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October 9, 2015 / 26 Tishri, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Kapparot ‘Sacrificial Chicken’ Ritual Gets Green Light in New York

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

The much-embattled Jewish ritual of using a purchased, donated live chicken as a “kapparah,” or sacrifice with which to absolve one’s sins before Yom Kippur has been given a green light in New York.

The purchased chicken is returned to the organization after completing the prayer and is then ritually slaughtered and donated to the poor for food. In some communities money has replaced the rite where chickens have become unavailable or where politics have made the issue so unpalatable that it community leaders no longer have the energy to cope with the fallout.

State Supreme Court Justice Debra James decided against a petition by The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, ruling there was insufficient evidence to prove the ritual a public nuisance, the New York Post reported last week.

The lawsuit was filed this past July and named several rabbis, synagogues, the New York Police Department and New York City as well. It accused the NYC Health Department and the NYPD of aiding and abetting in the ritual by blocking off streets and sidewalks, and not enforcing city and state health and animal cruelty laws.

Various animal rights organizations, including PETA at one point, have annually made the same attempt.

Rabbi Shea Hecht, chairman of the board of the Chabad-Lubavitch-linked National Committee for Furtherance of Jewish Education (NCFJE), told JewishPress.com in a phone call on Sunday the organization is greatly relieved the judge upheld the ancient custom.

“We are very happy and proud that the Judge held up our Constitutional rights, which are based on freedom of religion, and has allowed us to keep this ancient minhag (custom). Although we recognize that this issue is not over,” he added, “we are thankful to God that we have the opportunity to carry out this important mitzvah to its fullest measure.”

The ritual is carried out as follows:

The live chicken is held above one’s head, and then slowly moved around in three sets of three circles as the petitioner recites a prayer that speaks of the “shadow of death… foolish sinners, afflicted because of their sinful ways and their wrongdoings.”

At no time is it considered permissible to handle the bird roughly, nor is it permissible to torment or upset the bird in any way, which itself is considered the separate sin of tza’ar ba’alei chaim (causing distress to a live creature of God).

The prayer (a brief excerpt follows) goes on to urge repentance, and describe how to expiate one’s sins on the day before Yom Kippur.

“They cry out to the Lord in their distress; He saves them from their afflictions. Redeem him from going down to the grave; I have found expiation [for him]… This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my expiation. This rooster/hen shall go to its death and I shall proceed to a good, long life and peace.”

Ashkenazi Hareidi MK Now Cabinet Minister for First Time in 60 Years

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Hareidi Knesset Member Yaakov Litzman now is a full-fledged Cabinet minister, the first time since the days of the Ben-Gurion government that Ashkenazi rabbinical leaders have approved the position.

Unlike the Shas Hareidi Sephardi party, the Ashkenazi Yehadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism party always has insisted that its Knesset Members not take a full Cabinet post, even if in effect they serve as minister, such as Deputy Health Minister Litzman.

The party did not want its members to carry out the responsibility of a full-fledged Cabinet minister, a post that could place Hareidim in a conflict with issues of Jewish law, such as abortion.

An appeal by an NGO to the High Court that a deputy minister cannot serve as minister without being called as such. The judges ruled in favor of the petitioners, leaving the Torah sages little choice but to allow Litzman to become a Cabinet member, with certain unspecified limits.

Torah sages from several Hareidi sects, including Vishnitz, attended a meeting Thursday morning that the Rebbe of Gur organized to discuss the spread of Shabbat violations in the country.

When the topic of Litzman’s becoming a Cabinet minister came up for discussion, and after a telephone conversation with the Rebbe of Belz, approval was given for Litzman to become a Cabinet minister, and he was blessed to “sanctify G-d’s name.”

Another Massive Heat Wave Hits Israel, Middle East

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

Israelis headed back to the beach on Sunday — at least, those who were not hiding out in buildings with air conditioning or beneath really efficient ceiling fans.

This is the third such unseasonably high heat wave to hit the region in less than a month.

In Egypt, where temperatures rose as high as 114 Farenheit over the past week, the heat-related death toll has risen to 93. Most of those who died were elderly.

Israel’s Health Ministry is urging the public to remember to drink plenty of water. The ministry is particular urges the elderly and those with chronic conditions during the current heat wave to avoid exposure to the sun and heat as much as possible, and to also avoid physical exercise in addition to drinking plenty of water.

