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Faces on Faith: Consider each day a gift that we try to pass on

By Staff | Dec 17, 2019

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

This year the Jewish Festival of Chanukah (an eight-day celebration beginning Sunday, Dec. 22, this year) and Christmas will overlap. Although their messages are very different, they both speak of miracles.

As those days draw near, I reflect on a small miracle that gave me the precious gift of renewed life: In 2012, doctors operated on my open heart a second time. Dr. Lars Svensson and his surgical team at the Cleveland Clinic replaced the mechanical aortic heart valve that was no longer working optimally. At the same time, they repaired what could have become a life threatening ascending aortic aneurysm.

When my cardiologist in Connecticut, the late Dr. Robert Chamberlain, whom I admired greatly, diagnosed the condition, he advised, “This will be a tricky operation, and I suggest you have it done in a major center of heart surgery.” After some research we decided on the Cleveland Clinic and Svensson.

We noted that he had repaired the aneurysm of NBA Forward Jeff Green (now with the Utah Jazz, then with the Boston Celtics), and a year later he was back playing professional basketball. That was good enough recommendation for us.

I was blessed that each of my three children were there. Leo and Sarah came to Cleveland from California and Ben traveled from Connecticut to be with Vickie and me for the surgery. It was a precious but nervous time we had together, and I prayed that I would survive the surgery and that I would find new meaning and direction for my life in retirement.

Since then my blessings have included:

– Forging an ever deepening bond with Vickie.

– Watching each of my children grow in their personal and professional lives.

– The opportunity to serve as guest rabbi for three months in Milan and Florence, Italy.

– The opportunities I have had over the past five years to teach in German high schools with Vickie and to conduct worship and lead study in progressive synagogues, as well as to preach in some two dozen German churches where I have often been the first Jew the worshippers have ever the seen.

– The six books I have published.

– Serving as rabbi to Bat Yam Temple of the Islands and the wonderful life Vickie and I enjoy here.

As the season of miracles and gifts arrives, may we consider each day a gift that we try to pass on by seeking ways to make life better for those around us.

Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs is with the Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.