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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘work’

Battling The Scourge Of Cancer, One Drug Cocktail At A Time: The Work Of Medical Pioneer Dr. Howard Bruckner

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

On a balmy evening in a neighborhood restaurant on New York City’s Upper East Side, I sit across the table from renowned oncologist Dr. Howard Bruckner. “Today,” he tells me, “I gave the news to a longtime patient that the cancer was in remission, baruch Hashem.”

A small black yarmulke perched on his head of graying hair, Dr. Bruckner acknowledges the words of the rebbes who call on his help: “Everything but everything in life is orchestrated by Hashem; the doctor is a shaliach.”

He has earned a reputation of being the doctor of last resort for those battling complex gastrointestinal and gynecological cancers with high mortality rates. He notes that Jewish philosophy categorically rejects hopelessness. “A sensible scientific plan and a ‘can do and must try’ attitude benefit everyone and are absolutely necessary.”

Dr. Bruckner explains that he has identified special criteria for integrating lessons learned from testing tumors in leading laboratories. He has further refined these findings in his laboratory in order to integrate them with the most promising clinical treatments from the leading cancer centers. This approach has made formidable inroads in enhancing their application to integrative and personalized medicine, thereby already extending many (and potentially countless) lives.

His earliest discoveries for exceptionally ill patients have now become fundamental parts of standard treatments used both before and after surgery. They substantially improve long-term survival. He hopes that because his current innovations are more potent they will have a greater impact on both heavily treated and new patients than his earlier successes that are now used worldwide.

He explains that from the onset of a patient’s diagnosis tumors are too often already recognizably resistant to standard treatment, and he expresses the hope that the new technology, which can identify resistance, will allow his safer treatments to provide earlier help for many previously resistant patients.

“We’ve discovered,” he says, “that as a result of these treatments, patients with our most challenging cancers often survive two to three times longer and more often. ”

A pioneer in the field of designing new moderate low-dose chemotherapy regimens to treat a variety of tumors that are often resistant to standard treatments, Dr. Bruckner has been a member of more than 20 national professional societies and committees, a consultant and reviewer for numerous professional journals and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and has authored and co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed reports and articles.

In his 40 years as an academic and full professor, he was a frequently invited speaker for various symposia and lectures. In addition to training at both Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Bruckner has held appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center.

He began his own practice in the Bronx in his sixties, when many doctors start thinking of retirement, Under his leadership, the staff of physicians and nurses work as partners with their patients to find the best treatment plan for each.

* * * * *

“My approach,” he says, “is to substantially add to the options offered at major cancer centers; to work toward complementing and refining existing treatment programs. In essence, we are not here to compete with the standard oncology practices but rather to build on them by providing complementary interactive treatments in time to help patients.”

It was while Dr. Bruckner was immersed in immunological research at Albert Einstein Medical College that he was offered a coveted position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he would work with a Nobel prize-winning physician. He did not take that position or an already offered postdoctoral infectious disease position at Harvard. He recalls that during an interview for the NIH position, the associate director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NIC) “told me of a number of best research projects they had started and offered me my choice to join any one of them. I explained to him why each one would not succeed because the technology was not up to par in order to measure the critical pathological factors under study. After giving what I had said some thought, he said I was ‘a very good critic.’ ”

Asked whether he could propose practical research objectives, Dr. Bruckner suggested investigating why therapy causes infections and offered testable stratagems to make cancer therapy safe, which became his key career-long priority.

Startling revelations quickly emerged from Dr. Bruckner’s first experiments as a special assistant to the NCI associate director. Offering an explanation in layman’s terms, Dr, Bruckner said he used a very important but dangerous leukemia drug and injected it into laboratory mice. He then gave the mice antibiotics to protect them from infection, as this mimicked everyday clinical practice. The wholly unexpected finding was that the antibiotic was not helping. The opposite, in fact, was true.

