Frimi Levy, who teaches kallah classes on family purity laws and marriage advice, has referred a handful of her students to Dr. Chani Yondorf.
Yondorf is an Orthodox woman who works in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. She is leading an initiative to provide OB-GYN services that are mindful of religious Jewish practices, particularly the family purity laws surrounding menstruation and when a husband and wife can have relations.
“All of the brides that I teach, I recommend them to go to her,” Levy said. “There’s something really awesome about having a female OB-GYN who is intimately — haha, pun intended — familiar with the laws of family purity. It’s something that a doctor can learn, but it’s something wonderful if the doctor really gets it just on their own without even needing to be taught.”
Yondorf’s practice advertises itself as women’s health care honoring Jewish tradition. She is not only knowledgeable of these laws; she comes from that community and practices them.
Since she became an attending and started providing the service in August, the number of women seeking her out specifically for this service has grown. Now, she estimates about 10 percent of her patients come for that reason.
The service she offers is not a common one. Yondorf knows of only one other OB-GYN that offers it in New York City.
“I knew it was something that I always wanted to do for my community, to be able to take care of women with both of these issues, with both of these concerns,” Yondorf said. “I grew up with both of these concerns — both medical and religious — and knew that there was a big void, or a big lack, within my community for it. I really wanted to be able to provide that.”
Yondorf said she always wanted to be a doctor. She grew up in on Long Island and attended Yeshiva University and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx. During medical school, she became interested in the OB-GYN field.
“I loved the fact that, within OB-GYN, you can help a woman from the time she’s a teenager with her first period, through her first children, through the rest of her children, through menopause,” Yondorf said. “To be able to help a woman through every stage of her life, I found to be incredible. To be able to do that with women in my community was even more exhilarating.”
She completed her residency at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. By then, she had children, and moving to Philadelphia meant being closer to her in-laws.
Einstein has accommodated her religious needs around Shabbat and holidays, she said. The health care network was also happy to help her start this initiative.
Yondorf said she wished she had access to this kind of service when she was younger. It would have made visiting the OB-GYN less stressful.
She is able to understand, for example, the concern that a bride might have over getting her period around the time of her wedding, which would prohibit her from being with her husband on their wedding night. Or she can understand how spotting or bleeding over a period of months could put a strain on a marriage.
It’s easier on the patients to not have to describe their religious practice, and they can use the proper Hebrew terminology with her.
“Growing up, without having a gynecologist who really understood all of these issues, when I would come really perplexed about something, it wouldn’t be that perplexing to somebody who doesn’t understand all of those laws,” Yondorf said. “It’s my honor, that when somebody comes to me with this issue that really medically is not such a big deal, but religiously has large ramifications, I’m able to understand where they’re coming from that religious aspect as well.”
It’s what has kept Levy recommending Yondorf to her students.
“At a certain point, it’s not just about being respectful and being respectful of another person’s religion,” Levy said. “Obviously, that’s a nonstarter. But sometimes, it’s more. It’s the nuances that are involved, the religious aspects that make it so awesome to have an Orthodox female OB-GYN in the community.”
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