Sharsheret and Nishmat launch a training institute

When Jewish women, men and families everywhere have questions or concerns about breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cancer genetics, they can turn to the national non-profit organization lucrative Teaneck-based Sharsheret for personalized support and information.

But because many people prefer to approach someone they already know and trust in their own Jewish community, Sharsheret recently launched a global training institute to certify members of partner organizations by providing guidance in experts.

The first cohort of the Sharsheret Training Institute includes alumni of Jerusalem-based Nishmat and its US-based Miriam Glaubach Center. These alumni are “yoatzot halakha,” women certified to counsel other women in halakha – Jewish law – regarding the female life cycle.

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While yoatzot halacha is aimed at women who identify as Orthodox, future cohorts of the Sharsheret Training Institute could come from other segments of the Jewish population, reflecting the organization’s commitment to serving the community. at large.

Melissa Rosen, director of training and education at Sharsheret, said Nishmat’s initial cohort of 44 yoatzot halacha was roughly half Israeli and half American, plus a handful of British and Canadian participants.

“This is the first time that Nishmat has made an educational effort where they have mixed their Israeli wives and their ‘Anglo’ wives,” she said.

Ms. Rosen, who oversees the training of medical professionals, Jewish professionals and Sharsheret volunteers nationwide, teaches the course, along with three Miriam Glaubach Center staff members – Hindy Feder, Laurie Novick and Atara Segal.

Two examples of halakhic topics covered are whether tattoos are permitted in the context of breast reconstruction and the Jewish legal ramifications of using in vitro fertilization with preimplantation genetic testing in order not to pass on a BRCA mutation that increases the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The six two-hour training sessions also address cultural and religious concerns, such as the pros and cons of sharing a diagnosis with family and community; and recognize that cancer is not just a physical experience, but also an emotional and spiritual one. How will the “who will live and who will die” liturgy, for example, emotionally affect someone undergoing treatment for breast cancer?

After completing the course, each Certified Sharsheret Nishmat Halakhic Counselor will be available to support community members one-on-one and lead an educational session in their community within one year. Rosen said she hopes these sessions will help de-stigmatize the conversation.

“We know that destigmatizing breast cancer and ovarian cancer will encourage more people to get educated, get genetically screened, or get screened for breast cancer,” she said. “We will save lives.”

Atara Eis, director of the Miriam Glaubach Center in Nishmat and the US Yoatzot Halacha Fellows program, said the course was groundbreaking.

“During our students’ two years of study to become yoatzot halakha, Sharsheret teaches them the basics of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cancer genetics, but these subjects really deserve a much more in-depth training and immersive,” Ms. Eis said.

“Together, we provide our yoatzot halakha with a comprehensive and cutting-edge halachic, medical, emotional and pastoral education. It’s a fantastic partnership between Nishmat and Sharsheret.

Sharsheret’s chief operating officer, Devorah Silverman, said that since one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, Sharsheret’s management felt it was important to offering education and advice not only to those who connect directly with Sharsheret, but also with a range of experts available to the community.

“This program allows these other experts to provide advice with as much up-to-date information as possible,” Ms. Silverman said.

“We have worked for years to provide cultural competency training to physicians such as oncologists, radiologists, obstetricians, gynecologists and plastic surgeons so that they understand some of the unique sensitivities of Jewish women when faced with genetic mutations or a diagnosis of breast or ovarian cancer.

The Training Institute takes this to another level. “One of the things that sets this apart from other training we’ve offered is the depth,” Ms. Silverman said. “We really dive deep into the subjects.”

Micah Philanthropies provided seed funding for the new program.

“We’re working with three or four other organizations, each with different goals they want to focus on,” Ms. Rosen said. “We will do education a little differently with each cohort to meet the needs of their constituents.”

For example, training can be customized to focus on psychosocial or spiritual aspects and what the local Jewish community can offer women or men who turn to them for advice regarding breast or ovarian cancer.

“In all cases, we talk about whatever they need to support someone in their community who is facing a diagnosis of breast cancer or ovarian cancer or who is living at high risk due to a history familial mutation or a known genetic mutation,” Ms. Rosen said. “Through this institute, we will be able to really amplify the support that people receive.”

Leaders of organizations interested in these specialized trainings can request more information from Melissa Rosen; email her at [email protected] or call her at (866) 474-2774.

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