Some Stereotypes Are True: Jewish Doctors Edition

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Yeshiva University Museum, (I had no idea that there was such a place,) is hosting an exhibit on Jewish doctors. You know the famous joke about the inauguration of the first Jewish president? His mother is in the front row sitting next to her old Jewish lady friends and as the president-elect gets up on the podium, she tells her friend, ya know, his brother is a Doctor!

Yes, there is a Jewish doctor stereotype, but this article on the NY Times about the exhibit gives us a clue as to how this happened. Judaism does not view medicine as heretical or an affront to religion. On the contrary, the doctor is considered the emissary of God and an ally in the healing process.

Judaism does not allow people to rely on God for Divine Intervention or a miracle in lieu of seeking professional medical help. There is no faith healing or reluctance to seek human intervention in Judaism. And so, a culture of favoring medicine over faith is intrinsic to the Jewish experience. In fact, one of the most influential and important Jewish scholars of all time was Maimonides. He was a physician as well as a scholar.

My grandfather was a medical consultant by trade. He was the president of Laniado Hospital in Netanya, Israel. He was the person who built the hospital and brought the Klausenberg Rebbe’s dream into reality. He was very fond of quoting the Rebbe in this regard. When someone would come to the Rebbe for a blessing or advice, before anything else the Rebbe would ask “Vos zugt der doctor” – what does the doctor say.

This was to reinforce the message that health and sickness are very dependent on what the doctor says and what the doctor does.

Of course, the exhibition will also highlight some of the anti-Semitism that Jewish doctors have faced over the last few hundred years. At one point, Catholics were not permitted to seek medical help from a Jewish doctor. Sounds reasonable.

If you are in New York, you might find the exhibit interesting. I hope I will be able to see it some time over the summer.

Link: NY Times

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been the the Yeshiva University Museum on West 16th a few times. Its the upper floor of a building that houses YIVO and the Leo Baeck Institute as well as a YU archive. I usually go for the reading room. I wouldnt exactly call it a museum, its more of an exhibit space. 

  • PreMed student

    Oh yea!