A Neuropsychologist’s Journal by Dr. Judith Bendheim-Guedalia

October 19, 2012

by Prof. William Helmreich

This is an extraordinary book. The author, Director of the Neuropsychology Unit at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, Israel, has done something remarkable. She has woven together a brilliant, insightful, and deeply moving book that combines Jewish religious law and thought, with rigorous scientific analysis of how the mind works.

Dr. Judith Bendheim-Guedalia draws extensively upon her experiences in treating patients, a life filled with fascinating stories, and the teachings of Judaism. The book is at once academic, yet jargon-free. The case histories are precisely presented, with the lessons clearly drawn. For example, there is the story of a man who accidentally shoots and kills his brother returning home from military duty, after mistaking him for an intruder. Using literature on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, she analyzes the problem, while at the same time discussing the inner meaning and purpose of the “cities of refuge” that were set aside for the Israelites who similarly killed people by accident.

An observant Jew, Dr. Bendheim-Guedalia, makes no bones about her allegiance to her faith and is sometimes fiercely partisan about it. She writes, for instance: “When presented with unique situations, I work under the assumption that Judaism has over five thousand years experience in humanity, which beats any science in use today.” It’s a perfect example of how to admit your bias while, at the same time, explaining and defending it.

The book is filled with hundreds of stories that make it a real page-turner and a truly original work. Its breezy style makes it highly readable for the lay person, while its scientific evaluations grounded in the literature make it must reading for both therapists and researchers. In short, an unforgettable book.


Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter

October 14, 2012

by Bonna Devora Haberman

Rereading Israel: The Spirit of the Matter refreshes current conversations about Israel, while setting aside vitriolic debates and worn postures. This book opens Jewish sources to interpret Israel in critical, innovative, and inspiring ways. Rereading Israel presents an opportunity to engage ethically, intellectually, and emotionally — challenging us to apply our finest resources to grapple honestly and creatively with land and people, history, text, and spirit. Especially when Israel is embattled, this book peels open fruitful and compelling perspectives.

Zion Cycle

Sigmund Freud persuaded modern culture about the deep unconscious layers of the human mind. Through analysis of unconscious experience, people can achieve greater self-understanding and capability to choose our life paths willfully. The psychoanalytic tradition encourages people to probe their early family histories and relationships, and to interpret effects on their lives. Interactions with parents and siblings form the dynamic and backdrop of personal biography. Understanding early experiences, patterns, unresolved connections, dreams and desires frees people to live more intentionally.

Similarly to the way each individual belongs to his or her personal family context, every person also belongs to a cultural context, to a people or peoples. Just as primary family relationships are significant even at unconscious levels, so also are the ties of peoplehood and culture. Theodore Herzl, parent of modern Zionism, lived and studied in Vienna from 1878, at the same time that Freud was Read the rest of this entry »


From ‘Is’ to ‘Ought’: An Open Letter to Peter Beinart

October 11, 2012

by Bonna Devora Haberman

Thank you for contributing passionately to the conversation about Zionism. The significance of Israel to American Jewry is indisputable. As different communities of the Jewish People evolve, many of us still feel that our fate is vitally linked. Understanding our mutual relationship better and sharing our challenges with caring and commitment is a welcome proposition. As we engage, let us be conscious that our terms, analysis, and prescriptions are not theoretical, but about people. While our lives are intertwined, our families, communities, and nations are very far from one another; our risks and responsibilities are quite different. I offer some observations that arise from the intersection of your ideas with the daily experience of this conflict in which my life is immersed — body, mind, and soul.

Like you, I am concerned about children. I parent a medical intern, past and present elite commandos, an officer-engineer in Israeli Intelligence, and a border police commander. Serving two to six of their prime years in the IDF, they are often called upon to negotiate among competing core human values in real time. Our kids strive to uphold the full dignity of every person — with feminist and ecological conscience — even as they put their lives on the line. I do not propose to speak for Palestinian parents and children – their own voices must be heard. In many hours I spend with Palestinian high school students, young people, and women, I find readiness to change our painful pattern. I recently attended a women’s Muslim Friday prayer service, and later that evening led a hundred Jewish and Muslim women dancing and singing together the traditional prayers welcoming the Jewish Shabbat. Surrounded by oppression and conflict, our hearts and muscles sore from enmity, we struggle with the heavy burden of protecting and saving life while we stride toward peace and joy.

Neither the end of the occupation, nor Palestinian statehood will erase the challenges of Zionism in this region, though we fervently hope that they will ease. Nor will the end of the occupation and Palestinian statehood ease American offensives and vigilance against inimical forces in the Middle East until the Arab world attains a more open, accountable civil society and government; full and equal citizenship and progressive education for women and men; respect for diversity; commitment to non-violence; peaceful development; and responsible participation in global affairs.

A couple of years ago, I left the academy to put my effort to Israeli society. Together with a Palestinian partner, I co-direct an activist community theater project, YTheater. We create provocative performances and workshops in Arabic and Hebrew that enable Read the rest of this entry »


A Review of Intergalactic Judaism

October 9, 2012

by Chaim Seymour, AJL Newsletter

Books like this one, on Judaism and science, tend to be of two sorts. The first sort aims to justify Judaism by showing that it is consistent with science (Judaism with an inferiority complex). The second sort takes the opposite approach and examines science or scientific theory in the light of Judaism.

The author, Rabbi of Edgeware United Synagogue near London, is trying to do something else. His book has a lot in common with the philosophical proof of the existence of God through the “argument from design.” This argument states that if one immerses oneself in the complexities of our world, one cannot help but believe that the world was designed by a being and did not happen by chance.

Most of the book is devoted to our knowledge of the solar system. The scientific information is fascinating, well-written and profusely illustrated. There are over thirty chapters, for example: “Divine Brilliance,” “A Sunny Disposition” and “Life on the Outside.” I was reminded of a book of parables, first the story, then the moral. Most chapters open with a science “lesson” and followed by a moral with a Jewish message, for example: “Just as the Venera team (who built ships to explore Venus) built on their mistakes… one attempt to attain spiritual greatness paves the way for a second and a third…”

This review first appeared in the AJL Newsletter