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

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He called himself “a steadfast mosaic” of the 2 faiths. An ophthalmologist, helium besides ran a session that brought show backmost to Tibetans with cataracts.

Dr. Marc Lieberman successful  beforehand   of a chromatic  carving successful  Tsochen, Tibet, successful  2003. Twice a twelvemonth  since 1995, helium  traveled to Tibet, wherever  helium  oversaw cataract surgeries and trained Tibetan doctors to execute  them. 
Credit...Isaac Solotaroff

Clay Risen

Aug. 8, 2021, 12:01 p.m. ET

Dr. Marc Lieberman, an ophthalmologist and self-proclaimed “Jewish Buddhist” who, erstwhile helium wasn’t treating glaucoma, organized a dialog betwixt Jewish scholars and the Dalai Lama, and who aboriginal brought show backmost to thousands of Tibetans stricken by cataracts, died connected Aug. 2 astatine his location successful San Francisco. He was 72.

His son, Michael, said the origin was prostate cancer.

Dr. Lieberman, who called himself a “JuBu,” retained his Jewish religion but incorporated aspects of Buddhist teachings and practices. He kept kosher and observed the sabbath, but helium besides meditated respective times a day. He studied the Torah, but helium besides led efforts to physique a Buddhist monastery successful Northern California.

If it seemed similar a contradiction to some, helium was OK with that, seeing successful some religions a complementary pursuit of information and way distant from worldly suffering.

“I’m a steadfast mosaic of Judaism and Buddhism,” Dr. Lieberman said successful an interrogation with The Los Angeles Times successful 2006. “Is that just to either religion? Fair schmair! It’s what I am.”

In the 1980s, helium became a person successful the laic Buddhist assemblage successful the Bay Area, holding play meetings successful his surviving country and hosting monks who visited from astir the world.

As such, helium was an evident constituent of interaction erstwhile the Dalai Lama, the spiritual person of the Tibetan people, announced that helium was readying a sojourn to the United States successful 1989, and that helium was funny to larn much astir Judaism. A person successful the bureau of Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat, asked if Dr. Lieberman would facilitate a dialog betwixt the beatified antheral and American Jewish leaders.

Dr. Lieberman jumped into action, assembling what helium called a “dream team” of rabbis and Jewish scholars for a one-day gathering with the Dalai Lama astatine a Tibetan Buddhist temple successful New Jersey.

It was a success, though an all-too-brief one, it being hard to battalion thousands of years of spiritual contented into a azygous day chat. But the Dalai Lama came distant impressed, and Dr. Lieberman decided to spell bigger.

The adjacent twelvemonth helium accompanied 8 of the archetypal radical to Dharmsala, the municipality successful bluish India wherever the Dalai Lama lives successful exile. Over 4 days, Jewish and Buddhist thinkers discussed the 2 faiths’ shared experiences with suffering, their differing concepts of God and the relation that mysticism plays successful each.


Credit...Isaac Solotaroff

The publication sold good and drove thousands of Americans, Jews and non-Jews, to research Buddhism — portion astatine the aforesaid clip driving others to spot the imaginable for a different, much mystical Judaism.

“Marc truly deserves recognition for that dialogue, for opening Jews to their ain meditative and esoteric traditions,” Mr. Kamenetz said successful an interview.

Dr. Lieberman wasn’t done. During his conversations with the Dalai Lama and his entourage, helium learned that acknowledgment to the harsh ultraviolet airy that blankets the 15,000-foot Tibetan Plateau, 15 percent of Tibetans implicit 40 — and 50 percent of those implicit 70 — person cataracts.

In 1995 helium founded the Tibet Vision Project, a expansive sanction for what was mostly a solo act: Twice a year, sometimes with a colleague, helium traveled to Tibet, wherever helium oversaw cataract surgeries and trained Tibetan doctors to execute them. Over the adjacent 20 years, immoderate 5,000 radical regained their afloat show acknowledgment to Dr. Lieberman.

It was, helium mightiness person said, the eventual mitzvah for a people, and a leader, who had fixed him truthful much.

“I retrieve him saying to the Dalai Lama, ‘When you travel backmost to Tibet I privation the Tibetan radical to spot you,’” Mr. Kamenetz recalled.

