Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mama, Where do Jewish Doctors Come From?

Mama, where do Jewish doctors come from?


Where do Jewish doctors come from?

Why do you ask shaifele?

Because my rebbe told us today in class that you're not allowed to go to college.

Well, he's right. College is a horrible place where they teach you all sorts of things that are against the Torah. A good yid never goes to college.

So, then where do Jewish doctors come from. Don't doctors have to go to college?

Yes, you have to go to medical school, which is an advanced college for doctors to become a doctor.

So, then if it's assur to go to college, how did Dr. Goldberg become a doctor? He's such an erliche yid - he wouldn't do something that's assur, would he?

No dear. He wouldn't. We all know that Dr. Goldberg is such a nice man and a shomer Torah u'Mitzvos.

So then, how did he become a doctor without going to college?

I guess he was born a doctor, shaifele.

Oh. It's too bad I wasn't born a doctor - I wanted to be one too.


Of course, the above conversation never (to the best of my knowledge) took place. However, the underlying point remains - if, in some circles, going to college is assur for any reason, then how are there frum doctors in those circles?

Obviously, the question is one that is easily answered - the doctors come from those who obviously don't see gaining a higher education as an absolute prohibition. But then one must wonder - if they do maintain that (frum) Jews should not go to college at all, are they then conceding the point that frum Jews shouldn't become doctors (or lawyers, dentists, etc.) ? Do they *really* think that there is value is having no Jewish professionals? Do they really see that as a good thing?

The question that must be asked is this - is the frum community richer (and I don't mean in a monetary fashion) by the presence of professionals among their ranks? Are we better off that there are frum doctors to give advice on halachic questions, frum lawyers and politicians to guide our community and individuals through legal and political obstacles, and frum researchers, engineers and other professionals?

Personally, I believe the answer is an unqualified yes; we are better off for the presence of these people in our communities. However, if the absolute college-naysaysers also say that we should have professionals among our ranks, I'd love to know how they plan to that without allowing them to go to college.

The Wolf


Ezzie said...

Funny - while reading this, I thought of R' Slifkin's question from last night - what do they answer?

In so many fields, the RW approach has dug itself a huge hole - one they will have a harder and harder time getting out as they don't change their approach. It's pretty sad.

Places that are mid-right, however, have no such problems.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

The reality is more nuanced. Elites can do those things in most UO groups. The 'absolute prohibition' is partly rhetorical but also mostly intended for the masses. It wouldn't do to have 10,000 professionals in those societies, but a handful of doctors or law school deans is fine.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that I understand the quandry.
From within those who beleive that college is prohibited there will indeed be no doctors, lawyers etc. emerging. So what, they will still be able to take advantage of the services rendered by those within other circles who did go to college. All this means to them is that this other person is just "not as frum" as they are, it does not make them completely non-religous or incapable of performing their chosen profession.
If I am UO does that mean I feel like I am lowering myself if I obtain the services of someone who is "less religous" than I, of course not.
I do not honestly beleive that any one group thinks that their world view will be taken on 100% by everyone; it is what is deemed appropriate for them and theirs and maybe what they hope will catch on to others.

BrooklynWolf said...

The question, G, is not whether or not they would use said doctors or lawyers - certainly they would... just as they'd use non-Jewish professionals in a similar situation.

The question is... if they had their way and could impose their will on all K'lal Yisrael, and have their rulings be binding on all of K'lal Yisrael, then would they say that there should be no frum professionals? Or would the absolute prohibition be not so absolute after all?

The Wolf

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Like I said, I think the reality is that in most UO societies there is a more nuanced approach then the message the masses hear.

But your critique is a big one. As Dr. E. Berkowitz wrote in 'Not In Heaven,' and elsewhere, we are a nation and nations need every kind of functionary. It defies explanation as to how the Jews could function without the mechanism to produce our own physicians and auto mechanics and meteorologists and poets ad infinitum.

Anonymous said...

I have two chavrusos and dear friends-one is a dentist and another a MD. Both are YU grads. They are eminent professionals and Bnei Torah who set a role model for other professionals to be kovea itim laTorah-and not just Daf Yomi.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

Let's put it another way. In my yeshivish days I was exposed to the famous Bircas Shmuel teshuva on college (the letter young R. Shimon Schwab sent to R. Boruch Ber Leibowitz regarding whether he should listen to his parents and attend university as per their TIDE tradition). R. Boruch Ber came down strongly against.

This was what I was exposed to in yeshiva, and they were serious. But I went to college. There is no doubt that no one was *happy* about it, but neither was I written out as beyond the pale even though they didn't see college education as permitted. Clearly somehow there is a difference between that and smoking on shabbos.

The cynic in me might say that future wealthy balei batim come from professionals, not shabbos smokers.

But I didn't say that.

PsychoToddler said...

Of course we need frum doctors. Otherwise, who are these people going to go to to shnorr money to marry off their tenth daughter.

Dang, I keep saying these things on your blog. I'm really not that cynical in real life.

The answer they *might* give is that back in the old days when Dr. Goldberg went to college, it was still possible to go and lead a frum lifestyle. But nowadays, college is full of all kinds of pritzus and the bad outweighs the good.

I don't think that's true, but I can tell you that I spent a few Saturday nights in Madison WI up at the university (playing for Aish) and seeing all the drunken masses of college kids roaming the streets, I would never be comfortable sending my kids there.

