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Arrivals: Dr. Barbara Gordon-Cohen

CM 21/04/2021

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Knowledge about Israel was completely missing in her life when Dr. Barbara Gordon-Cohen was growing up.
“My parents were uneducated Jews. They belonged to a synagogue and kept basic holidays. I had a grandmother who was Orthodox but also uneducated,” she said.
She lived on Long Island, from age eight until college, in a community she described as “very materialistic. We were not wealthy like other people. My parents struggled.
“I was an athlete – a gymnast and a diver. I got a scholarship in gymnastics and went to the University of Connecticut, where I dated a non-Jew for two years. It was emotionally difficult to break up.”
College brought other challenges. “I was searching for my soul in my college years.” Her spiritual journey correlated with being unable to compete in gymnastics anymore. “I lost the sport I had competed in professionally for 10 years. I was crushed,” she related.
Although there were very few other Jews on campus, Gordon-Cohen was fortunate to meet a few young Jewish women. One of them had attended the Livnot U’Lehibanot Jewish experience in Safed. “She told me she had changed in Israel and that she didn’t feel at home anymore in Connecticut. Another friend went on an exchange program to Israel, and I was excited by the pictures she shared.”
A third friend convinced Gordon-Cohen to take Hebrew in their junior year. Although there were only five students in the class, the instructor “showed us videos about Israel. I was starting to feel very connected. Shul began to resonate, and I noticed that so much in the prayers were about Israel.”

At 21, she spent a summer selling sunglasses on the beach in the Hamptons with five other young women, including a housemate she described as Zionistic.
“I kept thinking about Israel. I finally got accepted to medical school in August and told my mother, ‘Ma, I can’t go. I have to go to Israel first.’ She thought I was absolutely crazy. She had no connection to Israel whatsoever. In her mind, Jews go to Florida. They don’t go to Israel.”
Gordon-Cohen took the money she made selling sunglasses on the beach and bought an open ticket to Israel. She signed up for Volunteers for Israel and volunteered on an army base. “That was very interesting culturally. I had my first Shabbat experience on Beit Gamliel. It was like utopia to me. On Beit Gamliel, each person had ½ acre and a crop they were growing. There were 50 homes in a circle. It was really unbelievable! They would share their crops among one another. It was amazing.”
Another Shabbat, she went with some friends to Jerusalem and were “picked up off the Wall by Baruch Levine. We walked all around and spent a Shabbat with a Yerushalmi family. That experience was totally shocking! The girls were all in one room.
“After each course, they would dance around the table and sing. The mother of the family had nine children. At 22, I was the youngest guest. It was an interesting Shabbat. I appreciated the positive aspects of the singing and dancing and warmth in the home.”
Her next Israel chapter was written in Eilat. “My sister’s company had recently gone bankrupt, and I convinced her to come to Israel because it was warm. She went against her nature and spontaneously came. We didn’t have cellphones back then. We arranged to meet at the Kotel. That actually worked!”
Her sister took to Israel immediately. “She said to me, ‘I feel like I’ve been here before, and I feel like I’m home.’ I’m not sure if I had that same feeling.”
The pair stayed in a hostel in the Muslim Quarter. At the Kotel, a woman sent them to the Jewish Heritage House. The next day, Rabbi Meir Schuster introduced them to a Torah study program at Neve Yerushalayim. After studying there for a few weeks, Gordon-Cohen got accepted to the same program in Safed that her college friend had attended.
“At Livnot, we were learning about Torah, but it was very relaxed. No pressure. We went on lots of tiyulim (day trips). We met some of the Ethiopian Jews and learned about their experience, and we learned African dance while helping them get acclimated to Israel.”
In total, Gordon-Cohen spent six months in Israel, but eventually returned to the US. “I felt in my heart, when I was at Livnot, that this is the type of life I want to live. I decided that I’m going to work on this slowly. I did not want to go back to the US, but I knew I had to go back to go to med school. My sister pushed me on the plane.
“It took me a month to acclimate to being back in America. I was depressed. After a year, I moved to Kew Garden Hills. I kept kosher and Shabbat. By the third year, I met my husband at a Shabbat table.”
Her husband, Barry, had been a stockbroker and was going to law school. Like Barbara, he left everything behind and went to Israel to study Torah at Aish HaTorah for two years. The couple met in January, married in June and had five children together.
Professionally, Gordon-Cohen studied osteopathy, which she calls “a more holistic approach to health.
“Once I got out of medical school, I saw a lot of things where conventional medicine worked really well and things that it didn’t work so well. At a family practice clinic, 50% of the people I could help. But there is more to healing than just drugs. There is nutrition, body-mind, meditation, yoga, reflexology, lifestyle modification. I wanted to be able to help everyone.
“We always had a five-year plan to get to Israel. We were living an Orthodox life the whole time.”
One of the ties keeping them in the US was Gordon-Cohen’s mother, who was “very family oriented and very against us going to Israel. She battled leukemia for 15 years. It was very stressful seeing her suffer.”
Shortly after her mother’s death, her father had a stroke, then another and eventually a third.
BARRY AND Barbara decided to make aliyah with her father. “This is our opportunity to go. Let’s do it,” they said to one another. They landed in Ma’aleh Adumim, where they had friends, and quickly found a helper for her father.
Gordon-Cohen had a thriving osteopathy practice in Monsey, New York, that focused on acute and chronic pain, hormone imbalance, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. “When I came to Israel, I didn’t want to leave the practice.” Initially, she worked in both countries, gradually lengthening the amount of time she spent in Israel.
When corona hit, she closed her US practice and now works privately and part-time through one of Israel’s health funds. “I think I’m the only one who actually practices osteopathy and traditional medicine. I tell people how to manage their health fund doctor. You have to be your own advocate here in the medical system. People are so excited that there is an American doctor who understands medicine like an American.”
Gordon-Cohen shared that she is “so happy to be here, so appreciative every day. I love the people and being in the Jewish land. My spirit is fulfilled. I’m very happy that, since corona, I haven’t gone back to the US. I feel better in my body, less stress.
“I feel Hashem’s [God’s] guidance more and His presence. On a spiritual level, I feel very contented and happy. I feel it in the air. I feel it in the land.”
Postscript: Gordon-Cohen’s husband, Barry, died suddenly, shortly after the interview was conducted. She shared that “his wishes were, no matter what, he wanted to be buried here and that his children should follow suit and make Israel their home and keep Judaism alive.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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