By Jessica Rosenfeld, Jewish Agency Intern
In conjunction with the Jewish Agency for Israel’s People-to-People Center over one hundred doctors, professors, and medical professionals attended the first International Maimonides Conference on Medicine and Ethics. The convention was held in Tiberias, Israel where Maimonides was entombed 800 years ago to the year. Rambam - Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon, Maimonides for short, was a medieval Jewish scholar of literature, philosophy, and science with a particular knack for medicine. Maimonides combined his secular studies with that of his spiritual knowledge, hence creating great works for the medical/ethics community. His legacy has transcended him into present day and was the focal point of the convention.
The Conference kicked off on Sunday March 20 with registration and a Shalom Cocktail hour. Monday was jammed pack with educational programs and a dinner on the application of Maimonides ideas to the modern health care system. Talia Levanon's description of her experience in Minsk with Jewish Healthcare International (JHI) exemplifies the most quoted reference of Maimonides’ Oath, "May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain."
Ms. Levanon, a therapist, took part in a pilot mission that combined a psychological element to help work with and learn from people who have experienced great trauma as a result of living in a terror environment. The knowledge she gained from her experience helped her to better understand the human condition in its relationship to fear and lack of trust. She went on to conclude, that through this person-to-person program no matter what country one resides in, people are the same everywhere.
Other individuals also touched on this same personal connection to the collective Jewish Community through the bonds they have made in the medical field not just as professionals but as humans. Also at the evening event, Doctor Joel Shapiro spoke on behalf of the Jewish Agency’s Stagerim program which provides specialized internship opportunities, not just to doctors but to young professionals in various fields. Dr. Shapiro stated that his exposure to learning different approaches to practicing medicine, utilizing Hebrew in the medical setting, and gaining invaluable contacts; made his transition into Israeli society easier.
On Wednesday, March 23, a presentation entitled "Maimonides and Medical Ethics - a Database of Resources within www.ejewish.info , was delivered by Ms. Rachel P. Cohen and Ms. Sandra Siano-Weinreb from the Developing Jewish Networking Infrastructures initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
If Maimonides himself could have attended the conference, he would have kvell(ed) in seeing the survival of his theories and his people; not to mention Monday evening's desserts!