Maybe that's why my daughter is in YU.

The Chainik Hocker said...

Or maybe you could tell the kid "He must have gone to Touro".

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting book that I am reading now called "The Healer's Way".

It was written in 1976 by an MD, and it presents an interesting hypothesis, which is not too much of a chiddush, but the aythor does a nice job of fleshing it out.
The theory is that there are two aspects to an illness - the first being the disease - the bacterial/viral/autoimmune aspect which actually causes the disease. The second aspect is termed the illness - the way the person reacts to the disease, and as such, this will include his physical symptoms, psychological outlook on the disease, etc..

Any competent doctor can treat disease. Strep throat gets penicillin, pneumonia gets augmentin, etc. Illness, on the other hand, needs the doctor and patient to understand each other, to be aware of the society that they come from, and they need a lot of trust between them.
This is the reason that people tend to gravitate to Doctors (at least in primary care) that come from the same society. Frum people tend to go to frum doctors. In Israel, it is also true - frum people will tend to go to frum doctors. Chareidi people will tend to go to DL doctors, as there are few charedi doctors. I think that this is one of the reasons that the charedi world in Israeli is so 'into' alternative medicine - the practitioners of alternative medicine do not need to go to college, so many charedim 'practice' alternative medicine. This leads to a building of trust between the 'practitioner' and the patient, which is helpful in treating the illness (even though they can't treat the disease).

The frum community needs frum doctors. They get the frum doctors because B"H there are enough people who are sensible enough to know that what is taught in charedi scholls is rhetoric - not to be taken literally or confused with what is actually correct.

Larry Lennhoff said...

It is probably true that today there is no alternative to college for someone who wants to be a doctor. But perhaps at least undergraduate level work could be handled by an institution such as Lander college - one which taught biology but not [secular] liberal arts, one where the faculty were not Marxist atheists but were rather frum Jews themselves?

Touro just started a medical school in NJ if I recall correctly. It seems to me that if the frum community wanted, it could solve the college problem exactly the same way it solved the 'send our kids to public school and they come back assimilated' problem.

Anonymous said...

-->if they had their way and could impose their will on all K'lal Yisrael, and have their rulings be binding on all of K'lal Yisrael, then would they say that there should be no frum professionals? Or would the absolute prohibition be not so absolute after all?

Got it, thanks for the clarification :-)
In that case, if the proposed situation is one in which all aspects of their world view are being kept by all members of Klal Yosroel then again we have no problem. For if that were the case there would be a completely ultra frum schools being run and staffed completly by ultra frum indivuduals in a way that would not run afoul of ultra frum rulings.
The oppostion to college, as best I understand it, is not an opposition to education just to the current way in which one must currently obtain it.

Anonymous said...

"current way in which one must currently obtain it."

Wow, so much for my education :-(

Gil Student said...

Ba'alei Teshuvah

PsychoToddler said...

We did start our own medical school. It's called Einstein.

BrooklynWolf said...


See my comment to G.

The Wolf

M-n said...

Mama, where do Jewish doctors come from?

The non-Orthodox.

Stop saying "Jewish" when you mean "Orthodox." Jews have no problem becoming doctors, going to college, etc. It's the minority Orthodox that are a cult segregated from The Outside World(tm).

Orthoprax said...


Didn't you hear? The esteemed Touro College is opening a medical school this year. I'm sure it will be an excellent institution on par with anything in the third world.

BrooklynWolf said...


I understand and hear your objection. However, it was *obvious* to everyone reading this post that the "questioner" was referring to *frum* (Orthodox) Jews.

Can you hear a small child asking "Mama, where to Orthodox Jewish doctors come from?" No, because it sounds forced.

So, yes, I hear your point, but in this case, I stand by my choice of wording for stylistic reasons.

The Wolf

BrooklynWolf said...


That is, indeed, interesting.

I'm curious, however. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a physician, and therefore don't know how germaine the study of evolutionary history is to the study of modern medicine as it is practiced today.

I think I'll make a post on this and ask...

The Wolf

Orthoprax said...


One can be an excellent physician even if one doesn't accept the fact of evolution. Though, it may lead a patient to question what kind of analytical mind is judging their condition.

It also would be extremely perplexing to such a doctor why bacteria strains are suddenly getting more resistant to antibiotics or how it's even possible for bird flu to change itself and threaten human life. But daily medicine probably doesn't involve all that much about evolutionary history.

PsychoToddler said...

I once argued with a baal-tshuva friend that evolution exists because we see bacteria mutating and developing resistance to drugs all the time.

He said yeah, they mutate and become better bacteria, but we don't see bacteria become different species like ducks or something else.

And he's a PhD.

Jewboy said...

It's rather simple. We need doctors and lawyers to milk for money for the shuls and schools, but chas vesholom that we should advise our own kids to go to college.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I remember hearing a story about a rosh yeshiva who advised a young man not to go to college; the young man did anyway, and lost touch with the rosh yeshiva...

Some time later, the rosh yeshiva had a child who desperately needed a psychiatrist, and he was worried about sending the kid to a "non-frum" one.

Luckily, he heard about this great 'frum' psychiatrist, and brought his kid there... and guess what, it was that same former student he had told not to go to college.

Yeah, it's probably just a mashal, but it expresses the other view.