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Friday, June 18, 2021
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(Courtesy of The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals) On Sunday, June 6, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org) will be sponsoring a lecture to address the topic of breastfeeding in halacha. Keynote speaker Dr. Deena Zimmerman will give a shiur, “Halacha and Sensitivity in Breastfeeding.”

Dr. Zimmerman, MD, MPH, IBCLC, is a physician with a lifelong love of Judaic studies. She completed college at Yale University and medical school at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She did a pediatric residency, chief residency and master’s in public health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, where she served on the faculty as assistant professor of clinical pediatrics for four years.

In Israel she studied in Nishmat’s Keren Ariel Program for Yoetzet Halacha (women’s halachic advisor) and was one of its first graduates. She directs Nishmat’s Women Health and Halacha website and has written and lectures extensively on medicine, halacha and the intersection between them. She is currently the director of the maternal child and adolescent department of the Public Health Services and practices as a pediatrician and breastfeeding medicine specialist.

Rabbi Hayyim Angel, the National Scholar of The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, will introduce the program with a brief talk, “Why the Community Needs to Bridge Science, Halacha and Humanity.” In addition to his role as National Scholar for the Institute, Rabbi Angel has taught advanced undergraduate Bible courses at Yeshiva University since 1996. He also has taught extensively in Bergen County including at the Beit Midrash of Teaneck, Ben Porat Yosef, Lamdeinu and synagogues, schools and other institutions.

The lecture will note how breastfeeding plays an impressively significant role in biblical narrative. The Torah highlights Sarah’s nursing of Isaac and the subsequent weaning party that Abraham threw for his entire community. We are told that Moses was nursed by his own mother. The prophet Samuel similarly was nursed by his mother, Hannah, and the narrative stresses how Hannah delayed fulfillment of her vow to bring her son to the Tabernacle until he was weaned. Even Rebecca’s wet nurse, Deborah, receives mention.

In our complex and constantly changing world, Jewish family values remain paramount in our community. Many mothers consider breastfeeding or pumping their breast milk to give to their children instead of formula. Beyond the nutritional superiority of breast milk over formula, the mother-baby bond is a singular experience.

Other topics will include: How do observant Jewish mothers who choose to feed breast milk exclusively to their children navigate Shabbat pumping, fasting and other critical halachic issues? What is the latest scientific knowledge all rabbis must know to offer proper guidance to their congregants who are extremely concerned about establishing and maintaining milk supply, nourishing their babies, providing optimal care for their children and supporting breast health and mental health? What human sensitivities should rabbis have, in addition to their halachic erudition and scientific knowledge, in order to thoughtfully address each question?

Founded in 2007 by Rabbi Marc D. Angel, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals has presented a clear voice of Judaism characterized by intellectual vibrancy, spiritual excitement, and communal inclusivity. The Institute publishes a journal, Conversations; receives over 10,000 hits per month on its website from people seeking this vision of Judaism; runs a university network and a Sephardic educators’ network; and conducts many classes and symposia on a wide range of pressing issues.

The shiur is free and open to the public. Please register at jewishideas.org/breastfeeding-and-halakhah.

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