Sweltering temperatures in Israel on Sunday are predicted for up to 99 F (37 C) in Jerusalem and 95 C (35 C) in Tel Aviv. But it will feel much hotter, due to the humidity – in Tel Aviv, for instance, it will feel like 113 F (45 C).

Temperatures are expected to soar as high as 104 F and above (40 F) on Sunday in other areas throughout the country — as high as 115 F (46 C) in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

At the Dead Sea, a haven for medical tourism in the skin care industry, temperatures are predicted to reach 111 F (44 C) but will feel more like 119 F (48 C) due to the humidity.

In the northern Negev, in Be’er Sheva, temperatures will climb to 108 F (42 C).

In the Jordan Valley, temperatures are predicted to hit 118 F (48 F); around Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), the temperatures could climb to 113 F (45 C) – but because of the afternoon humidity, it will feel like 136 F (58 C).

In the north along the coast, as in Tel Aviv, in Haifa it will hit 95 F (35 C) and in the Golan Heights, the temperatures will also reach a relatively cool 102 F (39 C).

The current heat wave is expected to last at least into Tuesday, although the temperatures may drop a little by then.

Medical Marijuana to be Available at Pharmacies

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Israelis soon will be able to take a doctor’s prescription for marijuana to the local pharmacy, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Monday.

He noted that pharmacies issue prescriptions for other drugs that are considered narcotics and that procedures are well-supervised. A case in point is Ritalin. A person wanting to fill a prescription for the drug, which when ground up and sniffed can be extremely dangerous, has to wait at the counter until the pharmacist opens the safe.

“I will fight an aggressive war not to allow this to get out of control,” said Litzman, who in effect is the Health Minster, a title he does not accept because the Hareidi Yehadut Torah (United Torah Judaism) party does not want to be part of a “Zionist” Cabinet.

He said that making marijuana available at pharmacies awaits court approval concerning tenders for growers of “grass.”

Litzman said that there procedures overseeing prescriptions for marijuana will be issued either through law or administrative orders.

Health Ministry Prof. Boaz Lev added that officials will make it possible for more doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana for medicinal use.

Israeli Researchers: Smartphone App May Help Parkinson’s Patients [video]

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Many patients in the latter stage of Parkinson’s disease are at high risk of dangerous, sometimes fatal, falls. One major reason is the disabling symptom referred to as Freezing of Gait (FoG) — brief episodes of an inability to step forward that typically occurs during gait initiation or when turning while walking.

Patients who experience FoG often lose their independence, which has a direct effect on their already degenerating quality of life. In the absence of effective pharmacological therapies for FoG, technology-based solutions to alleviate the symptom and prolong the patients’ ability to live independently are desperately being sought.

CuPID is a project three years in the making and the product of an eight-member European Union-funded consortium including researchers at Tel Aviv University. It strives to provide personalized rehabilitation for patients with Parkinson’s disease who experience FoG or other gait disturbances.

CuPID is a home-based, personalized rehabilitation tool in the form of a Smartphone app that harnesses wearable sensors, audio biofeedback, and external cueing to provide intense motivational training tailored to each patient. The results are monitored remotely by medical professionals, who provide quality care while enhancing patient compliance.

The CuPID app just completed its pilot run and is being fine-tuned for more widespread use. It utilizes small sensors placed on a patient’s shoes that measure a person’s gait in “real-time.” If certain deviations from a pre-set norm emerge, an audio message alerts the patient to change his or her walking pattern immediately to avoid a dangerous situation.

Tel Aviv University Prof. Jeffrey Hausdorff said:

FoG is a leading cause of disability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. It often occurs during ‘walking transitions’ associated with turning, starting, stopping, and moving in open spaces. It can also occur when people approach narrow spaces, such as doors or elevators, and in crowded places. Recognizing such situations is a very powerful key for prevention — and this is one of the features of this program.

