Books By Sof’ers

Memories of a Neurosurgeon: Book Review of Judith’s Pavilion: The Haunting Memories of a Neurosurgeon, by Dr. Marc Flitter

BY MAT SGAN

As I sat on the UU Church bench, Marc went to his car and emerged with a copy of the subject book, which he handed to me. I was delighted to receive it. I take such pleasure in learning of the accomplishments of friends and family. They never cease to astound me as they arise from conversation and observation. More delight came in reading in the book. Congregation Sof Ma’arav participant and all-around Jewish community member, Dr. Marc Flitter is well known in Reform, Chabad, and Conservative Jewish circles in Honolulu. His book is not Jewish, although there is no shortage of Jewish humor and references, as might be expected from a surgeon who chooses to set up practice in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Unlike so many other personal career odysseys, this book is not about success stories. Rather it is about those moments when all of a surgeon’s training, hard-won knowledge, and motivation to save a life, occasionally fall short of the mark. Such failure can occur immediately or during an extended period. In any case, Dr. Flitter relies on his physician’s orientation to cope with, while at the same time explaining, the aftermath.

Marc’s empathy, sympathy, and experiences are on display and come into play throughout the book. I felt that I knew and cared for every one of the characters (patients, doctors, relatives of patients) because he introduced them so well. Not the least of my interest was his capture of the Yiddish tone and texture (mostly funny) that he slipped in as, most likely, tension relievers for the author as well as the reader.

The book will be of interest to all who have faced in one form or another the surgeon’s knife. I read it with great interest although I had trouble with the demands that it made on my ability to read all of the descriptions of the actual operations. I am very squeamish when it comes to opening a deep cut in someone’s cranium with a scalpel! Or trying to remove a piece of wood that entered a child’s brain through the eye. Only the recognition that Marc was working to save and to perpetuate life and that his endeavors might inspire others to follow his course carried me forward.

I decided on certain actions post reading of Judith’s Pavilion. I brought the copy that Marc gave me to the library at Temple Emanu-El so more people could learn of and benefit from it. I also sent a copy to my son-in-law surgeon (yes, our daughter married a doctor.) I want him to read about my friend, Dr. Marc Flitter, who wrote a book about himself – a courageous, humorous, and informed surgeon with a devotion to being humane, human, and humble in his efforts to repair the body and soul of people and, in part, the world.


Keeping a Promise and Tomorrow’s God: The Hebrew Lord in an Age of Science

By Judith Goldman

The Robert Goldman family – Bob z’l, Judy, 3 year-old Lita and 6-month-old Erica, came to Honolulu in 1972, to see if we’d like living here. Hawaii has much to offer a young family, but for us, finding a Jewish community was a priority. Fortunately, Congregation Sof Ma’arav was newly formed and had the same welcoming, “join us” … and “what would you like to do?” vibe that it has now. We brought with us some favorite activities from L.A. – one was inviting members to give drashes on the Shabbat Torah portion. Another was the monthly “Havdalah evening” in someone’s home, when lay people and local or visiting scholars shared their ideas on a topic of Jewish interest followed by discussion and dessert. At Havdalah evenings, for example Bob talked about Einstein’s understanding of God; Professor Irving Copi talked about Job; Professor Robert Littman talked about the ancient Hebrews through the lens of archaeology and ancient history. Lively exchanges of ideas were part of every event. Those opportunities to share and discuss his ideas contributed to the writing and publication of Bob’s first book in 1997: Einstein’s God: Albert Einstein’s Quest as a Scientist and as a Jew to Replace a Forsaken God. People still remember his discussions of olam which has multiple meanings such as “forever,” “eternity,” “remote past,” “distant future.” Its synonyms fill pages in a Hebrew-English lexicon. Bob saw connections among YHVH, olam, Einstein, Spinoza, the ancient Hebrews, Judaism and contemporary science.

Before he died in 2005, Bob completed a manuscript. His ideas aren’t for scholarly interest alone, but for understanding our complex world and dealing with it. I promised I would have it published. I had no idea how hard it would be or that it would take 14 years. What has been most gratifying is when people tell me he impacted their lives in a positive way – whether they knew Bob personally or knew him only through his writing.

If it’s your kind of book, let me know. (You can read excerpts on Amazon here) I’d be proud to give you a copy.

If you like it, please recommend it to others, write a review on Amazon. We’ll celebrate Bob and the publication at the oneg, Nov 2.


Daddy I Miss You

By Greta Beigel

Father’s Day has come and gone. Rather apt when considering the life & times of Richard Beigel, the father I hardly knew.

He left South Africa when I was 10 and set sail with a distant cousin for America. His migration and subsequent citizenship saved my life by enabling me to flee a home of horror in Johannesburg and join him in Los Angeles.

In the year 2000, I went on a pilgrimage to his birthplace, Riga, now the capital of Latvia. And subsequently published a short story called, “A Jew from Riga.”

