Getting through medical school, law school or pharmacy school is no easy feat. And for Orthodox Jewish students, the pressure to balance academic responsibilities with religious observance and obligations can be especially intense. Despite a recent emphasis on “cross-cultural competence” at many universities, sorting out conflicting holidays, dietary and religious law or family traditions can still be difficult.
Yet plenty of students are finding their “comfort zone” within several campuses and programs at Touro College and University System (TCUS). “We offer a superior education with no compromises,” says Dr. Alan Kadish, President of TCUS. “Our academic environment accommodates Jewish religious observance while providing a rigorous and exceptional post-graduate and professional education—hallmarks of Touro.”
It is the best of both worlds.
New York Medical College
Shimon Farber is a fourth-year student in the MD program at New York Medical College (NYMC), a member of the Touro College and University System. Well aware of the NYMC’s reputation for graduating top physicians and clinicians, Farber was also grateful to find a campus culture that includes kosher food, a daily minyan, Torah lectures, a synagogue and the observance of Shabbos and Yom Tov.
“The faculty understands our religious obligations,” he said.
Farber appreciates that NYMC provides an environment that is conducive to Jewish observance as well as academic and professional growth. Last year, he and fellow med students initiated a monthly lecture series on medical halacha.
The school also closes for Jewish holidays and ends early on Friday afternoons. There are mezzuzos on doorposts in public areas, as well as in private offices, as requested. An eruv has just been completed and students, staff and faculty can daven in a dedicated synagogue space. There are even Shabbos-observant schedules in some of the residency programs, such as internal medicine, pathology, diagnostic radiology, pediatrics and family medicine. Additionally, the school is sensitive to the needs of students who are Kohanim.
Dr. Edward Halperin, Chancellor and CEO of NYMC, noted that at the college, which was acquired by Touro in 2011, “students will find a welcoming Jewish environment and an academic calendar that is respectful of Jewish observance.”
Qualified graduates from Touro’s Integrated Honors Track and Medical Honors Pathway Programs at the Jewish-affiliated Touro undergraduate Lander Colleges in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, may academically progress into similarly supported Jewish environments at NYMC, Touro College of Pharmacy and other health education schools in the Touro system.
“Touro and Lander College undergrads benefit from a stellar education as well as special consideration given to them in admissions to our law, medical and health sciences schools, provided that they sustain the academic requirements. We take pride in nurturing and preparing our undergrads to successfully attain their academic and career goals,” said Rabbi Moshe Krupka, Executive Vice President at TCUS.
Touro College of Pharmacy and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine
Elisheva Swartz, a fourth-year pharmacy student, arrived at Touro College Pharmacy School (TCOP) through the pre-pharmacy track at Lander College for Women. The research she conducted as an undergraduate, on oral and systemic health, will soon be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Like Farber, she appreciates the school’s respect for her religious values.
“Shomer Shabbos students are allowed to leave rotation sites at 2 p.m. on Fridays — with the expectation that the hours will be made up on a different weekday — and classes end at noon on each erev Yom Tov, allowing time for travel.” said Swartz.
Swartz also likes that the school is sensitive to the fact that many students are parents raising young families. She described rotation “off blocks” that are built into the academic schedule and can be placed where each student needs it the most. “I used one for my wedding and sheva brachos at the conclusion of my first year, and another as a maternity leave later in my pharmacy student career,” she said.
Heidi Fuchs, Director of Recruitment and External Relations at Touro College of Pharmacy and Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine says the campus shared by those two schools also erects a sukkah every year, offers kosher food at all events including at prospective student interviews, has a prayer room and ensures that “exams are never given on days students fast or after a holiday.”
Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro
“I never have to feel out of place because of my religious commitments,” said Shira Bloom, a Juris Doctor candidate and an Honors Scholar at the Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College on Long Island.
“Having days off for all of the Jewish holidays enables me to spend Yom Tov with my family and not be burdened with missed classes or being forced to choose between academic success and religious observance,” said Bloom.
At the law center, a glatt kosher cafeteria is available all day, and all school activities are kosher-catered. The Jewish Law Students Association observes all Jewish holidays including Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah, Purim, Pesach and the recent “Sushi in the Sukkah.”
“We strive to provide an environment that is not only friendly and helpful to observant Jews,” said the campus rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Fogel of Lawrence, “but one that is inviting as well.”
Rabbi Fogel hosts shiurim and lunch-and-learn sessions where students and faculty discuss Jewish law and thought. In addition to a Judaica library, there is a shul, beis medrash, sefer torah and daily minyan. All of these amenities, says Rabbi Fogel, “provide students with the opportunity to continue that connection to the dual curriculum they were accustomed to for most of their previous schooling.”
The Law Center also houses the Jewish Law Institute, which offers courses in Jewish law and conducts special programs of research, publications and lectures. The Institute acts as a center for the study and teaching of Jewish law throughout the United States, bringing together leading scholars, teachers and lawyers and serving as a clearinghouse for new ideas and independent research.
Weaving Jewish Life Into Professional Careers
Touro College was established as a university rooted in Jewish tradition, and built on Jewish values, and has adhered to that mission since its establishment more than 45 years ago. Today,
graduates tell how the integration of their Jewish life makes perfect sense with their professional one.
“Healthcare is literally working in chesed all day long,” said Swartz. “My avodas Hashem doesn’t stop when I kiss my son goodbye at daycare. It is a fluid process filling my entire day, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Ariel Steinberger, a student at the recently opened Touro College of Dental Medicine, summed up what so many students feel. “Studying in a university system that encourages me to pursue a meaningful career in conjunction with my religious beliefs has added a level of dignity and Jewish pride to my pursuit of a higher education.”
(Sponsored by Touro College)