Book Review: Jewish Doctors Meet the Great Physician
By Ruth Rosen
Review by Rachel Friedlander
Throw out your Band-Aids and NyQuil—doctors have discovered a life-changing cure. Jewish Doctors Meet the Great Physician, newly edited by Ruth Rosen, contains testimonies of ten doctors and five patients that will have this “germaphobe” generation dropping the hand sanitizer and reaching for the pages.
These ten Jewish physicians have diverse specialties, backgrounds and situations, with one thing in common: they all have an emptiness they can’t cure. Some stories are quirky, such as that of a former hippie tree-hugger who lived in a remote Hawaiian forest, about 25 miles from civilization. Others are dark and poignant, such as that of the death camp survivor who defied all odds and became a doctor.
Yet these physicians were not always healing wounds and saving lives; they were struggling with broken relationships, health concerns, and spiritual starvation. Each story is ridden with heavy deliberation—no decision was made lightly, no sacrifice easily given. Yet through the encouragement of close friends and extensive personal probing and education, these ten men and women came to conclusions that transformed their lives. We soon discover that the true beauty of these testimonies lie in the painfulness of the journey.
There is a pause in the middle of these testimonies, a section devoted to those on the other side of the stethoscope: the patients. In the span of five accounts, we confront Crohn’s disease, Down syndrome, multiple deaths, and the fear, anger, and denial that inevitably accompany them.
Overcoming seemingly insurmountable situations, these patients are no victims. Instead of depressing us, they inspire us to rise above. One account is given by a man who lost his mother to tuberculosis, his father to a stroke, and his wife to cancer. Instead of dropping into a downward spiral of despair, he said, “In the time since, I have tried as best I could to tell others, especially my unbelieving family, of God’s tenderness and assurances—how he alone, through his son, Jesus, transformed sorrow into joy, despair into hope, death into life.”
Although impressed with the major transformations of these doctors and patients, I was often disappointed with the source. At times, some of the situations or relationships that brought about epiphanies were unfavorable or unhealthy. Yet it is apparent, both in life and in this book, that God can produce divine results despite our human nature.
Despite this setback, the book’s final section provides teaching and closure, addressing several of the questions that may arise as one reads through the testimonies. Susan Perlman makes phenomenal points concerning pain, Richard Harvey adeptly explains the triunity of God, Ruth Rosen outlines what it means to be a Jew for Jesus, and David Brickner offers readers an appointment with the Great Physician.
It is impossible not to relate to the contents of this book. Who has not experienced pain, broken bones or broken hearts? Regardless of the range of one’s skepticism or the size of one’s tear ducts, no reader can escape being moved by these truthful, powerful testimonies, and the Great Physician who prescribed them.