Jewish Link – The Genesis Prize Foundation presented the documentary “Jews in Medicine”inspired by the work of Pfizer CEO and Chairman Albert Bourla, who received the award this year in Jerusalem, and in honor of Jewish doctors, scientists and medical personnel dedicated to healing the world.
“For thousands of years, the Jews have been at the forefront of medicine as neurologists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, hematologists, immunologists. In the process, they have made countless medical breakthroughs that have saved tens of millions of lives,” says Dr. Nancy Snyderman, former CNN medical editor.
Dr. Aliza Shenjar, former Israeli ambassador to Russia and rector of the University of Haifa suggests that “the interest of the Jews in medicine is motivated by religion, since preserving life and health is a religious commandment“.
According to Dr. John Efron, Professor of Jewish History at the University of California, Berkeley, of 613 commandments in Judaism, 213 are linked to medicine. “There is a concept of pikuach nefesh in Hebrew, which means saving a life is paramount.“, he points out.
However, religion is not the only catalyst for the incorporation of Jews into medicine.
“In most of Western Europe, Jews were restricted in acceptable occupations. They could work with old clothes and rags. They could lend money with interest. They could practice medicine,” explains Dr. Edward C. Halperin, president and CEO of New York Medical College.
And as a result, in the year 1500, almost half of the doctors in Europe were Jewish. In Italy, at least ten popes had Jewish doctors. In Egypt, Maimonides, the leading Jewish philosopher and scholar of the Middle Ages, was personal physician to the Sultan Saladin.
Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottoman Empire, Queen Elizabeth I of England, Louis XIV of France, Catherine the Great of Russia, and even notorious anti-Semites such as Ferdinand and Elizabeth of Spain were treated by Jewish doctors.
In the modern era, more and more Jews entered the medical profession, and their representation in medicine became far greater than their percentage of the world’s population.
“In the 1930s, about 50% of the doctors in Berlin were Jewish. 60% in Vienna. 63% in Budapest. 66% in Warsaw. 70% in Lviv. 74% in Vilnus. And 83% of the doctors in Lodz, the second largest city in Poland, were Jewish,” Halperin stresses.
To date, 26% of Nobel Prizes in physiology or medicine have been awarded to Jews. Even though they only make up two-tenths of 1% of the world’s population.
Jewish scientists have been at the forefront of all kinds of innovations in various specialties. They invented the fiber optic endoscope; pioneered critical improvements to the pacemaker and defibrillator; they cracked the human genetic code; helped discover the structure of DNA and developed the process that enables safe blood transfusions.
They cured polio, invented chemotherapy and developed treatments for AIDS patients.
They invented drugs for multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. They discovered the pharmaceutical uses of penicillin and created vaccines for cholera and hepatitis.
Other advances are endoscope camera, the heimlich maneuvera first aid procedure used when a person is drowning, cataract surgery, artificial heart valves, and the first 3D-printed heart created from real human cells.
Jewish scientists and doctors have made important contributions to public health. They established the first nursing organizations in the Russian Empire, the United States, and the Middle East, and pioneered systems such as chlorinated drinking water.
Psychologists like Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Erik Erikson, Viktor Frankl, and Abraham Maslow have had a huge impact on mental health.
In France, the doctor and politician bernard kouchnerwhose grandparents perished in the Holocaust, founded the NGO Doctors Without Borderss, one of the best known organizations in the world.
And almost 30 years ago, the Israeli surgeon Amram Cohen created the NGO Save a Child’s Heartwhich provides cardiac health care and heart surgery to children in more than 60 countries.
Today, Jewish leaders are following in the footsteps of their predecessors, healing the world: During the Syrian civil war, the Israeli hospitals treated thousands of Syrian refugeesand in March 2022, Israel was the first country to open a hospital in Ukraine.
And in the past two years, Jewish doctors and scientists have helped lead the way out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world’s worst public health crisis in a century.
The American Jewish Researcher Drew Weissmann and his team discovered the mRNA platform that enabled the creation of mRNA vaccines to combat coronavirus.
As Chairman and CEO of Pfizer, 2022 Genesis Prize Laureate Albert Bourla led the team that delivered the first safe and effective COVID vaccine.
In one of the last scenes of the film “Schindler’s List”directed by steven spielberglaureate of the 2021 Genesis Prize, Jewish workers give away Oscar Schindler a gold ring engraved with a quote from the Talmud. “Whoever saves a life saves the whole world”He says.
“This basic principle of Judaism is a reflection of the commitment to save and preserve life that goes back thousands of years,” concludes the Dr. Nancy Snyderman in the documentary.
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SUBTITLED/ The Jews in medicine. The documentary that was screened on the occasion of the 2022 Genesis Prize