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 dwelling 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 included elements 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 wholesome mosaic of Judaism and Buddhism,” Dr. Lieberman mentioned in an interview with The Los Angeles Occasions in 2006. “Is that honest to both faith? Truthful schmair! It’s what I’m.”
Within the 1980s, he turned a frontrunner within the lay Buddhist group within the Bay Space, holding weekly conferences in his front room and internet hosting monks who visited from world wide.
As such, he was an apparent level of contact when the Dalai Lama, the non secular chief of the Tibetan folks, introduced that he was planning a go to to america in 1989, and that he was curious to be taught extra about Judaism. A pal within the workplace of Consultant 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 crew” 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 non secular custom right into a single afternoon chat. However 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 guide bought nicely and drove 1000’s of Individuals, Jews and non-Jews, to discover Buddhism — whereas on the identical time driving others to see the potential for a unique, extra mystical Judaism.
“Marc actually deserves credit score for that dialogue, for opening Jews to their very own meditative and esoteric traditions,” Mr. Kamenetz mentioned in an interview.
Dr. Lieberman wasn’t performed. Throughout his conversations with the Dalai Lama and his entourage, he discovered that due to the tough ultraviolet gentle 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 Imaginative and prescient Venture, a grand identify for what was largely a solo act: Twice a 12 months, generally with a colleague, he traveled to Tibet, the place he oversaw cataract surgical procedures and educated Tibetan docs to carry out them. Over the subsequent 20 years, some 5,000 folks regained their full sight due to Dr. Lieberman.
It was, he may need mentioned, the final word mitzvah for a folks, and a frontrunner, who had given him a lot.
“I bear in mind him saying to the Dalai Lama, ‘Whenever you come again to Tibet I need the Tibetan folks 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 a neighborhood non-public college and, later, for the realm chapter of Deliberate Parenthood.
Although his uncle Morris Lieberman was the rabbi at one in all 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 Faculty in Oregon and, after graduating, took pre-med programs on the Hebrew College of Jerusalem. Whereas in Israel he met Alicia Friedman, who turned his first spouse. He additionally turned extra non secular, conserving kosher and observing the sabbath.
He attended medical college at Johns Hopkins College and accomplished his residency in Ann Arbor, Mich. He then settled in San Francisco, the place he opened a personal follow specializing in glaucoma remedy, which later expanded to 3 places of work across the Bay Space.
Regardless of his skilled success, Dr. Lieberman — who was additionally a profitable textbook creator and a medical professor on the College of California, San Francisco — grew disenchanted with drugs.
“It was a excessive worth for me to pay to endure the trials of coaching,” he mentioned in “Visioning Tibet,” a 2006 documentary about his work. “There have been so few function fashions of people that had been connecting with sufferers as different people, and the very causes that motivated me to enter drugs turned an increasing number of distant the additional I obtained within the subject.”
At a yoga class in 1982 he met Nancy Garfield, who launched him to the Bay Space’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 the very 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. Along with his son, Dr. Lieberman is survived by his brothers, Elias and Victor.
Quickly after his second marriage, Dr. Lieberman took his first journey to northern India, on the invitation of a gaggle of Indian docs. He discovered the expertise transformative.
“The good discovery for me in India was to see how non secular the follow of medication was,” he mentioned within the documentary. “The medical facilities in India, those I used to be lucky sufficient to go to, are temples, and temples of affection and repair.”
He started to make common visits to India, working with native docs and bringing again Buddhist books, devotional gadgets and esoterica, which stuffed his home.
“On the desk,” Mr. Kamenetz wrote, a customer would discover “Shabbat candles; in the lounge, incense; on the doorway, a mezuzah; within the meditation room, a five-foot-high Buddha. If he glanced on the bookshelf, he would have seen dharma and kabbalah competing for area, and one was as prone to discover Pali as Hebrew.”
Dr. Lieberman didn’t coin the time period “JuBu,” and he was not the primary proponent of integrating elements of Buddhism into the Jewish religion — the poet Allen Ginsberg was amongst those that preceded him — however he turned one of the crucial distinguished.
He struggled to maintain his deal with interreligious dialogue and go away politics apart. However his many journeys to Tibet left him embittered towards the Chinese language authorities, which had annexed the area in 1959 and pushed out its non secular leaders, then sought to overwhelm Tibetan tradition with its personal.
“It’s like visiting an Indian reservation run by Basic Custer’s household,” he advised The San Francisco Chronicle in 2006.
Beijing didn’t suppose a lot of Dr. Lieberman both; he was typically harassed on the border and compelled to attend weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal, for a visa. Beginning in 2008, the Chinese language authorities regularly barred all overseas 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. At some point he accompanied his pal to a chemotherapy appointment.
“We had been actually having fun with the flowering bushes in San Francisco, simply taking in every flower, every tree,” Mr. Kamenetz recalled. “Naturally we had been speaking about impermanence. And he mentioned probably the most lovely factor: that impermanence doesn’t simply imply that every part goes away, but in addition that there’s all the time one thing new coming into focus.
“He mentioned, ‘No matter arises is the indispensable lovely occasion that’s arising.’”