Dr. Bruckner came to understand that the action of antibiotics also improved the use of cancer drugs against the tumors. Most important, recognition of the problem led to solutions, still applied, that make many cancer drugs safe and increase their therapeutic benefit.

He then began to create “models” that mimicked critical problematic strategies in cancer therapy in a lab setting in order to test drugs in depths impossible to achieve in the clinical research. This remains his preferred research method.

“In six months, I showed how the normal human bacteria would affect radiation and drugs, making them safe and unsafe. Bacteria determined the metabolism of the oral and intestine mucosa and bone marrow, and the metabolic rate determined safety.”

After NCI, while at Yale Medical College, Dr. Bruckner found that most international cancer research and treatment had not been applied to ovarian cancer. The ovarian cancer survival rate was a dismal 5 percent. This became a pivotal factor in his decision to move on to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City where he found a strong working interest in gynecologic cancers. It was also an ideal setting in which to explore the numerous science-based treatment opportunities.

“In essence, we knew about a promising platinum drug that was too toxic to use. I figured out how to use it safely and that led us to discover step-wise how the drugs could work even more effectively without killing people. We made it usable. We have made and can make many drugs safer and more effective.”

* * * * *

It was working on patient safety and ovarian cancer that led to Dr. Bruckner’s novel laboratory and clinical methods designed to optimize drug matching: finding a better and safer dosage and comprehensive team comprised of a cocktail of partners for drugs. This even led to successes with patients suffering from pancreatic cancer, which he describes as perhaps the “worst and most dangerous form of cancer.”

“You can’t just pair any two drugs,” he says. “Drugs that barely work individually will work with the right drug partner, especially multiple partners.” Through his lab work he found multiple simultaneous moderate and low-dose safe partners for combination drug therapy that has since had unprecedented success against resistant cancers.

Recently, leaders in cancer drug development have afforded multi-drug methodology new praise. They recognize a possible HIV analogy, where multi-drug methodology provided both critical safety and efficacy breakthroughs. Dr. Bruckner says that when this approach is applied to cancer it results in not only safer additional drug treatments but also safer drug interactions. It also empowers anti-vascular tumor starving drugs and promotes immune stimulation.

Fern Sidman

A Soldier’s Mother: Denial Doesn’t Work

Monday, September 19th, 2016

There seems to be a growing tendency in the world to deal with terrorism by denying it. Saturday night in Minnesota, a man with a knife attacked people at a mall. In at least one case, he asked the victim whether they were Muslim and “referenced Allah during the assault” (according to FoxNews).

Last night in New York City, a bomb exploded and another was found before it could injure more people. Twenty-nine people were injured when the first bomb did explode. Beyond the horror of the attack, is the lessons we learn from them.

An accident means looking for ways to avoid it happening again. Take a different road, slow down near that particular intersection, check to make sure something is held more securely, whatever. A terrorist attack is not an accident and denying its cause hands those who launched the attack a victory. Not only have they successfully delivered their message, they have even scared us so much, we can’t even admit it. All we are admitting in our denial is that we are too defeated to even fight back.

When the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center, I watched as newscasters discussed whether it was an accident. When a truck plowed into dozens of people in Nice, I heard them question how it happened.

Now, the Mayor of New York admits that a bomb exploding and another bomb being planted not far away are “intentional” but not necessarily terrorism. If you don’t have someone screaming “Allahu Akbar” and all you have is a bomb that has exploded, I can understand the very justifiable hesitation in announcing that Islamic terrorism has again targeted the streets of a western city. The motive remains unknown; the act is very clear.

Regardless of who stabbed those people in Minnesota, it was clearly terrorism. Regardless of who set those bombs in New York, it wasn’t a workplace accident, it wasn’t random, and it wasn’t mental illness. It was terrorism.

In Nice, in Paris, in London, in Jerusalem, in Efrat, in Tel Aviv. And yes, even in New York – it was terrorism.

Watch the explosion — this was not an accident. This is terrorism.

