OU Presents Seminar on Body Image and Eating Disorders on Sunday, June 7, at Ramaz Middle School

April 27, 2009

There are many theories as to why there has been a rise of eating disorders in the Jewish community. Some say it’s because of the pressures for the need to control; some attribute it to the influence of the media and its emphasis on slimness; and still others have other reasons. Whatever the cause, the fact remains that eating disorders are a real and malevolent presence in our community today. Therefore, the Orthodox Union, in conjunction with the Renfrew Center Foundation, is sponsoring a seminar on “Food, Body Image, and Eating Disorders in the Jewish Community,” on Sunday, June 7, from 9:00 am-5:00 pm. It will take place at Ramaz Middle School, 114 East 85th Street, New York City.

The OU has been in the forefront of addressing alcohol and drug-related issues in high schools, developing guidelines that have already been adopted by 14 schools in the Greater New York area for prevention and intervention. The OU is taking the lead once again in confronting communal issues, now eating disorders, that others have not yet addressed.

The event is open to professionals in the field, rabbis, rabbinical and social work students, with limited space for the general public. The cost is $100; there is a student discount of $50. Lunch is included. This nominal fee also includes 5.5. CEU credits for professionals.

Frank Buchweitz, National Director of the OU’s Department of Community Services and Special projects, declared, “The OU Department of Community Services consistently addresses issues of great importance that impact upon the lives of individuals. The issue of eating disorders in the Jewish community is one that we have incorporated into our Jewish parenting programs. As eating disorders have been swept under the rug in many circles addressing and sponsoring a full-day conference for professionals who work with teens and young adults to recognize the signs of eating disorders and to be better equipped to treat it, is coming none too soon as increasing situations come to light. We plan to present future conferences on the same topics for parents in the fall, in communities like Brooklyn, the Five Towns, and Queens.”

“Eating disorders affect both women and men,” continued Frank Buchweitz, “and the sad emphasis on appearance that abounds in the shidduch (dating and marriage world) world only magnify the problem. It is our hope that this comprehensive program presented by the OU will go a long way towards helping solve this disturbing phenomenon.”

Keynote speakers at the event will be Esther Altmann, PhD., a Manhattan psychologist and eating disorders specialist and Senior Consultant, Orthodox Jewish Eating Disorders Program, Renfrew Center; and Rabbi Abraham Twerski, MD, Founder and Medical Director Emeritus of Gateway Rehabilitation Center, psychiatrist, and prolific author. From 9:15-10:45, Dr. Altmann will present on “Eating Disorders: The Healing Power of the Jewish Community.” Following workshops, Dr. Twerski will speak from 1:45-3:00 on “Spirituality, Self-Esteem, and Recovery;” he will be introduces and will be introduced by Frank Buchweitz.

The rest of the day will be devoted to stimulating and thought-provoking workshops led by experts in their fields. One of the workshops will feature the acclaimed documentary, “Hungry to be Heard,” a project of the OU’s Young Leadership Cabinet. The other workshops include the following:

• “Eat, My Child: The Uses and Misues of Food and Body Image Between Jewish Mothers and Daughters,” by Emily Kuriloff, PsyD, Training and Supervising Analyst at the William Alanson White Institute and Book Review Editor for the journal “Contemporary Psychoanalysis”;
• “Orthodoxy and Eating Disorders: Cultural Norm of Pathology?” by Jonathan Kirschner, MA, Doctoral Intern at the Renfrew Center Foundation;
• The Jewish Factor in Eating Disorders: A Behind the Scenes Look,” by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, rabbi of Congregation Bais Yitzchok in Brooklyn and renowned speaker and author;
• “A Glimpse into the World of Eating Disorders from the Inside,” by Lenny Kramer, a father of an eating disorders patient; and Aliza Starshefsky, a former eating disorders patient and current Director of Student Programming at Bruriah High School in Elizabeth, NJ. Ms. Starshefsky helped raise money for “Hungry to be Heard.”

Registration will take place online at http://community.ou.org/eatingdisorders. For more information, contact the OU at 212-613-8188.