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Hasidic Jewish mother of 10 becomes a medical doctor

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Sarah Robsdottir - published on 07/16/21

Alexandra Friedman is exercising her intellectual gifts “to honor God.”

Last month, Alexandra Friedman graduated first in her class from Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Middletown, New York. She finished her degree in the typical four-year time frame, even though there’s not much that’s “typical” about this now pediatric resident. For starters, the Hasidic* mother of 10 studied microbiology while in labor for 12 hours, “It kept my mind off the contractions,” she told the New York Times.

[*Hasidic – A term used to describe an ultra-Orthodox Jewish person or community whose strict religious practices include conservative, full-length dress; head coverings or wigs for married women; refraining from Internet use; not interacting unnecessarily with the opposite sex; and speaking predominately in Yiddish.]

“[Friedman’s] graduation makes her one of the few female Hasidic doctors in the country,” said Dr. Miriam A. Knoll, president of the Jewish Orthodox Women’s Medical Association, in the New York Times article.“So to come from a conservative background and have that many children, you’re fighting an uphill battle, one that just takes extraordinary drive and commitment.”

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But Friedman didn’t accomplish this feat alone. She had the full support of her husband Yosef (who often worked evenings for minimum wage so he could help out at home during the day), their 10 children and even her rabbi’s special permission. This support was imperative for the devout mother who always fulfilled the duties of Hasidic life even while in medical school, faithfully raising her children (three of whom she gave birth to while pursuing her degree) and abstaining from studying on Jewish holidays and on the Sabbath, each Friday evening through Saturday evening.

Dr. Friedman commented on her accomplishments in light of her faith, implying that her work enhances her spirituality, rather than diminishing it: “In Judaism, there’s a belief that if you don’t use the gifts given to you by God, you’re not really honoring God.”

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