Paula Stern

Israel and Facebook to Work Against Social Media Based Terrorism

Monday, September 12th, 2016

By Michael Zeff/TPS

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan met with the international directors of Facebook Monday to discuss rampant incitement on the social network.

“Israel is at the forefront of combating terrorism on all fronts, including the internet front,” said Shaked. “In my view, Facebook and other social networks can do much more in the war against incitement.”

The two Israeli ministers traveled to the United States and met with Joel Kaplan, Vice President of Public Policy and Monika Bickert, head of the Global Policy department at Facebook.

Erdan and Shaked discussed the widespread use of the social network to motivate and encourage terrorist activity, stressing that the latest wave of terror attacks known as “lone-wolf” attacks was directly connected to online incitement. The ministers asked the Facebook management team to remove incitement-filled material within 24 hours of its publication, similar to the website’s policy in European Union countries.

According to a spokesperson with the Ministry of Public Security, the sides agreed to establish task forces to collaborate on combating the proliferation of incitement on social media.

Facebook previously commented to Tazpit Press Service that the company “wants people to feel safe when using Facebook. There is no place for content encouraging violence, direct threats, terrorism or hate speech on Facebook.”

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

In the Kosher Trenches: The Work of KosherQuest

Monday, September 5th, 2016

What does a man who is rav of a shul, overseer of two eruvim and the executive director of a school do with his spare time? Well, if you are Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz of North Hollywood, CA you dedicate yourself to helping those with kashrus questions.

Rabbi Eidlitz is a busy man – he has a full time job as the executive director of Yeshiva Aharon Yaakov Ohr Eliyahu in Los Angeles, in addition to his responsibilities as the rav of Beis Midrash Mordechai Yaakov, a congregation of about 150 people, and as the rav hamachshir of two eruvim in the Greater Los Angeles area. Yet Rabbi Eidlitz carves out about two hours every day to attend to the needs of the millions of visitors to KosherQuest, the website of the Kosher Information Bureau, a job for which he receives no financial compensation whatsoever. He sees KosherQuest’s work as his way to express his dedication to klal Yisrael.

The idea behind KosherQuest was born when, back in 1977, Rabbi Eidlitz was teaching a class on kashrus to seminary girls in Northern California. The girls asked a lot of practical questions, and Rabbi Eidlitz suggested calling up different kosher certification agencies. The girls called a number of agencies, large and small, but found that they would only answer questions regarding the particular products that they certify, but had no answers for general kashrus questions. Rabbi Eidlitz encouraged his students to do their own research. Under his guidance, they explored the local supermarkets and took notes on the kosher items. They also contacted the manufacturers of the products for additional information.

Slowly, Rabbi Eidlitz’s class complied a shoe box, and then two boxes, full of index cards with information about various products. Before long, people began calling Rabbi Eidlitz with their kashrus questions. Surprised that no other organization provided comprehensive kashrus information that was not limited to a specific company or hechsher, Rabbi Eidlitz decided to make the information stored in the shoe boxes available to the public, first through the phone, and then online. Thus, KosherQuest was born.

Over three decades later, KosherQuest remains unique in its breadth. Over a thousand kashrus agencies and individual certifiers are listed in its database of hechsherim. Rabbi Eidlitz does extensive research on each one of them before including it in his list, making sure it meets his standards of reliability. In addition, he advises new agencies that are starting out in the field of kosher certification.

To keep up with the times, KosherQuest has recently released a new app, available for both Android and iOS, making it even easier for those with kashrus questions to use its services, which are provided completely free of charge.

Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz

Rabbi Eliezer Eidlitz

KosherQuest also sends out a weekly email newsletter with the latest kashrus updates and alerts. Whenever inadvertent errors happen, the kashrus agencies are quick to notify the community. Rabbi Eidlitz explains that sometimes the manufacturer prints a kosher symbol on a label by mistake. Once a company printed an OU on pork and beans. Another time, a store on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn was selling treif food in packages with a chassidishe hashgacha. It turned out that it was a halal store which did a lot of business with kosher companies and had purchased a labeling machine from one of these companies, not realizing that everything the machine printed had that hechsher. Once mistakes like that are discovered, kosher alerts are immediately placed on the KosherQuest website. “If there is an error, [the kashrus agencies] want people to know so that nobody is nichshal because of them,” says Rabbi Eidlitz.

