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.