A friend with cancer says her doctor is “the singing oncologist.” Recently, he sang the Misheberach (prayer for healing) with her.
Intrigued, I called Dr. Sheldon Goldberg of Minor and James Medical in Seattle to ask if he sings to all his patients. He does if he thinks they’re receptive. He’d sung to a patient that morning, he said, “a song from the ‘70s called ‘Baby It’s You.’” The choices are “relevant to the occasion…Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead,” but not exactly up to date. “My repertoire ends with Stevie Wonder,” although an occasional Adele song might creep in.
Jewish patients may be serenaded with the 23rd psalm (“The Lord is my shepherd”) and he’s sung in Hebrew to religious non-Jewish patients. “I think they’ve liked it,” he says.
In a video on the Minor and James website, Goldberg explains that he sees patients as friends, taking his cues more from Maimonides than Hippocrates. In the twelfth century, Maimonides advised that the patient was not a “vessel of disease,” but a human being.
Growing up in the East Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, Sheldon went to Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn College, and NYU medical school. He met his wife, Seattle-native Karen Trieger, when they both worked in Washington, D.C. “My wife brought me to Seattle,” he explains.
The two met at a party on the auspicious 15th of Av, a lesser-known Jewish holiday of love — the Talmud says on this date “young people are supposed to meet.” The couple was recently honored by Seattle Hebrew Academy where Karen went to school and where her family has been involved for generations.
A board member of Bikur Cholim Machzikay Hadath, Sheldon, better known as Shlomo among friends, leads a weekly Shabbat Talmud class there, teaching in Yiddish, his first language.
“My parents were Holocaust survivors,” he explains, “people who came directly from the shtetl.” Sheldon’s father was one of 60 survivors of the Treblinka uprising and met Sheldon’s mother while they were hiding in the woods. Teaching the class gives him the chance to preserve a little of that shtetl heritage.
Sheldon’s passion for his profession is palpable. “My great interest is in helping people and using every resource that I have to do so.”
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Until about seven years ago, David Munden hadn’t practiced karate since childhood.
Now he is coach of the Maccabi USA karate team. Along with almost 1,100 other U.S. participants, he is headed to Israel in July for the international Maccabiah games.
David’s kids led him back to karate, he explains. His older son Benzion had expressed an interest back then, and David asked his younger son Joseph to come along. Joseph agreed only if Dad came, too.
It was Joseph, though, who took to the sport and now he’s on the Maccabiah team.
Both father and son have competed locally and nationally, and David was approached by Maccabi USA (www.maccabiusa.com) four years ago to compete. That didn’t work out, but he knew Joseph would be the right age for this year’s games.
Now 37, and nursing a couple of injuries, David told Maccabi USA he couldn’t compete this time, but wanted to be involved. The organization suggested he apply to coach. He did and was named head coach.
That got Joseph, almost 16, “even more pumped up about the whole thing.”
A Buckley resident, David had never heard of the Maccabiah Games until four years ago. Father and son train with the Japan Karate Federation Northwest at the Auburn Valley YMCA. “Our karate friends and family have been extremely supportive.”
He’s now reaching out to the Jewish community, in part to raise awareness and excitement, and to meet fundraising goals. He’s set up a Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mundenmaccabiah) to communicate with supporters and a benefit concert is tentatively scheduled for April 7 at Louie G’s Pizza in Fife.
The Seattle native who attended Camp Gan Israel as a child is eager for his first visit to Israel. “It’s been one of the things on my bucket list,” he says, “and to do it coupled with a sport that I love,” and with his son, adds to the fun.
Teams will be in-country from July 10 to August 1, spending the first week touring and participating in community service. “Part of it is a pilgrimage, connecting young Jews back to Israel,” he observes.