Visitors come to KosherQuest from all over the world, and many contact Rabbi Eidlitz directly with their questions. Once,Rabbi Eidlitz even received a phone call from the Pentagon at 2:00 a.m. The Pentagon urgently needed a database of kosher products as they had been sued for not providing kosher food to their Jewish soldiers who were dispatched to Iraq. With Rabbi Eidlitz’s help they were able to send thousands of kosher ready-to-eat meals to soldiers. Since then, the Pentagon has been in touch with Rabbi Eidlitz whenever a kashrus issue comes up.

Many kosher consumers consult KosherQuest while traveling, as they find it difficult to identify kosher food in an unfamiliar location. Others live in places with small Jewish populations all year. Having the kashrus information accessible to them “affects their quality of life,” says Rabbi Eidlitz.

Some people who visit the site or contact Rabbi Eidlitz for information are not even Jewish. They prefer to buy kosher food because they trust the integrity of the certifiers. For example, many Muslims, including those who serve in the army, request kosher food when halal food is unavailable. Others rely on kosher symbols because of severe food allergies. “Some product was labeled non-dairy, and highly allergic people almost died,” recalls Rabbi Eidlitz. They turned to KosherQuest for product information because they know that if something is labeled pareve then it truly is pareve, with no dairy ingredients whatsoever. Some people have to avoid even dairy equipment due to their allergies, and they appreciate the “dairy equipment” label on kosher products.

Living in Los Angeles, Rabbi Eidlitz has received inquiries from movie producers. They wanted to know if ostrich eggs were kosher because they wanted to use them in a movie involving Jews. Rabbi Eidlitz had to disappoint them – ostrich eggs are not kosher.

In addition to general kashrus questions, Rabbi Eidlitz is sometimes contacted for information about specific chumros or minhagim. Familiar with many of them, he is able to provide the needed information to his callers. For example, when a Chabad callers ask about their own minhagim Rabbi Eidlitz is able to tell them if the product meets the requirements of the Shulchan Aruch Harav. When a litvishe caller asks whether a dairy product is chalav yisrael, Rabbi Eidlitz specifies whether the milk used in the product is fresh or powdered, since some hold that chalav yisrael doesn’t apply to powdered milk.

Yehudis Litvak

Let Us Violate Shabbat So As To Sanctify It

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

“He who wants to enter the holiness of the [Sabbath] day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce, of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screech of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man. Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul. The world has our hands, but our soul belongs to Someone Else….

The seventh day is the exodus from tension, the liberation of man from his own muddiness, the installation of man as a sovereign in the world of time….

The Sabbaths are our great  cathedrals; and our Holy of Holies is a shrine that neither the Romans nor the Germans were able to burn…”

(Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man [NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1951] pp. 13, 29, 8)

Shabbat is serious business, not only because of its halachic requirements but also because of its magnificent and majestic message. To violate it is not just a transgression but a tragedy. Its desecration undermines what it means to be human and to be a real Jew. It deprives mankind of its own sublimity.

It is not the renouncement of technical progress that Shabbat requires but rather the attainment of some degree of independence from an ever-increasing race and cruel struggle for our physical existence, in which we are all involved and which denies us embracing the presence of an eternal moment.

There is only one sanctity that is even greater than Shabbat and that is the holiness of the human being. When we have to choose between these two sanctities, Jewish law is clear: The human being takes precedence. (Yoma 85b; Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shabbat 2:3)

If it is true that the Tel Aviv Light Rail and the high-speed train connecting Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim will indeed save countless human lives by having people switch from car to rail, Halacha will without any doubt demand of us to work on Shabbat to complete construction as soon as possible. Any postponement would be a terrible violation of Halacha itself.

