HUC-JIR Partners with the Mayo Clinic for “The Meeting of Medicine and Spiritual Care” in Jerusalem

Friday, May 24, 2013

"The Meeting of Medicine and Spiritual Care” conference brought together professionals from our Blaustein Mezorim Spiritual Counseling Program and doctors and spiritual counselors from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on May 16, 2013 at our Jerusalem campus of HUC-JIR.  The conference included participation from colleagues at major Israeli institutions including Hadassah Medical Center, Sha’are Zedek Hospital, and ALYN Hospital for Children.

Rabbi Naamah Kelman, Dean, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, welcomed the conference, saying, “We are very proud of this milestone in our efforts to develop our Mezorim Spititual Counseling Program to the highest international standards and to reaching an ever-increasing number of clients. We would like to thank Dr. Patricia Simmons of the Mayo Clinic for organizing her extraordinary team of physicians and for sponsoring their trip to Israel. We are grateful to Betty and Arthur Roswell for allowing us to grow, reach out, and experiment.”

The first session of the conference was chaired by Yuval Lavy, M.D. of Hadassah Medical Center. Patricia Simmons, M.D., began the session with a discussion of “Spirituality in Healing.”  Dr. Simmons is a physician and executive at Mayo Clinic, where her responsibilities include oversight of health policy international humanitarian endeavors in the Office of the President.  She is professor and chair of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology. At the University of Minnesota, Dr. Simmons is a member and past chair of the Board of Regents. The chaplaincy program at the Mayo Clinic is over a century old and provides spiritual support for thousands of patients a year. The Center for Spirituality and Healing at the University of Minnesota enriches health and wellbeing through interdisciplinary education, research, and programs that advance integrative health.

Rabbi John Davidson, M.D. continued the session with the discussion, “Why a Physician Isn’t Enough and a Rabbi Is More Than a Traffic Cop: Reflections on Being Both.” He explained that the historically literary nature of rabbinic education and practice allows a rabbi potentially to bring a unique perspective to diagnosis formulation, and treatment in contemporary medical settings. The rabbinic member of a health care team can offer not only contributions of religious content but also of processing the emotional contagions and conundrums.  Rabbi Davidson was educated at Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Cincinnati and was ordained at our Cincinnati campus in 1994.  He has been a consultant and teacher in the Division of General Internal Medicine of the Mayo Clinic during the past decade.  His primary interests presently reside not only in the practice and teaching of clinical medicine, but also in the considering of the influence of religious and spiritual practice upon overall health and mortality.

Professor Nathan I. Cherny, M.D., concluded the first session with the discussion, “Spiritual Care in an Israeli Hospital.”  Dr. Cherny serves as the Director of the Cancer Pain and Palliative Care Service in the Oncology Department at the Sha'are Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.  In 2007, Dr. Cherny was appointed to the Norman Levan Chair of Humanistic Medicine at Sha'are Zedek Medical Center and in 2008 was promoted to Associate Professor in Medicine in the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

The second session was chaired by Maurit Beeri, M.D., M.P.A. of ALYN Hospital.  Professor Mordechai Muszkat, M.D. began the session with “’Without Asking My Soul?’: Medical Students Facing Patients’ Experiences through Poetry.”  Dr. Muszkat works in the Internal Medicine department of Hadassah Medical Center.

Larry Bergstrom, M.D., continued the session with a discussion on “Integrative Medicine: How Do We Care for the Patient in the Age of Technology?,” where the concept of integrative medicine as holistic care was expanded using case examples.  Dr. Bergstrom joined the Mayo Clinic staff in 1987. He received a Certificate of Added Qualifications in Geriatrics and completed the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona with the help of a Bravewell scholarship in 2006. He moved to Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, in June 2006 and joined the Division of Consultative Medicine to start and develop an Integrative Medicine Clinic and Program.

Daniel Drubach, M.D., concluded the second session on the topic, “Pirkei Avot, Brain Plasticity, and Self Renewal.” He explained that Pirkei Avot, one of the most magnificent writings by the Jewish Sages, contains a methodology for self-renewal which is very much concordant with new concepts in neurosciences, such as system plasticity, perceptual bindings, and others.  For over a decade, he was the co-director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Unit and the Coma Emergence Program at Kernan Rehabilitation Hospital. Since 2000, he has been a member of the Department of Neurology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, where he currently holds the rank of Associate Professor within the Behavioral Neurology Section. He also holds subspecialty certification in behavioral neurology and neuropsychiatry, and is a certified member of the American Society of Neurorehabilitation. He is interested in the relationship between neurosciences, existentialism, and ontology. His research addresses the neural substrate for certain human functions including freedom of choice, empathy, deceit and others. He also is especially interested in the relationship between neurosciences and the Judaic approach to self about self-modification and improvement.

Prior to the conference, on May 12 and 13, 2013, professionals from Mayo Clinic and our Mezorim program visited Hadassah Medical Center, Sha’are Zedek Hospital, and ALYN Hospital for Children.  The visits exposed guests to the most critical issues that patients and professionals face at these hospitals. 

On May 12, J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., FAPM, presented the lecture, “Suicidality in the Hospital Setting.”  He explained that one of the most common psychiatric emergencies encountered in the general hospital setting is a patient who is contemplating harming themselves or a patient who has already done so. This lecture explored a variety of scripts that encompass reasons for patients’ suicidality, with participants learning how to work with these different kinds of patients. Following Dr. Bostwick’s lecture, an open discussion was held on thoughts about suicide and the meaning of life. Participants discussed whether and why to prevent suicide and how the thought of suicide can challenge the conversation about the meaning of life.  J. Michael Bostwick, M.D., FAPM, is a Professor of Psychiatry at Mayo Clinic. He has research interests in diverse psychosomatic topics and suicidology, specifically as it relates to the medical-surgical hospital environment and end-of-life ethical clarification and decision-making. He is currently the Psychiatry Section Editor and editorial board member of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings and also an editorial board member of General Hospital Psychiatry.

On May 13, participants visited Byspirit, Sha’are Zedek Hospital’s spiritual care program, and the Oncology Department, where Dr. Noa Bar-Haim and Hani Kroyzer, the directors of Byspirit, led a text study. This was followed by a conversation with Professor Natan Cherny, Head of Cancer Pain and Palliative Medicine Unit.  After Sha’are Zedek, participants went to ALYN Hospital, where they received a tour of the hospital with Dr. Maurit Beeri, hospital director. Dr. Beeri chaired the panel that followed the tour.  Dr. Bostwick discussed “Coda di Vita: An argument for a new life stage in a technological age.”  He explained that what used to be a two-stage life cycle – life and death – has become a three-stage one, with the advent of technology that keeps people alive who formerly would have died. AICDs, LVADs, dialysis, organ transplantation – all these and others are miraculous in their own way, but the lives they give their recipients are not the lives that they had. He proposes that a new ethic is needed for end-of-life decision-making when the burden of living in this “coda” (or tail) on life exceeds the benefit.  Dr. Eliezer Bee’ri, Head of the Rehabilitation Department, discussed " How to enhance staff sensitivity to the psychological traumas of hospitalization.” The conversation covered the culmination of a hospital-wide learning process and was followed by an open dialogue.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is the nation's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu