Young Israel of East Brunswick recently partnered with Yeshiva University in a program designed to expose future doctors to Jewish learning and real-life medical experiences.
Nine students came from New York to stay with families in the synagogue community while participating in the Yeshiva University-East Brunswick Pre-Med Internship & Community Learning Program.
The May 31-June 23 program included study sessions on medicine and Halacha (Jewish law) open to all synagogue members and covering such topics as transplantation, fertility issues, and pekauh nefesh (saving a life). Organizers also held a living room limmud with teens, where such subjects as studying in Israel and life as a college student were discussed, as well as a Shabbat dinner with high school and college students, Shabbat shiurim (Torah lessons) for women and for both genders, an “East Brunswick-style” oneg Shabbat, and a farewell brunch that included a blood drive.
A key component of the program was linking students with local Jewish doctors who took them on rounds at area hospitals, answering questions and sharing insights. They also met with the head chaplain at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick.
Program coordinator Judy Goldrich said she reached out to YU, which runs out-of-town summer internships, because she thought both the students and the local community could benefit. The YU students could take advantage of the expertise of Jewish doctors from the community, and others already working with Rutgers University pre-med students through the JMed program offered by Rutgers Jewish Xperience (see separate story, this page).
“We benefit because we are looking to enhance our community,” said Goldrich during one of the final programs on June 20, when both Rutgers and YU students gathered at the synagogue for a study session and dinner. “Having these students in our community makes people aware we are here and what a wonderful Jewish community this is.”
For students planning careers in medicine, working with specialists in 10 different fields helped clarify what direction they may go and what they can expect.
“Nobody hands that to you on a silver platter and tells you what you should be thinking about,” said Goldrich.
Maya Tsarfati of Boca Raton, Fla., is entering her junior year at YU and aspires to be an obstetrician/gynecologist. She had the “amazing experience” earlier that day of witnessing a natural birth and a baby born by Cesarean section at Robert Wood Johnson while shadowing Dr. Joshua Segal.
“It was the first time I have seen a birth and it was incredible,” she said. “There aren’t a lot of opportunities for the average college student to get an experience like this.”
Jonathan Engelhardt, a junior biology major at YU hoping to become as cardiologist, said he benefitted from the experience, though he is not new to the community; he is from East Brunswick and belongs to Young Israel.
“The whole thing was very interesting, pretty amazing,” he said. “It brought together the medical part and community bonding. It was also able to bridge the gap for all the out-of-towners.”
He said during the program he witnessed surgeries and gained a greater understanding of medical issues and their underpinning in Jewish law.