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Interfaith and FREE celebrate 10,000 bris mila Memory of interfaith doctor is honored

Six year old Alexander Vays became the 10,000 Russian Jewish refugee to be circumcised at Interfaith Medical Center as a part of the ‘Friends of Refugees of Eastern Europe (FREE) program.

The event took place in the surgical suite and included all of the Jewish ritual ceremonies. The young patient was surrounded by rabbis from throughout greater New York. Rabbi Abraham Cohen and Errol Mallett, M.D., director of Urology at Interfaith, performed the religious and medical aspects of the procedure.

Following the ceremony, which is called a bris mila, a reception for about 100 persons was held in the Louria Auditorium. Former patients, including Free’s first bris (now a successful stockbroker), were honored with a silver kiddush cup.

Dr. Stanley Goldstein, medical director, represented Interfaith and told the group of our recent construction (Emergency Room and TB ward) and our plans for the future.

In Jewish culture, ritual circumcision represents the people’s covenant with God and the ultimate preservation of the world. A Jew does not consider himself a Jew until he has had a bris. Normally this ceremony is performed when a baby is eight days old. In the Soviet Union, Jews were not permitted to practice their religion and this included ritual circumcision. Therefore, those receiving the procedure at Interfaith include boys to older men.

FREE, a 23-year-old organization, began working with Interfaith 22 years ago. Rabbi Cohen, a Russian immigrant himself, made the arrangements with the late Dr. Benjamin Pagovich, an attending urologist at Interfaith. During the reception, a plaque honoring the memory of Dr. Pagovich was unveiled and his widow and children were introduced. The plaque will remain on display at Interfaith.
The event received excellent media coverage with reports on Channel 11 – TV News, in the New York Times and Jewish Week.

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