Valley Stream doctor documents family’s history in Flower of God

by Andrew Hackmack

Collecting information on his family’s history for more than seven decades, Dr. Herbert Ausubel has finally put his memories into words. The longtime Valley Stream doctor, who has been practicing on West Merrick Road for 51 years, is penning a six-part series and his first book was released last week.

The 80-year-old doctor’s book, Flower of God: A Jewish Family’s 3,000-Year Journey from Spice to Medicine, documents the history of the Ausubel family dating back to days of King Solomon. It traces the family’s migration from ancient Israel, to Babylon, Persia, Anatolia, Europe and finally the United States.

Ausubel was raised in a three-generation household, and heard many stories from his grandfather about their family history while growing up. As a child, he was reading college level books at 4 years old, so retaining information about his family was easy, although, “I didn’t plan to write a book when I was 4 years old,” he said.

His father moved to the United States in 1921 out of fears of anti-Semitism. Two years later, he published an article urging the Jews to leave Europe and re-establish their homeland in Palestine. Ausubel said he lost several relatives in the Holocaust.

It wasn’t until he was an adult that Ausubel became serious about writing a book. But before he picked up a pen, he wanted to visit the many places where his family made its mark over the past 3,000 years. He wanted to get a sense of these places, even if he couldn’t witness the actual events he would be writing about.

After getting married, instead of taking a honeymoon he and his wife saved money for about two years, then took a “grand tour” overseas. They visited London, taking buses and ferries around Europe. They stayed at bed and breakfasts, saying it gave him a chance to meet the real people.

Over the years he visited Mongolia, Australia, Siberia and Africa. In Sardis, Turkey, he found a cornerstone on a building — 2,300 years old — with his family’s name on it.

It took Ausubel about 32 years total to write the book. With his first published book out, he will now turn his attention to finishing the other five parts. He said those stories are written, but haven’t been polished yet. He hopes to release all six books over the course of six years.

And Ausubel said he hopes he will be around to see those books published. He said he has lived his whole life following good health and dietary habits, which he said can increase a person’s life expectancy up to 25 years. “Not just survival,” Ausubel said, “but quality survival.”

Ausubel’s next book to be released will actually be the fifth part of the series. He said that each of the six books traces six of his children’s blood lines — three from his side and three from his wife’s side.

The most unique material, he said, will be in the fourth series, which details his wife’s ancestry from King David.

Ausubel is a graduate of Harvard Medical School. He followed the family tradition of practicing medicine, noting that his ancestors thousands of years ago were the first to use the hyssop plant as an herbal remedy because of its antiseptic properties. Ausubel practices internal medicine and oncology, and has had some patients for more than 40 years. His son, one of Ausubel’s two children, also became a doctor and they share the Valley Stream office.

Medicine is his first passion and writing is his second passion. Ausubel said he would work on his book late at night, often until 1 or 2 a.m., because his job as a doctor came first. “I have a very busy career,” he said. “I take my work in medicine very seriously.”

Ausubel said he hopes that his books can enlighten readers on 3,000 years of history. He said he wanted to highlight the wrongs that have been done in the past, so those parts of history aren’t repeated. He also hopes that his books will be read by non-Jews to learn about the Jewish experience.

“I would like to leave a legacy for the world to remember,” he said.

Original article from the Long Island Herald can be found here.

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