels through cost-free services to individuals and couples who seek its guidance and assistance to overcome their personal plight of infertility and the emotional suffering that infertility brings.
In sum, Puah will remain true to its mission by continuing to build hundreds of new and happy Jewish families every year.
Milton M. Markovitz is a veteran administrative management consultant for non-profit organizations in the U.S. and Israel, with a distinguished record in academia and community leadership.
About the Author: Milton M. Markovitz is a veteran administrative management consultant for non-profit organizations in the U.S. and Israel, with a distinguished record in academia and community leadership.
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