A two-day “MedEx” event was held March 27-28 at the Marriott Glenpointe Hotel in Teaneck. The event is a project of Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), co-founded in 2002 by Rabbi Yehoshua Fass and Tony Gelbart with the mission of facilitating the process of aliyah from North America by minimizing financial, professional, logistical and social obstacles. To date, through their support and in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and JNF-USA, NBN has assisted over 70,000 olim, of whom 90% have remained in Israel.
NBN’s hosting its MedEx Conference in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Health was motivated by the serious shortage of medical professionals of all specialties in Israel. Whether the result of burnout from COVID, retirements or because of the worldwide shortage of qualified medical professionals, Israel is looking to build up its professional medical cohort. Since its inception, NBN has assisted more than 770 physicians and 2,800 other medical professionals with their aliyah process. Most are now employed in hospitals, health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and the private sector.
According to Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, co-founder and executive director of NBN, “Our MedEx track has proven to be an indispensable element of the aliyah process for medical professionals. It is exciting for us to once again host this in-person event as we continue to see an increase in aliyah from medical professionals across North America. These professionals come with a pioneering spirit and are often the catalysts for change and improvement in our healthcare system.”
In addition to the overall shortage of medical professionals in Israel, two specific geographic areas in the country are experiencing a serious shortage in medical practitioners. Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Oded Forer, who was present at the event, shared: “Nefesh B’Nefesh’s MedEx Conference is a wonderful example of the combination of Zionism and professionalism. We will welcome with open arms and make every effort to assist the aliyah of these new physicians to Israel. I plan to continue working tirelessly to promote the aliyah of physicians and medical professionals to the Negev and the Galil. Our goal is to implement the new governmental budget allocated for all professionals who choose to live in these areas.”
Forer continued: “Our plan is to make these two beautiful areas of the country stand-alone, strong centers, where families can live and work alongside others who share the same vision. We are planning to establish more hospitals in these areas, which will also serve as academic and research centers. We want to afford our medical professionals with greater opportunities to make a difference in their fields with the support of the local medical facilities. Our goal includes bringing non-formal educational opportunities to these areas and even providing special pre-medical programs for high school students.”
The two-day event hosted 350 medical professionals, many of whom had pre-arranged sessions with the Israeli representatives. MedEx participants hailed from 18 states across the USA and Puerto Rico, represented 11 medical professions and 21 specialties, and met with 15 Israeli medical facility representatives. In addition to Forer, attending the event were Director General of the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Ilan Shochat; Israeli Consul General of New York,Asaf Zamir; Associate Director of Israel’s Health Ministry, Dr. Yosef Mendlovic; and leader of the Coalition and Chairwoman of the Knesset Health Committee, MK Idit Silman.
A key component of the event was meeting representatives from the Israeli Ministry of Health Licensing Division, the Israel Medical Association (IMA), kupot cholim, and hospitals that offered current, reliable and relevant information to assist in the aliyah process. These experts were on hand to discuss and expedite the medical licensing process and to ensure a rapid transmission into the Israeli medical workforce. Networking opportunities, information regarding specialty recognition within Israel, and notarization of documentation were offered. Leading Israeli health and medical institutions sent representatives to interview qualified candidates for positions in the medical industry so that olim can even secure jobs before landing in Israel.
We spoke with Dr. Zahava Vadasz of Bnai Zion Hospital in Haifa. Considered a middle-sized hospital, Bnai Zion has been in existence for 120 years, is noted for its excellent surgery department, and is considered a learning hospital for the medical students at the Technion. Vadasz was born and raised in the area and is raising her son there as well. Currently the hospital is seeking physicians with specialties in pediatrics and clinical immunology and allergies.
Even Shaare Zedek Hospital in the center of Jerusalem is looking to expand its physician base,
especially in the areas of pathology and psychiatry. Head of Medical Human Resources at Shaare Zedek Nili Shapira shared that despite its being a private hospital with a religious board, 30% of its doctors are Arabs and 55% are women.
A father-daughter team was among the attendees at the MedEx event on Sunday. Dr. Abraham Borenstein, who practices dentistry in Floral Park, New York, is looking to make aliyah with his wife, an early childhood educator, in July. They will be joining a daughter and family who live in Katamonim in Jerusalem. Daughter Deena Borenstein Kirschblum grew up in West Hempstead, attended HANC, Central High School, and MMY for her gap year. She completed her nursing studies at Hunter College and holds an RN degree. She resides in Westgate in Teaneck with husband Max, a clinical social worker, and they hope to make aliyah at the beginning of 2023. She and her father were excited at the amount of information they were able to garner at the MedEx event.
At the ADI desk, we heard the remarkable story of this rehabilitation village from Tzaki Siev-Ner, a retired orthopedic surgeon who now serves as the medical director of ADI-Negev Rehabilitation Hospital. Sixteen years ago, General Dan Almog established ADI as a village for individuals, from infants to seniors, with severe cognitive impairment. Five years ago the first department at the newly established ADI Rehabilitation Hospital was opened. On April 12, 2022, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will inaugurate the new, state-of-the art ADI Rehabilitative Hospital, the only one of its kind in southern Israel. Its mission of Ability, Diversity and Inclusion will be carried out through advanced technologies, outpatient clinics, oncological rehabilitation and a research lab run with Ben Gurion University and the Weizmann Institute.
We spoke with ADI representative Dr. Shiloh Kramer, who made aliyah with his wife and six children from Woodmere, Long Island, during COVID, only one-and-a-half years ago. Born in Israel, Kramer lived in several locations growing up, including Vancouver and even a short stint in Teaneck. He attended YU and New York College of Osteopathic Medicine. His residency at North Shore and Sloan Kettering made him the “only fellowship-trained cancer rehabilitation physician in Israel.” Thus he was attracted to ADI and when making aliyah was hired to serve in their Residency Program for Physical Rehabilitation. Despite his one-hour commute each way from Ramat Beit Shemesh where his family currently resides, Kramer is thrilled to be living his dream of contributing his specialties to Israel and ADI. His mantra is one he learned from Rabbi Haskell Lookstein when attending Ramaz High School. “Hineni shalcheni. Here I am, send me!”
To learn more about the MedEx Program of Nefesh B’Nefesh and all other programs visit www.nbn.org.il
By Pearl Markovitz