Prof. Hausdorff and his team at Tel Aviv Medical Center conducted a pilot study on 40 subjects: 20 patients with Parkinson’s disease who used the CuPID app and 20 patients who carried out conventional exercises and did not use the app. The results are promising and the investigators are currently exploring the possibility of a larger follow-up study to further demonstrate the app’s efficacy. Tel Aviv University Dr. Anat Mirelman, who co-directed the project, explained that FoG episodes resemble a short-circuit in the brain, rendering it unable to generate the appropriate stepping pattern, often leaving the patient in an untenable and frustrating situation. The app is designed to circumvent that difficulty. She said:

FoG reduces patients’ independence. Patients become afraid of walking by themselves and this leads to self-imposed restrictions in mobility. When their feet get stuck to the ground, their bodies lunge forward — it’s very frightening. People often end up in wheelchairs, and this is a vicious cycle, as it places more reliance on the assisted-living infrastructure.

“The program now integrates the expertise of a patient’s physical therapist, who establishes what is considered a patient’s ‘normal’ or ‘strong’ walking pattern,” said Prof. Hausdorff. “It’s unobtrusive and has the potential to reduce dependence on Parkinson’s medication that has detrimental side effects. How much or how often the app is used depends on how advanced the disease is, but since the system is so small and non-invasive, it can be used just about anywhere.”

Israeli Mental Health Services Moving to HMOs

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

More than 25 years after legislators recommended the change in one of “those committees,” Israelis might actually be able to obtain timely local mental health care.

Responsibility for mental health services is being transferred from the Health Ministry to each of the four Health Maintenance Organizations (kupat holim services).

The decision was announced Monday by Deputy Health Minister MK Ya’acov Litzman, who had opposed the very same move the last time he served in the post. This time, he told reporters at a news conference held on the sidelines of a health conference at the Dead Sea, “the situation is not good and the alternatives are worse.”

In 1989, the State Commission to Improve the Health System headed by then-Justice Shoshana Netanyahu (Supreme Court) recommended the change.

The National Health Insurance (Bituach Leumi) Law of 1994 was intended to carry it out, adding both geriatric and psychiatric care to that year’s “basket” of health care services.

It didn’t happen, however, because the well was dry: there was only enough money for general medical care. Geriatrics and mental health were placed on the back burner.

With the change taking effect July 1, there will also be an annual budget of NIS 1.9 billion available to address mental health care. Patients will be asked to pay a 25 percent co-pay for specialist services, and if they prefer to see a private mental health professional, the cost will be NIS 130.

The four HMOs will offer mental health diagnostic services, psychiatric assessment, counseling, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, individual, family and group care, home visits and other needed care. Collateral family sessions will also be available to help family members learn how to deal with disturbed loved ones.

As usual, the Histadrut Labor Federation has announced a dispute over the action. Various groups in the mental health field are also expressing their concerns over the way the change is being carried out.

But Litzman said the move is absolutely necessary in order to improve the quality, accessibility and availability of mental health services in the nation.

Under the new structure, mental health therapy will be recognized as part of medical treatment and family practitioners – pediatricians for children – will make referrals for care to existing or new mental health clinics. Those in need of acute services will still be able to go directly to outpatient clinics and hospital or psychiatric emergency rooms when necessary, Litzman said.

Litzman Dumps Predecessor’s Policy, Returns Fluoride to Israeli Drinking Water

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Deputy Health Minister Yaacov Litzman says he is planning to return fluoride to Israel’s drinking water.

It is believed that adding fluoride to water helps strengthen the teeth of children as they develop and grow.

The decision is another reversal of the policies made by the previous health minister, MK Yael German. Despite the advice of public health and dental experts – and against the requests of numerous mayors and heads of local authorities – MK German removed the supplement from potable water soon after she entered office two years ago.

The issue has long been a controversy in the United States as well, where fluoride was added to the nation’s potable water many years ago as well. Parents and others who oppose the addition of any form of supplement to food or water in the U.S. also rallied against fluoride as well.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that protects teeth from decay. In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency regulates the levels of fluoride in drinking water. The agency notes the mineral “may cause health problems if present in public or private water supplies in amounts greater than the drinking water standards” set by the agency.

The maximum contaminant level goals (MCLG) set for fluoride in the U.S. is 4.0 mg/L, or 4.0 ppm. The secondary standard (SMCL) for fluoride is at 2.0 mg?l or 2.0 ppm – the non-enforceable guideline regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects, such as skin or tooth discoloration, or aesthetic effects such as taste, odor or color in the drinking water. Such a level might be found in areas where high levels of of naturally occurring fluoride are found.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/litzman-dumps-predecessors-policy-returns-fluoride-to-israeli-drinking-water/2015/06/01/

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