Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dr. Judah Folkman died yesterday. He was a pioneer in cancer research in the area of angiogenesis which studied tumor blood vessel growth and ways to stop it. I left a condolence in the Globe obit section.

I never knew Dr. Folkman in any capacity but when I read of his death it was as if I had known him all my life. Truly, this is a profound loss for not only his family and friends but for the entire world. I mourn with all of you and take some comfort in the truth that he will go down with the greats of science who strive to advance man's knowledge despite great odds. He walked on the shoulders of those giants of academic excellence. Now others will walk on his creating new possibilities in man's endless quest to cure the enigma of disease. Rest in peace, righteous man. You have earned it.
PBS Series: The Jewish Americans is wonderful series. My comments may be redundant but words fall short expressing the excellence of PBS programming.

I grew up Jewish in a mainly (at that time) Christian suburb of Boston in the 1950's. Watching, through this documentary, the historical progression of my people in America is absorbing. Much of the modern Jewish cultural experience which is mentioned in the series I poignantly remember but unlike many Jews whom the filmmakers interviewed, I never felt ashamed of my Jewishness. To the contrary, I felt a delight bursting within me reinforcing the love I had for being Jewish and a sense of pride for the many distinguished accomplishments of the Jewish people. It always shocks me that there were so many who, indeed, felt a world apart and even ashamed of who they were. I surely understand why many of us did feel separate from the dominant Christian culture but I personally did not. I was culturally assimilated but to this day being Jewish is an utterly positive visceral experience.

I have, though, a few times, felt the slings and arrows of Antisemitism. I remember being called "Christ killer" numerous times in elementary school but I never felt physically threatened and someone always overruled the onslaught. Their vitriol, at that time, did not stick. I have had a few Anti-Semitic comments occasionally hurled at me even as an adult. My parents imparted in me, however, a solid sense of Jewish pride which has always overruled those who would impugn me for being Jewish.

Now as mature observer of history, I am acutely attuned to Antisemitism when I hear and when I see it because now I understand its genocidal implication. I do not for a second forget the Holocaust, a seminal event in Jewish history, even though I was born slightly after its occurrence. The Holocaust has become the engine of much of who I am and the rationale behind the metamorphosis of my progressive political thought. I am a completely secular but a cultural Jew who every day thanks my grandfathers who had no money but possessed the courage and the foresight to come to this land. All the Jews of the eastern European shetyls (Jewish villages) from whence they came were killed. Keep up the fantastic work, PBS. You truly restore my faith in humanity.