NEW YORK (Dec. 19)
A decision by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners that the St. Georges University Medical School of Grenada, now using temporary facilities in New Jersey, cannot force a Jewish student to take an examination on his Sabbath, has been hailed by Julius Berman, president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.
The decision of the medical school to accommodate Steven Cohen of Mineola, Long Island followed a complaint by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith that the university had discriminated against Cohen, one of the students evacuated from Grenada after the U.S. marine invasion. Cohen is now continuing his studies at the medical school’s facilities at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston.
The ADL asserted St. Georges denied Cohen’s request for a three-hour delay in taking an examination scheduled for Saturday, December 17, during the Jewish Sabbath.
In an affidavit submitted by the ADL to the State Board of Medical Examiners in Trenton, Cohen declared he had offered “to pay for a proctor to sit with me in another room at St. Barnabas during the 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. scheduled test period and then to begin my test at 5:30 p.m. after the Sabbath.”
MUST COMPLY WITH U.S. LAWS
In a letter to the medical examiners board, submitted with the affidavit, Jeffrey Sinensky, ADL legal affairs department director, declared that as long as the Grenadian school operates in the United States, it must comply “not only with United States laws but also with New Jersey policy mandating non-discrimination in education, and to show the same respect for individual rights accorded to all students” in New Jersey.
The Board of Medical Examiners then adopted a resolution which noted the state’s policy of accommodating the religious practices of students and added that the board “recommends and expects that the (St. Georges) university recognize the religious needs of its students.”
Sinensky said the ADL had contacted Charles Janousek, executive secretary of the examiners board on December 12 after his protest letter to St. Georges Chancellor Charles Modica failed to remedy the problem.
While he was attending classes in Grenada, Cohen said in his affidavit, the school refused to accommodate him in connection with classes, laboratories or written examinations held on Saturdays. He said being sometimes forced to take written examinations on Saturday, the only day they were given, caused him “a great deal of moral anxiety.”
Cohen said he did so because, while the medical school was in Grenada, he took the examinations as scheduled, “on penalty of being effectively barred” from a medical career. Since the school is presently operating in the United States, he asserted, he should not be subjected to “religiously discriminatory conduct directed at American citizens” in the United States.
UNIVERSITY CHANCELLOR CRITICIZED
Berman noted that students at St. Georges University must sign a form requiring they will abide by all school regulations, including scheduling of classes and examinations on any day of the week. He cited a statement by Modica that the form was meant “to force students to recognize the ‘real world of 1983′ and the needs of the medical profession.”
Berman responded that it was Modica “who perhaps is out of touch with the real world of 1983 where hundreds of thousands of Sabbath observers be they Jews, Seventh Day Adventists or members of other Christian Sabbath observing groups, enjoy positions of leadership in virtually every occupation.” He added that Modica, in his statement of university policy, “has succeeded in insulting people of all religions.”