Albert Feldmann approached me a few months ago with some news we don’t often hear in these economic times. He wanted me to know — and to let you, dear reader, know — that our local Hebrew Free Loan Association has money!
An engineer by training, retired from Boeing for 25 years, Albert has been active in the organization for about 15 years. He joined because he was impressed by the mission of this “very Jewish…and very useful organization,” which has its roots in two bits of text: “Three things justify the existence of the world, Torah, avodah [divine service] and gemilut chasadim [acts of kindness]” from Pirke Avot [Wisdom of the Fathers] and Exodus 22:25, which tells us not to take interest when loaning money to the poor.
In addition to seeking worthy loan recipients, the organization is also looking for new board members. In the last decade and a half, Albert says, board membership has remained pretty static.
“We have a core group…and everyone has been through every position,” he says. “We’re trying to bring in new blood — the baby boomers. It’s their turn now.”
I’m assured it’s not an overly demanding job.
“Years ago, when the Jewish community was much closer, there used to be more meetings,” he says.
Now the board meets monthly at Council House and hosts an annual luncheon at The Summit on First Hill, coming up on January 23. It helps, of course, that the almost-100-year-old organization is flush, and actually has been for most of its history, except during the height of Soviet Jewish immigration in the 1960s and ’70s.
Albert came here with his family in 1938 as a refugee from Hitler’s occupation of Austria, and he still speaks with a slight Viennese accent. A member of Temple Beth Am, he moved to Seattle in the 1960s. He left to work in the Israeli aircraft industry for nine years in the late ’60s, but eventually returned. He maintains a condominium in Tel Aviv and tries to get back about once a year.
Unlike other branches of HFLA, Seattle’s group “lends money only to Jewish clients.” For that reason it is not a member of the Jewish Federation.
Please call Judie Sherr at 206-722-1936 for more information about interest-free loans, about membership and donations or about attending the luncheon.
• • •
Two articles by Joseph Trachtman, O.D., Ph.D., one about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and one about vision and the hypothalamus, recently became the fifth and seventh most downloaded articles from the journal Optometry, where they were published. The articles appeared in the May and February 2010 issues, respectively.
Joseph, an optometrist in private practice in downtown Seattle, became interested in PTSD during a tour of duty during the Vietnam War while serving as Chief of Optometry at Kirk Army Hospital in Maryland. The PTSD article guides eye doctors in the diagnosis and treatment of that disorder with a specific focus on the eye and vision system. Of course, interest in PTSD has resurged with the number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from this after-effect of battle. That article received a letter of praise from the House of Representatives’ Committee on Veterans Affairs.
The second article was a review of practical applications of the relationship between the sense of vision and general brain function regulated by the hypothalamus, a little gland that controls a myriad of body functions, including important things, like breathing.
To his degrees in optometry and experimental psychology, Joseph recently added a certificate in Virtual Worlds from the University of Washington. “The purpose of the [30-week] course,” he explained, was to teach “different aspects of the virtual world ranging from its use in education and business to being able to build things in a virtual world.”
The entire course was taught — what else? — virtually.
“I never met another student or the teacher,” he said. In the future, Joseph assured me, “health care will be through the virtual world…you’ll go on your computer and see your virtual doctor.”
A Brooklyn native who moved here four and a half years ago, Joseph is the inventor of a biofeedback device called the Accommotrac, designed to reduce myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and other vision disorders. You can see more at www.accommotrac.com, or contact him at 206-412-5985.