But as Jews, let us make it into a celebration. We can observe Shabbat while working on this holy day. Instead of asking non-Jews to take our place, let us gather as many religious Jews as possible to join in this undertaking and do this work in the spirit of Shabbat and Halacha. Here are some suggestions:

We can organize shacks at the work sites where some people will make Kiddush and where a special Shabbat atmosphere will be created and tasteful Shabbat meals, kept warm according to the laws of Shabbat, will be served. There will be alternate minyanim where the workers can hear the reading of the parsha and say their Shabbat prayers in shifts. Participants can sing Shabbat songs and someone can say a nice d’var Torah informing everyone of the great mitzvah they are performing by working on the holy Shabbat so as to save lives.

Lets us give all the workers colored Shabbat helmets and ask all others who stand by to give instructions to wear nice kippot.

There can be flags and ribbons flying and large posters displayed at the work sites proclaiming: “The people of Israel shall keep the Shabbat, observing the Shabbat throughout the ages as a covenant for eternity.”(Shemot 31:16);“And one shall live by them [My laws]” (Vayikra 18:5)… “and not die because of them.” (Sanhedrin 74a)

Let us make a Jewish celebration out of this. We can show our fellow Israelis and the world that we love Shabbat but that it will not stand in the way of the sanctity of human life. It will actually advance our spirit and commitment to Judaism. Let us reveal that Halacha can deal with the requirements of a modern democratic Jewish state in an unprecedented way.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let us not fail to live up to the challenge of making us all proud to be committed Jews.

After all, is it not Shabbat that made us Jews and that now gives meaning to the State of Israel? Why, in fact, be Jewish if not for this great institution called Shabbat?

Sure, some of my readers will say that these suggestions are insane. But let us not forget what philosopher and writer George Santayana once said: Sanity is madness put to good use.

Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo

Meretz Chairwoman Forced Supreme Court to Work on Shabbat

Sunday, September 4th, 2016

Meretz Chairwoman MK Zahava Galon forced the Israeli Supreme Court to desecrate Shabbat, with an appeal which was already irrelevant when she filed it, argued pundit, author and Holocaust scholar Itamar Levin in a column he published on the News1 website.

Galon appealed to the court on Shabbat day, Sept. 3, asking that it order the Ministry of Transport to carry out the scheduled works on the Railroad infrastructure which had been halted on Friday night due to Haredi party pressure. “This meant that the employee on call at the reception had to receive the appeal and pass it to the Justice on call, which happened to be Anat Baron,” Levin wrote, suggesting this could also mean that the people on call in the Justice’s chambers had to work on Shabbat as well.

But, as turns out from the Justice’s ruling, also given on Shabbat, the appeal was not urgent and did not justify forcing a state employee to desecrate Shabbat. Justice Baron wrote: “The appeal was submitted today, Shabbat day, at 3 PM. When it was submitted, the infrastructure works had been ceased yesterday, following the prime minister’s order shortly before the start of Shabbat. Under these circumstances there is no point in issuing the requested injunction in response to a situation which the appellant claims was created on this weekend.”

Justice Baron instead ordered the State to respond by Monday, Sept. 5, to Galon’s appeal for an injunction — an appeal she could have submitted Saturday night, Levin wrote.

Israeli courts, including the Supreme Court, maintain skeletal Shabbat and Holiday shifts to respond to the most urgent needs. These include police requests for injunctions to prevent the smuggling of children, or for arrest warrants. But Levin wrote that he did not recall any other time when the Supreme Court was compelled to desecrate Shabbat to deal with an administrative issue such as the works on the railroad.


