Marc Lieberman, Who Brought Jews and Buddhists Together, Dies at 72

Dr. Marc Lieberman, an ophthalmologist and self-proclaimed “Jewish Buddhist” who, when he wasn’t treating glaucoma, organized a dialogue between Jewish students and the Dalai Lama, and who later introduced sight again to 1000’s of Tibetans affected by cataracts, died on Aug. 2 at his house in San Francisco. He was 72.

His son, Michael, mentioned the trigger was prostate most cancers.

Dr. Lieberman, who known as himself a “JuBu,” retained his Jewish religion however integrated points of Buddhist teachings and practices. He stored kosher and noticed the sabbath, however he additionally meditated a number of instances a day. He studied the Torah, however he additionally led efforts to construct a Buddhist monastery in Northern California.

If it appeared like a contradiction to some, he was OK with that, seeing in each religions a complementary pursuit of fact and path away from worldly struggling.

“I’m a healthy mosaic of Judaism and Buddhism,” Dr. Lieberman mentioned in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 2006. “Is that fair to either religion? Fair schmair! It’s what I am.”

In the Nineteen Eighties, he turned a pacesetter within the lay Buddhist group within the Bay Area, holding weekly conferences in his lounge and internet hosting monks who visited from all over the world.

As such, he was an apparent level of contact when the Dalai Lama, the religious chief of the Tibetan folks, introduced that he was planning a go to to the United States in 1989, and that he was curious to study extra about Judaism. A buddy within the workplace of Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, requested if Dr. Lieberman would facilitate a dialogue between the holy man and American Jewish leaders.

Dr. Lieberman jumped into motion, assembling what he known as a “dream team” of rabbis and Jewish students for a one-day assembly with the Dalai Lama at a Tibetan Buddhist temple in New Jersey.

It was a hit, although an all-too-brief one, it being tough to pack 1000’s of years of spiritual custom right into a single afternoon chat. But the Dalai Lama got here away impressed, and Dr. Lieberman determined to go larger.

The subsequent 12 months he accompanied eight of the unique group to Dharmsala, the city in northern India the place the Dalai Lama lives in exile. Over 4 days, Jewish and Buddhist thinkers mentioned the 2 faiths’ shared experiences with struggling, their differing ideas of God and the function that mysticism performs in every.

The ebook bought nicely and drove 1000’s of Americans, Jews and non-Jews, to discover Buddhism — whereas at the identical time driving others to see the potential for a special, extra mystical Judaism.

“Marc really deserves credit for that dialogue, for opening Jews to their own meditative and esoteric traditions,” Mr. Kamenetz mentioned in an interview.

Dr. Lieberman wasn’t finished. During his conversations with the Dalai Lama and his entourage, he discovered that due to the tough ultraviolet mild that blankets the 15,000-foot Tibetan Plateau, 15 p.c of Tibetans over 40 — and 50 p.c of these over 70 — have cataracts.

In 1995 he based the Tibet Vision (*72*), a grand identify for what was largely a solo act: Twice a 12 months, typically with a colleague, he traveled to Tibet, the place he oversaw cataract surgical procedures and skilled Tibetan medical doctors to carry out them. Over the subsequent 20 years, some 5,000 folks regained their full sight due to Dr. Lieberman.

It was, he might need mentioned, the last word mitzvah for a folks, and a pacesetter, who had given him a lot.

“I remember him saying to the Dalai Lama, ‘When you come back to Tibet I want the Tibetan people to see you,’” Mr. Kamenetz recalled.

Marc Frank Lieberman was born on July 7, 1949, in Baltimore, the son of Alfred and Annette (Filzer) Lieberman. His father was a surgeon; his mom labored for an area personal faculty and, later, for the world chapter of Planned Parenthood.

Though his uncle Morris Lieberman was the rabbi at one among Baltimore’s main Reform synagogues, Marc grew up extra within the mental and activist sides of Judaism than within the religion itself.

He studied faith at Reed College in Oregon and, after graduating, took pre-med programs at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While in Israel he met Alicia Friedman, who turned his first spouse. He additionally turned extra spiritual, maintaining kosher and observing the sabbath.

He attended medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University and accomplished his residency in Ann Arbor, Mich. He then settled in San Francisco, the place he opened a non-public follow specializing in glaucoma therapy, which later expanded to a few workplaces across the Bay Area.

Despite his skilled success, Dr. Lieberman — who was additionally a profitable textbook creator and a medical professor at the University of California, San Francisco — grew disenchanted with drugs.

“It was a high price for me to pay to undergo the rigors of training,” he mentioned in “Visioning Tibet,” a 2006 documentary about his work. “There were so few role models of people who were connecting with patients as other humans, and the very reasons that motivated me to go into medicine became more and more distant the further I got in the field.”

At a yoga class in 1982 he met Nancy Garfield, who launched him to the Bay Area’s Buddhist group. After the 2 attended a retreat at a monastery close to Santa Cruz, Dr. Lieberman realized that he had discovered the reply to his frustrations and despair, or at least an avenue to handle them.

In 1986 he and Ms. Garfield married in a Buddhist ceremony. That marriage, like his first, led to divorce. In addition to his son, Dr. Lieberman is survived by his brothers, Elias and Victor.

Soon after his second marriage, Dr. Lieberman took his first journey to northern India, at the invitation of a bunch of Indian medical doctors. He discovered the expertise transformative.

“The great discovery for me in India was to see how spiritual the practice of medicine was,” he mentioned within the documentary. “The medical centers in India, the ones I was fortunate enough to visit, are temples, and temples of love and service.”

He started to make common visits to India, working with native medical doctors and bringing again Buddhist books, devotional gadgets and esoterica, which stuffed his home.

“At the table,” Mr. Kamenetz wrote, a customer would discover “Shabbat candles; in the living room, incense; at the doorway, a mezuzah; in the meditation room, a five-foot-high Buddha. If he glanced at the bookshelf, he would have seen dharma and kabbalah competing for space, and one was as likely to find Pali as Hebrew.”

Dr. Lieberman didn’t coin the time period “JuBu,” and he was not the primary proponent of integrating points of Buddhism into the Jewish religion — the poet Allen Ginsberg was amongst those that preceded him — however he turned one of the vital distinguished.

He struggled to maintain his concentrate on interreligious dialogue and go away politics apart. But his many journeys to Tibet left him embittered towards the Chinese authorities, which had annexed the area in 1959 and pushed out its spiritual leaders, then sought to overwhelm Tibetan tradition with its personal.

“It’s like visiting an Indian reservation run by General Custer’s family,” he advised The San Francisco Chronicle in 2006.

Beijing didn’t suppose a lot of Dr. Lieberman both; he was typically harassed at the border and pressured to attend weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal, for a visa. Starting in 2008, the Chinese authorities progressively barred all international nongovernmental organizations from Tibet, bringing Dr. Lieberman’s efforts to an finish.

Not lengthy earlier than Dr. Lieberman died, Mr. Kamenetz visited him in San Francisco. One day he accompanied his buddy to a chemotherapy appointment.

“We were really enjoying the flowering trees in San Francisco, just taking in each flower, each tree,” Mr. Kamenetz recalled. “Naturally we were talking about impermanence. And he said the most beautiful thing: that impermanence doesn’t just mean that everything goes away, but also that there’s always something new coming into focus.

“He said, ‘Whatever arises is the indispensable beautiful event that is arising.’”

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