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November 27, 2014 / 5 Kislev, 5775
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My Machberes

Igud Horabbonim At
Maimonides Medical Center

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak

The monthly Rosh Chodesh Conference of the Rabbinical Alliance of America (Igud Horabbonim) was held at the Eighth Avenue cancer healing headquarters of Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn on Thursday, November 15.

The conference, billed as a “Cancer Awareness Symposium,” was addressed by the preeminent ontologists of MMC. In addition, Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Rav and Rosh Kollel Ashyl Avraham of Monsey, New York, discussed halachas pertaining to hurricanes and times of danger.

MMC’s Recent Achievements

In 2007, The New York Times reported that an analysis of nearly 5,000 hospitals by the Department of Health and Human Services ranked Maimonides Medical Center among hospitals with the lowest mortality rates.

In 2010 Maimonides received the HealthGrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence, ranking it among the top five percent of hospitals in the nation for overall quality outcomes.

Maimonides is also listed among the top five hospitals in New York State for cardiology services, coronary interventional procedures, stroke treatment, and gastrointestinal medical services.

Maimonides has been widely credited for its Cancer Center; its Infants & Children’s Hospital, which handles more births than any other hospital in the state of New York; its ACE unit, which focuses on elderly patients, their families, and their home environments; its Jaffe Stroke Center, which earned the HealthGrades Stroke Care Excellence Award for 2008, 2009 and 2010; and its Cardiac Institute, which was presented with the HealthGrades Cardiac Care Excellence Award in 2009 and 2010 and the HealthGrades Coronary Intervention Excellence Award in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Cancer Awareness Symposium

Dr. Jay Cooper

Addressing the Igud’s member rabbis at the conference were Dr. Jay S. Cooper, MD, Cancer Center director and chairman of radiation oncology; Dr. Alan. B. Astrow, MD, hematology and medical oncology director; D. Loren J. Harris, thoracic surgery chief; and Dr. Patrick Borgen, MD, Brooklyn Breast Cancer Program director. Respectively, they discussed: “Why is a Cancer Center Important?”; “Principles of Doctor-Patient Communication in Cancer Treatment”; High Risk Lung Cancer Screening”; and the “Role of Technology in Curing Breast Cancer.”

Dr. Patrick Borgen

The session was organized by Douglas Jablon, MMC’s tireless vice president of patient relations and volunteer services, and coordinated by Dina Alabanese, MMC’s talented administrative manager/event planner. As Igud director, this writer served as chairman.

Advances in Cancer Detection and Treatment

The doctors reviewed and described major advances in cancer detection. Maimonides possesses one of only three 360-degree mammography image machines, which capture images from every degree, as opposed to others that capture images of only one or two positions. (Interestingly, Israeli scientists developed the first truly computerized no-radiation diagnostic instrument for breast cancer.) Even the tiniest irregularities are quickly identified and appropriate treatment effectively applied.

The concept of screening target populations was discussed. Those who would most benefit from lung cancer detection have a history of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for thirty years or two packs a day for fifteen. Those regularly exposed to secondary smoke are also candidates. Regular checks and early detection would identify irregularities and allow for optimum treatment.

Susceptibility of Eastern European Jews

Dr. Alan Astrow

The susceptibility Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews to Tay-Sachs disease was established in the late 1800s. The Dor Yeshorim organization organized genetic testing for Ashkenazi Jews and the disease has been practically eliminated among the target population.

The higher rate of breast cancer among Eastern European Jews and their descendants is of major concern to the medical community. Testing is available to detect mutation of the BRCR 1 and BRCR 2 genes, which may cause breast cancer.

As with lung cancer, early detection and treatment saves lives and neutralizes health challenges. Those who should be carefully monitored are daughters, 40 years of age and older, of a mother who had ovarian or breast cancer. Maimonides, with its advanced mammography screening and imaging, does a tremendous job serving those in the community who need monitoring.

Stigmas and Shidduchim

Dr. Loren Harris

Marriageable girls outnumber marriageable boys in the frum community, a situation that leaves thousands of girls without potential matches. Many parents worry that a family history of cancer or other diseases will result in their daughters being stigmatized, thus diminishing their shidduch potential. Maimonides Cancer Center provides heightened doctor-patient communication with complete confidentiality.

Halachas of Hurricanes and Dangerous Times

Rabbi Yaakov Spivak focused on halachas that apply to hurricanes and other hazards. He recalled that last year, during Hurricane Irene, a 50-year-old Monsey father of four saw a 6-year-old boy entangled in downed electrical wires. Without hesitation, he instantly attempted to save the child. The man was electrocuted and died immediately. The boy died eleven days later.

After Hurricane Irene, several organizations issued halachic hurricane manuals. A question in one was, “If someone sees a power line fall [on Shabbos] and it poses a danger, can one contact the authorities?” That particular guideline directs that “A person should never venture out during or right after a hurricane. Coming in contact with downed power lines could be fatal. Unless the power line could cause a serious danger to the people in the home, one should wait until after Shabbos to report it.”

Douglas Jablon

Rabbi Spivak, however, responding to a question from the Conference chairman, stated that authorities must be contacted immediately, even on Shabbos.

Rabbi Spivak then raised the question of when one is permitted to risk his own life to save another. He quoted Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, zt”l (1914-2003), Kovna Rav who survived the Holocaust, became the rav of Beis Medrash Hagadol of the Lower East Side, and authored Mimamakim.

Rabbi Oshry (Mimamakim 2:1) discusses the case of Dovid Itzkowitz zt”l Hy”d, who was asked by Rabbi Avraham Grodzinski, zt”l Hy”d (1883-1944), mashgiach of Slabodka Yeshiva, to intercede with Lithuanian jailers on behalf of captured yeshiva students.

The jailers were his presumably friendly neighbors who were appointed by the Nazis to cruelly deal with Jews. That attempt at intercession could possibly be dangerous if the Lithuanians turned on him. The question comes down to possibly endangering one’s self on behalf of another Jew who is in definite danger.

After considerable deliberation, Rabbi Oshry indicated that no positive obligation exists. However, if one voluntarily feels he is beholden to a higher calling, he may endanger his own life. The petitioner did indeed intercede on behalf of the students of the yeshiva and he was successful. But, Rabbi Oshry noted, the petitioner was deported and ultimately murdered in the Holocaust.

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