TENDLER, MOSHE (1926– ), biochemist, professor of Talmud, one of the world's leading experts on medical ethics. He was rosh yeshivah at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and University Professor of Medical Ethics at Yeshiva University. From 1965 he was the spiritual leader of the Community Synagogue of Monsey.
He received a B.A. from NYU in 1947, and a masters degree in 1950. He was ordained at RIETS in 1949 and in 1957 received his Ph.D. in biology from Columbia.
He married Shifra Feinstein, the daughter of Rabbi Moses *Feinstein. Rabbi Tendler was for more than 35 years the close associate of his father-in-law and a principal interpreter of his views on medical ethics issues; he, in turn, also deeply influenced his father-in-law's view on the issue of death and also of transplants.
Tendler wrote dozens of articles on a broad range of medical ethics. But his greatest contribution to medical ethics has been in his oral lectures and rabbinic decisions on ethical problems. He was the first to teach Medical Ethics as part of a formal university curriculum.
He was a forceful advocate for greater organ donor contribution on the part of the Jewish public on the grounds that saving human life – Jew or Gentile – is halakhically mandated as first priority.
His rulings have not gone without controversy, as for instance in his recommendation after a death from herpes that meẓiẓah ba-peh, or oral suction of the circumcision wound, be conducted with a sterile tube.
He was also involved in another medical ethics controversy, being a strong advocate of pre-embryo stem cell research, which he argues is essential for the development of remedies for major illness.
He was also involved in the controversy over the question of definition of death, and objected to the term "brain death." He has argued that the Jewish view is that cessation of cerebral functioning is not sufficient but rather that all brain stem activity must have ceased for death to be determined.
Tendler was chairman of the Bioethical Commission of the Rabbinical Council of America and served on the Medical Ethics Task Force of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. He was medical ethics consultant for the American College of Chest Physicians and the National Association of Bioethics of Embryo Research. He was chairman of the Medical Ethics Commission of the Jewish Philanthropies of New York.
With over 50 children and grandchildren living in Israel, Tendler was involved in Israeli political issues. He most strongly criticized the Orthodox Union of America for not taking a stand and opposing Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005.
He is the author of Pardes Rimmonim: A Marriage Manual for the Jewish Family (1977) and co-author of Responsa of Rav Moshe Feinstein: Translation and Commentary: Care for the Critically ill (2001). He is co-editor with Fred Rosner of Practical Medical Halachah (1997).
F. Rosner (ed.), Pioneers in Jewish Medical Ethics (1997); Jewish Virtual Library Org., "The Brain Death Controversy in Jewish Law, Jewish Whistleblower"; "Rabbi Moshe Tendler Terms of Harassment" (2005); The OCWEB.Org., "Ten Questions for Rabbi Moshe Tendler" (Feb. 2003).