Marc Frank Lieberman was calved connected July 7, 1949, successful Baltimore, the lad of Alfred and Annette (Filzer) Lieberman. His begetter was a surgeon; his parent worked for a section backstage schoolhouse and, later, for the country section of Planned Parenthood.

Though his uncle Morris Lieberman was the rabbi astatine 1 of Baltimore’s starring Reform synagogues, Marc grew up much funny successful the intelligence and activistic sides of Judaism than successful the religion itself.

He studied religion astatine Reed College successful Oregon and, aft graduating, took pre-med courses astatine the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. While successful Israel helium met Alicia Friedman, who became his archetypal wife. He besides became much religious, keeping kosher and observing the sabbath.

He attended aesculapian schoolhouse astatine Johns Hopkins University and completed his residency successful Ann Arbor, Mich. He past settled successful San Francisco, wherever helium opened a backstage signifier specializing successful glaucoma treatment, which aboriginal expanded to 3 offices astir the Bay Area.

Despite his nonrecreational success, Dr. Lieberman — who was besides a palmy textbook writer and a objective prof astatine the University of California, San Francisco — grew disenchanted with medicine.

“It was a precocious terms for maine to wage to acquisition the rigors of training,” helium said successful “Visioning Tibet,” a 2006 documentary astir his work. “There were truthful fewer relation models of radical who were connecting with patients arsenic different humans, and the precise reasons that motivated maine to spell into medicine became much and much distant the further I got successful the field.”

At a yoga people successful 1982 helium met Nancy Garfield, who introduced him to the Bay Area’s Buddhist community. After the 2 attended a retreat astatine a monastery adjacent Santa Cruz, Dr. Lieberman realized that helium had recovered the reply to his frustrations and despair, oregon astatine slightest an avenue to code them.

In 1986 helium and Ms. Garfield joined successful a Buddhist ceremony. That marriage, similar his first, ended successful divorce. In summation to his son, Dr. Lieberman is survived by his brothers, Elias and Victor.

Soon aft his 2nd marriage, Dr. Lieberman took his archetypal travel to bluish India, astatine the invitation of a radical of Indian doctors. He recovered the acquisition transformative.


Credit...Isaac Solotaroff

“The large find for maine successful India was to spot however spiritual the signifier of medicine was,” helium said successful the documentary. “The aesculapian centers successful India, the ones I was fortunate capable to visit, are temples, and temples of emotion and service.”

He began to marque regular visits to India, moving with section doctors and bringing backmost Buddhist books, devotional items and esoterica, which filled his house.

“At the table,” Mr. Kamenetz wrote, a visitant would find “Shabbat candles; successful the surviving room, incense; astatine the doorway, a mezuzah; successful the meditation room, a five-foot-high Buddha. If helium glanced astatine the bookshelf, helium would person seen dharma and kabbalah competing for space, and 1 was arsenic apt to find Pali arsenic Hebrew.”

Dr. Lieberman did not coin the word “JuBu,” and helium was not the archetypal proponent of integrating aspects of Buddhism into the Jewish religion — the writer Allen Ginsberg was among those who preceded him — but helium became 1 of the astir prominent.

He struggled to support his absorption connected interreligious dialog and permission authorities aside. But his galore trips to Tibet near him embittered toward the Chinese government, which had annexed the portion successful 1959 and driven retired its spiritual leaders, past sought to overwhelm Tibetan civilization with its own.

“It’s similar visiting an Indian preservation tally by General Custer’s family,” helium told The San Francisco Chronicle successful 2006.

Beijing didn’t deliberation overmuch of Dr. Lieberman either; helium was often harassed astatine the borderline and forced to hold weeks successful Kathmandu, Nepal, for a visa. Starting successful 2008, the Chinese authorities gradually barred each overseas nongovernmental organizations from Tibet, bringing Dr. Lieberman’s efforts to an end.

Not agelong earlier Dr. Lieberman died, Mr. Kamenetz visited him successful San Francisco. One time helium accompanied his person to a chemotherapy appointment.

“We were truly enjoying the flowering trees successful San Francisco, conscionable taking successful each flower, each tree,” Mr. Kamenetz recalled. “Naturally we were talking astir impermanence. And helium said the astir beauteous thing: that impermanence doesn’t conscionable mean that everything goes away, but besides that there’s ever thing caller coming into focus.

“He said, ‘Whatever arises is the indispensable beauteous lawsuit that is arising.’”

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