Monday, June 05, 2023



“‘Kibbutz Galiyot: ingathering of the exiles,’ one of the cornerstones of the return to Zion in the modern State of Israel, is evident everywhere you go in this small country. At Shaare Zedek Medical Center, the three attending physicians in echocardiology hail from Buenos Aires, Paris and Bucharest. The CCU Director is from Johannesburg, a cardiology fellow is from Tbilisi, an interventionalist is Australian and an echo tech is from the ancient Jewish community of Cochin India.” (Howie Goldschmidt, April 6, 2016)

In light of this “ingathering,” Dr. Howard Goldshmidt, longtime Teaneck resident, Senior Cardiologist at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, felt comfortable “ditching work” this past February and heading to Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Hospital to serve as a visiting physician for one month. “Slightly” additionally motivated by his daughter Alyssa and family residing in Modiin, Dr. Goldschmidt was ready for this experience after many years of working toward it through multiple family trips, attending Hebrew Ulpan courses and even participating in hospital rounds during a 1998 visit. Raised in a family in which his paternal grandfather was a classmate of Dr. Falk Schlesinger, Director General of Shaare Zedek from the 1940s through the 1960s and his maternal grandfather served on the initial American Committee for Shaare Zedek, his destination was a natural.

Goldschmidt’s sabbatical in February coincided with the height of the recent spate of stabbings in Israel. The month at Shaare Zedek raised many emotions and traumatic experiences, which Dr. Goldschmidt decided to share in a series of five blogs posted on the Times of Israel beginning on March 23, 2016, and through his own site. One particularly traumatic event for Goldschmidt was when two gurneys were wheeled simultaneously into the emergency room, one with a Chayal whose injury was the result of a “pigua dekira,” a stabbing incident, alongside the gurney of the terrorist perpetrator. Both patients were treated with the utmost care and humanitarianism.

The main corridor of the hospital reminds Goldschmidt of the Cardo, the Second Temple main business thoroughfare of Jerusalem, now re-gentrified and a major tourist attraction. In these hallways one can see patients from local Jerusalem, outlying areas of the country, Arab territories and international locations flown in to be treated by the state-of-the-art facilities and expert physicians. The medical teams consist of locally trained physicians joined by international volunteers such as a world-famous pediatric cardiologist from Paris specializing in echocardiology of the fetus. Dr. Vanderman, a senior physician in his 80s from Holland, serves as a volunteer in the coronary unit, supervising all echocardiology procedures in the unit.

Fully licensed for his volunteer service through the efforts of Professor Giora Weiss, Chief of Cardiology, whom he befriended at Lenox Hill and Columbia Hospitals in the US, Goldshmidt began working on the first day of his arrival. “Within the first hour of my arrival, I am performing a transesophageal echocardiogram. I am able to explain the results of the examination to the patient’s family in my halting Hebrew. The remainder of the day is spent interpreting echocardiograms, joining teaching rounds in the CCU (conducted in Hebrew), and performing a stat echo in the cath lab. Later in the week, I teach the first-year cardiology fellows and observe a Mitraclip procedure (a minimally invasive feat of high-tech engineering) in the cath lab.” (Howie Goldschmidt, March 30, 2016)

Goldschmidt was particularly impressed by Professor Yonatan Halevi, the fourth Director General of the Hospital. Shaare Zedek marked the 114th Anniversary of its founding in 1902 on Tu B’shvat, January 21. Under the leadership of only four Director Generals in over 100 years, the hospital has grown from a 20-bed hospital to a world-renowned institution. Under the Directorship of Professor Halevi, Shaare Zedek houses an innovative Cardiac Care Unit serving over 70,000 patients and performing 25 to 30 heart transplants annually. Its recently expanded Women’s Health Unit delivers over 22,000 Jewish and Arab babies per year, and is a pioneering venue for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), all conducted within the strictest halachik guidelines. The 70-bassinet NIC Unit is the largest in the world servicing over 15,000 premature babies annually. The new Wilf Children’s Hospital serves over 25,000 children in the pediatric emergency room.

Goldschmidt finds the religious atmosphere that pervades the hospital to be unique and uplifting. Professor Halevi is a Torah scholar who serves as Baal Koreh at the various minyanim held throughout the day for both Ashkenazi and Sephardi participants. He has even served as Baal Koreh in the makeshift shuls established in the field hospitals overseen by Deputy Director of the hospital, Professor Ofir Meren in Haiti, Nepal and the Phillipines. Many of the attending physicians are observant and learned. The hospital cafeterias offer kosher meat and dairy meals daily and adhere to the strictest observance on Shabbat and Yom Tovim.

Dr. Goldschmidt is serving his 28th year as Senior Cardiologist at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood specializing in valvular heart disease and interventional echocardiography. To learn more about his sabbatical at Shaare Zedek, he invites the community to log in to his blog or at www.timesofisrael.com.

By Pearl Markovitz


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