Why Palestinians Prefer to Work for Israeli Employers

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

{Originally posted to the PMW website}

Conditions for Palestinians working in Israel and the settlements are much better than in the Palestinian Authority, according to an Israeli Arab labor lawyer and a Palestinian laborer in two interviews on the PA TV program Workers’ Affairs. The laborer explained that conditions are so much better that many Palestinian workers prefer or are “forced” to choose to work for Israeli employers.
Israeli Arab labor lawyer Khaled Dukhi, who works with the Israeli NGO Workers’ Hotline, stated on the PA TV program that Israeli labor law is “very good” because it does not differentiate between men and women or between Israelis and Palestinians. However, he explained that Palestinian workers who work in Israel or in the settlements still suffer because Palestinian middlemen “steal” part of their salary:
“The Palestinian female workers in the [Israeli] agricultural sector enjoy many rights, like any Israeli worker in the agricultural sector: The salary is higher than the minimum wage, 14 vacation days a year in the first four years, 2,000 shekels convalescence pay [yearly]… payment for holidays, whether Islamic or Jewish. It is a matter of choice… [But] in reality, Palestinian workers – and especially the female Palestinian workers – do not receive these things. Why? You [PA TV host] said: ‘The Palestinian middleman deducts from her [pay].’ No, he does not deduct, he shares her salary. In practice, he takes 50%, 60%, and even 70% of her salary. If her daily salary is 180 shekels, in the end she receives 60 shekels. The middleman steals two thirds of her salary. Excuse the word [“steals”], but that is the exact word.” [Official PA TV, Workers’ Affairs, March 16, 2016]
On a different episode of Workers’ Affairs, Qassem Abu Hadwan, a laborer from Hebron, stated that Palestinian workers are “forced” to work in Israel because Palestinian employers exploit them and pay less than half:
“The lack of monitoring of [Palestinian] owners of companies and factories and their exploitation of workers is what has forced people to Israel… If only [the salary in the PA] was at least half of the salary [in Israel]… no one would work in Israel. However, workers have to go to Israel, because no one [in the PA] gives them what they deserve for their work.” [Official PA TV, Feb. 4, 16, 2016
Abu Hadwan stated that although Israeli employers “exploit” Palestinian workers too, “they give them what they are entitled to.” He explained that Palestinians would not work in Israel if the conditions in the PA were better, but since “a month’s work here [in the PA] equals a week’s work there [in Israel],” people are driven to seek employment in Israel or in the settlements.
The program’s host concluded that exploitation and low salaries are the reason for Palestinian workers preferring to work in Israel and the settlements, and she suggested how the PA should change that:
PA TV host: “We need investments and for workers’ rights to be honored. What motivates the workers, as we said, to go [to work in] the interior (i.e., Israel) or to the settlements is the exploitation that takes place [in the PA] and the low income.”
[Official PA TV, Feb. 4 and 16, 2016]

The fact that Palestinians are paid double in Israel and by Israeli employers in the West Bank is corroborated by the PA’s Central Bureau of Statistics. Palestinian Media Watch reported on the bureau’s findings for 2014, which showed that Palestinians working for Israeli employers were paid twice what Palestinian employers paid them in the West Bank, and triple of what they received in the Gaza Strip. In February 2016, the bureau publicized similar findings for 2015:

“The average [daily] wage for employees in the West Bank was 94.1 shekels, and 61.9 shekels in the Gaza Strip, while the average for employees in Israel and the settlements was 198.9 shekels.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 26, 2016]
PMW has documented similar statements by Palestinians testifying to the fact that Palestinian workers’ conditions are far better in Israel than in the PA.
Director of Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center Hassan Al-Barghouti stated on PA TV in May 2016 that “120,000 [Palestinians] work in Israel and the settlements.” [Official PA TV, May 11, 2016] The PA’s Central Bureau of Statistics has stated that “the number of workers from the West Bank [that work] in Israel and the settlements reached 112,300 in 2015… and the number of workers in Israeli settlements reached 22,400.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 26, 2016]

Palestinian Media Watch

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/why-palestinians-prefer-to-work-for-israeli-employers/2016/08/07/

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