RIga

I found out recently that my father played the tuba in the Russian army. He always insisted that my musicality came from his side of the family. And that while stationed in Germany, his younger brother persuaded him to board ship and head for South Africa.

Apparently, the Jews of Joh’burg had established a pipeline of financial support to Eastern Europe in a desperate attempt to save the populace from the Nazis. My father’s entire family was wiped out in Vilnius. Here’s an excerpt from a letter of remembrance, published in my memoir, “Kvetch: One Bitch of a Life.” ©

Dear Daddy,

I miss you. I wish I’d known you more. If only you were alive today, I’d take you to concerts and buy you dinner and would demand that you have friends in this world. I’m a journalist you know, and can pretty much get tickets to all the events.

I said Kaddish for you at a Reform synagogue in Encino, Cal. You would have died if you’d heard the rabbi. I swear he sang the Kaddish, are you ready for this, accompanied on guitar to “The Girl from Ipanema.” I almost plotzed thinking of your reaction.

But I know one sure thing. Music is what we shared. Passionately. So let us sing our favorite arias, and admire a piano piece or two. And I promise the next time I visit South Africa I will stop by your grave at the Westside Jewish Cemetery to celebrate your life.

 I love you Jankela. Your daughter, Greta.

www.amazon.com/dp/B004YKSXUQ


The Last Pharaoh

ISBN: 9781386134923

He’s the pharaoh you’ll love to hate! The Last Pharaoh, a novel by Sof member Dr. Lorna Holmes, originally written for middle grade students, is finding an audience with adult readers as well. In Seattle in 1980, Billie gets a package containing Nectanebo, the last pharaoh of Egypt, who is out to rule the world again. To defeat him, Billie needs the help of a cat from Theria, a parallel world she finds at the top of a tree. In Theria, animals live for thousands of years, and share their wisdom with select humans. Now it’s up to her to figure out how to save her mother’s life, and save the rest of the world, from the evil plans of Nectanebo. Tomb raiding, a nuclear submarine, ancient magic, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens are all part of the action.

For $3, it’s a steal!  Available for purchase at Amazon – https://www.books2read.com/u/47Zejq It’s also on the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators site here:  https://www.scbwi.org/scbwibookstop-display/?id=544152 , where you could do the author a big favor just by clicking ‘like.’


You Are Bigger Than the Pain

Contributed by Rabbi Daniel Lev

Most people seek help from physicians when they have a medical problem. That works best for those conditions that can be fully healed. Unfortunately, chronic pain and illness are usually not curable and repeated visits to doctors or swallowing lot of pills does not often make much of a difference to your pain condition. There are two interconnected options offered in my book “You are Bigger than the Pain,” that you can draw on when traditional and alternative medicine don’t significantly reduce the hurt. The first option is simply this: you have you. Rather than overly depending on healthcare providers and treatments, you can use your own resources, efforts, and skills to change what your doctors can’t.

The second option is based on the fact that the more you focus on pain, the worse it gets. This is because when you do that, emotional misery and stress increase and this sensitizes your nervous system to feel more pain. Instead of focusing on chronic pain by trying to avoid, accept, or manage it, you can direct your attention and efforts towards Comfort, which combines a positive emotional state and optimistic mind-set. Those who focus on pursuing Comfort tend to desensitize their brain to pain and end up “living life” rather than “living with the pain.” The approach and skills offered in this book can help you carry out this Comfort-centered option.

About Dr. Lev

Dr Lev is a licensed clinical psychologist who for the last twenty-four-years has adapted meditation, hypnosis, and other “Comfort Skills” to help many people in chronic pain to find their way to increased comfort and a better life. He presently serves the people of Hawaii on the Island of Oahu through his private practice, The Comfort Clinic, and through his work in the Interdisciplinary Pain Program of Premier Medical Group-Hawaii. You can contact him through ComfortClinic.org.


Try Look! Bilingual Pidgin-English Picture Book

Educational materials using Pidgin are scarce. Here is one you can get for free as a printable e-book through Hawaii Review.

Try Look has local pictures and elementary level dialogue. It can be used to show the differences in construction between Pidgin and English, so children learn the distinction in a positive way.

The author, Dr. Lorna Holmes, is an ELL PTT at Kaʻiulani Elementary School; the consulting author, Almendro Fernandez, is a PhD student in English at UH Manoa, and a native speaker of Pidgin.


A Jewish Girl & a Not-So-Jewish Boy

A Jewish Girl & a Not-So-Jewish Boy, by Sandra M.Z. ArmstrongFrom New Jersey to Hawaii, what is this all about? Sandra Armstrong’s memoir is more than an endearing love story—it’s a layperson’s guide to understanding, adopting, and practicing Judaism. Whether you are currently in an interfaith relationship or simply want to learn about Judaism, this book is a source of inspiration. You will find that her descriptions of Shabbat, festivals, celebrations, and community involvement are all exciting ways to live a Jewish lifestyle. Eventually moving to Hawaii was part of the dream they created together.

Buy on Amazon