Judah White's shoulders curl in and his eyes shut tight as he coughs violently. A look of pain flashes across his face. As his coughing slows, he looks up to the ceiling of his mother's kitchen and takes a deep breath.
White is battling his third occurrence of Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymph nodes. The fight has taken most of his energy.
"For me, the disease has always been associated with pain, and it's been a smorgasbord of pain," he said, his voice trailing off. "There's burning, there's aching, there's stiffness, there's bruising.... Literally, any type of pain you could possibly imagine."
White, a 38-year-old resident in internal medicine at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, recently completed his latest round of chemotherapy, a traditional treatment for his disease. As expected, the chemotherapy has weakened his immune system, leaving him vulnerable to common infections and other complications.
To rebuild his immune system, to restore his health and vigor, White is trying a newer treatment, one that has been linked to a national debate over medicine, religion and ethics. Doctors have given White donated stem cells. If he's lucky, these stem cells will replenish his lost bone marrow.
Ahmed Nassef didn't hug me, but I would have let him. I'd heard of him, had read stories about him and had tried unsuccessfully to contact him several months ago.
Last weekend, I was in Washington, D.C., to speak at a Hillel Conference, and guess whose name was also on the speakers' roster?
When my talks were done, I went to his. The college students were already packed into the room, and I understood why.
Human voices converge on the same note, echoing a haunting harmony -- arousing complicated emotions.
This has been the buzz surrounding an award-winning Jewish a cappella group, Shir Appeal, a group of college students from Massachusetts, who will bring their hypnotizing harmonies to Orange County's Temple Bat Yahm (TBY) for Shabbat evening service, Jan. 16. The group was named after Tufts University's mascot -- Jumbo the Elephant. The Hebrew phrase shir hapeal means "song of the elephant."
Maybe you've noticed that many of the bagel chains today are named after some of the most influential Jewish figures in history -- Einstein, Noah. But have you ever stopped to think that maybe it's the bagels that spurred all of this insight?
Well, the creators of TheBagel.org, a new Web site connecting and inspiring college students in Southern California, seem to think so.
Last week I worried in this space that our college students were ill-equipped to defend American Jewry's pro-Israel position. I asked for a volunteer to explain what's going on. Luckily, Donald Cohen-Cutler, a UC Davis freshman and an international relations major, stepped up to the plate.
I say "luckily" because events on campus are even worse than I had suspected. Of course, I remember the beginnings of the Jewish-Muslim rift on campus during the first intifada. But I don't remember blatant insults to Jewish ritual and history. That's what's happening now (see story, page 10).