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The Future Tense of Parenthood

12th Annual Medical Ethics Society Conference Examines the Technological Challenges to Parenthood

Inventions such as artificial wombs and advances in sperm and egg preservation are challenging halacha [Jewish law] to synchronize its teachings with the rapid pace of new discoveries and practices.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, the Yeshiva University Student Medical Ethics Society (MES) presented four panel discussions that assessed the halachic implications of epigenetics and its role in nature vs. nurture; postmortem reproduction (using the gametes from the deceased to create a fetus); ectogenesis (bringing fetuses to term outside a mother’s body); and oncofertility (the effect of increased survival rates from pediatric cancers on the fertility of cancer survivors).

Full recordings of the panel discussions can be found on

Panelists included the following:
Epigenetics: Rabbi Moshe D. Tendler (Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary [RIETS]) and Dr. John Loike (director of special programs in the Center for Bioethics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and research scientist in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics).

(l-r): Rabbi Moshe Tendler; Dr. John Loike (l-r): Rabbi Moshe Tendler; Dr. John Loike

Postmortem Reproduction: Lauren Flicker (assistant professor in epidimeology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and associate director of the certificate and masters program in bioethics at Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics) and Rabbi Daniel Rapp (faculty, Stone Beit Midrash Program).

(l-r): Rabbi Daniel Rapp; Lauren Flicker (l-r): Rabbi Daniel Rapp; Lauren Flicker

Ectogenesis: Dr. Edward Burns (executive dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine) and David Hoffman (clinical assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Population Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine)

(l-r): David Hoffman; Dr. Edward Burns (l-r): David Hoffman; Dr. Edward Burns

Oncofertility: Dr. Batsheva Lerner Maslow (reproductive endocrinologist at Extend Fertility) and Rabbi Mordechai Willig (Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel, RIETS).

(l-r): Dr. Batsheva Lerner Maslow; Rabbi Mordechai Willig (l-r): Dr. Batsheva Lerner Maslow; Rabbi Mordechai Willig

In his welcoming remarks, Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, spoke about his pleasure at being in the presence of “our students, the leaders of the world of tomorrow” and how, through their education in a 3,000-year-old tradition of wisdom, they will be able to have, as future leaders applying the values and principles of that tradition through conferences like this one, “an impact on, not just on the Jewish community, but on the broader society.”

Rachel Somorov, co-president of MES, said of the conference that “I felt both inspired and grateful for the work of researchers, doctors and lawyers who create these valuable medical tools and comforted knowing that the rabbis, with their tremendous hachma [Torah wisdom], help us find the appropriate uses within the boundaries of halacha. Rather than fearing progress, we recognize the experts who can guide our thought processes as we grapple with these changes.”

The conference, held in honor of Rabbi Moshe Tendler, was sponsored by the Community Synagogue of Monsey, the Yeshiva University Center for the Jewish Future (CJF), Yeshiva Student Union, Torah Activities Council, Stern College for Women Student Council, Student Organization of Yeshiva and Yeshiva College Student Association. MES is also mentored by Rabbi Yaakov Glasser (David Mitzner Dean at CJF), Rabbi Dr. Edward Reichman (professor of emergency medicine and professor in the division of education and bioethics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine), Menachem Lewin (associate director of community events and senior program manager at CJF) and Rabbi Dov Winston (community programming director at CJF).

(l-r, sitting): Yael Mayer (Executive Director), Bailey Frohlich (Vice President), Rachel Somorov (President), Tzvi Cantor (Vice President), Kalman Laufer (Executive Director) (l-r, standing): Tehilla Berger (MHC Director), Michal Yacker (Volunteer Coordinator), Rivka Winter (Registration), Shira Perton (Cheif Communications Officer); Eli Sharvit (MHC Executive), Moshe Pahmer (MHC Executive), Ilan Lavian (Commentator Liaison), Ariel Sacknovitz (Registration and Volunteer Coordinator), Yaakov Samel (Shabbaton Coordinator)