The new doctor wants to encourage other members of the religious world to help their communities by entering the field.
By United with Israel Staff
Dr. Yehuda Sabiner is the first Israeli-born member of the ultra-Orthodox community to graduate from medical school. His success, against the odds, is encouraging many religious and non-religious people to reach for their dreams.
He was inspired by two outstanding physicians as a young child, deciding at an early age that he wanted to be like them as an adult, even though there had never been an ultra-Orthodox doctor in Israel before.
“When I was a child, I had in Jerusalem two very special pediatricians…[who] were both very special in their profession but also in terms of being a mensch [a good person], in compassion and empathy to their patients,” he told Jewish Home LA. “But as I grew up, I also understood that the field is very attractive…you have to be very smart to understand this stuff, and you must be curious about it, and it’s one of the fields…you can provide so much help and chessed [kindness] to members of your community, to human beings.”
As a child, Sabiner received an ultra-Orthodox education as a member of the Gerrer Hasidic sect. This meant that he studied Torah full time and did not formally learn math, chemistry, English, or physics. He did, however, learn discipline and how to study intensely for as much as 14 hours a day.
At 16 years old, Sabiner and his peers embarked on a challenge trying to “study five hours in a row without going to drink, or to talk, or to the bathroom.”
Sabiner credits his Jewish education for “exercising his brain” with deep Torah studies that taught him to ask questions and find solutions.
“When you see a case of a patient, a medical case, you always try to challenge the first diagnosis, you try to challenge people who said something else, to see, is it still possible? Still true?” he told Jewish Home LA.
In 2011, he was accepted into an 18-month special program at the Technion designed to fill in the educational gaps of intelligent and determined religious students in order to facilitate their rapid entry into conventional degree-track higher education. Sabiner was one of 67 students accepted into the program and one of only 17 who completed the rigorous course.
Today, the graduate of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rappaport Faculty of Medicine and doctor of internal medicine says, “I enjoy the big picture aspect of it and how it’s multi-disciplinary.”
The doctor is soon starting his six-year internship at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, according to the Jewish United Fund. His goal is to give back to his community, which supported him despite his unconventional career path.
Encouraging others to pursue their dreams and potential, Dr. Sabiner said, “There are very, very, very talented people among us—boys and also girls—and they should get the full potential of whatever they want to be. I really don’t care if it’s as a rabbi, a rosh yeshiva [head of a religious institution], a lawyer, a doctor—any way you choose, you should do the best you can.
“I am far from being a genius,” he told Jewish Home LA. “It’s not easy, it’s not easy for anyone, especially someone who has never studied general sciences, but still it is possible, and once you know it’s possible, you can do it.”
In addition to being a doctor, Sabiner, 29, is also founder and chairman of an ultra-Orthodox professional organization called Haredim in Medicine, which helps religious people join the medical field by helping them overcome cultural barriers.
Thus far, 35 ultra-Orthodox Jews are attending medical school in Israel, following in Sabiner’s footsteps.