Family Doctor Supports Sensitive Care for Observant Jews
One in a continuing series
A rabbi walks into a doctor’s office. There’s no priest or minister with him – because this isn’t a joke: treating observant Jewish patients requires sensitivity and respect for the protocols of their religion.
That’s where Randi Zeitzer, MD, comes in.
“I have some very religious patients in my practice,” says Dr. Zeitzer, a family physician with Einstein Healthcare Network. “One of them is a male rabbi, and I advised the staff, don’t shake his hand because of Jewish laws of modesty. Don’t touch him except to take his blood pressure.”
Dr. Zeitzer is part of Einstein’s new initiative, the Jewish Health Resources Center (JRHC), which was established to provide culturally sensitive healthcare to observant Jewish patients. She’s part of a team of Einstein practitioners who are educating Einstein staff about Jewish protocols and doing outreach to the community
Meeting Needs of the Jewish Community
“The JHRC allows our organization to meet the cultural, spiritual and religious needs of the Jewish community,” says David Jaspan, DO, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who heads the initiative.
“It will allow our employees to gain an understanding of Jewish practices, whether it is about dietary traditions or restrictions on the Sabbath and holidays. The purpose of this program is to ensure that our network is inclusive and understanding for all.”
The JHRC was launched in June and is still evolving. One thing is certain, though: it’s a perfect fit for Dr. Zeitzer. She’s an observant Jew and a devoted doc, whose life has been as influenced by her religion as it was by her lifelong dream to become a doctor.
“When I did my residency at Chestnut Hill Hospital, one of the volunteers in the cafeteria was my fourth-grade teacher,” she says. “She remembered that I said back then that I wanted to be a doctor.”
Dr. Zeitzer envisioned becoming a pediatrician, “but I fell in love with family medicine,” she says. “I love treating the whole family – I have had newborns and their parents and siblings and grandparents and even great-grandparents.”
Zeitzer was raised in a home that embraced Judaism and its moral obligation of charitable giving. Much of her life has pivoted around her religion.
“I was raised in a Conservative home; went to synagogue – Temple Sinai in Dresher; Gratz Hebrew High School; attended Camp Ramah, an observant camp in the Poconos,” she says. (Conservativism is a denomination of Judaism that is more observant than Reform but less than Orthodox).
She met her husband when both were on separate group trips to Israel sponsored by Hillel, a campus organization for Jewish students.
Dr. Zeitzer’s husband, Kenneth, is a radiation oncologist at Einstein, though the two practice in different locations and rarely run into each other. “I rarely see him because I’m in the outpatient setting,” she says. “When I have meetings at the hospital, we go out to dinner. We share some patients.”
They also share two children:a son who’s a high school Latin teacher and a daughter who’s planning to get her PhD in ecology.
Devotion to Faith and Medicine
For the past 10 years – with the exception of the pandemic – the family has hosted girl and boy scouts from Israel who are participating in organized travel tours to the United States.
“They stay in the area for two weeks, so (two of them) live with us, we drive them where they need to go, we’re Mom and Dad, we take care of them. It’s an amazing program,” she says.
Dr. Zeitzer combines the two passions of her life in her public service. She’s chair of the Health and Safety Committee at her synagogue, Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El. She also was Parent Committee chair for a kosher Boy Scouts troop affiliated with Temple Sinai in Dresher and is now the Health Supervisor for Cradle of Liberty Council of Boy Scouts of American.
Einstein’s JHRC is another venue in which Dr. Zeitzer can combine her dedication to her patients and her faith. “I’m excited for that. I love being able to give back to the community.”
She’ll help Einstein make sure a rabbi who walks into a doctor’s office is met with sensitivity and respect. No joke.