OT only did Mandy Patinkin make a nice living playing
a hot-shot surgeon on the CBS series Chicago Hope in the
‘90s, but he’s been blessed by medical science in real life.
Between 1978 and 1998, when he was
stricken with an eye disease called keratoconus and feared going
blind, doctors saved his eyesight with corneal transplants. "I have
two eyes that were given to me by two children, a 13-year-old boy
and a 14-year-old girl," he said.
On top of that he’s a cancer survivor. His
father Lester died of pancreatic cancer at age 52. The
Chicago-born actor-singer hoped he could just get past that age
without any bad news. But before he reached 52 he got a diagnosis of
prostate cancer. "It was terrifying," Mandy said. "I thought a Mack
truck hit me. I freaked out."
Mandy, now 60, told his frightening story
at a benefit dinner of the American Friends of Soroka Medical Center
in June at the Harvard Club in Manhattan. The aim was to raise funds
for a Comprehensive Cancer Center at the hospital in Be’er Sheva, in
the Negev of Israel.
"I was blessed with wonderful friends,
family and a medical institution to take care of me, embrace me, put
their arms around me, comfort me, and give me confidence with all
the choices and information in the world. To be bereft of that is
He didn’t hesitate to participate in the
fundraising gala—on video—because, he said, his research showed that
Soroka offers "that guidance, that education, that care, that
technology. That is something to support with all your heart and
soul. If you don’t take care of these people, when you need someone
to take care of you no one will be around. That’s how it works."
More than that, Mandy was thrilled to
learn that his "daughter-in-love," Kristen Widmer, his son
Isaac’s fiancée, is a graduate of Ben-Gurion University Medical
School for International Health, in collaboration with Columbia
University Medical Center, and its teaching hospital Soroka. Kristen
is currently teaching native Americans in Sitka, Alaska. "She
learned her lessons well at Soroka," Mandy kvelled.
At the New York dinner Dorian Goldman,
of the American Friends, presented a Visionary Leadership Award to
Shimon Glick. He made aliyah from New Jersey in 1974 and
became founding chairman of Soroka’s division of medicine.
Professor Glick quipped that the reason
he’s being honored is that the hospital thinks "I have many rich and
So he pleaded for donations: "Just think
if you give a million dollars to Harvard or Stanford to add to their
multibillion dollar endowment it will be a drop in the bucket and
you will get a nice letter from the president. A million dollars to
Soroka will have tremendous impact and you will be treated royally."
In his keynote address, Consulate General
Ido Aharoni of Israel said the world is witnessing an
historic moment in the Middle East. "The whole region is
disintegrating in front of our eyes."
All the people who believe Israel is the
major source of all the trouble in the area now realize that the
Arab-Israel conflict is not the only conflict in the Middle East.
The so-called Arab Spring, he said, shows that the turmoil in the
region is a continuation of the 1500-year rift between two factions
of Islam—the Sunnis and the Shiites.
Looking at the immediate future, Aharoni
saw a terrific shift unfolding in the Negev. It is being developed
and populated by increasing numbers of people who believe the
southern desert is the future of the nation. Furthermore Israel is
on the road to becoming self-sufficient in water resources.
Israel will also become self-reliant in
energy. Israel will transform from an importer to an exporter of
natural gas. "Countries are lining up for it," Aharoni said.
He said that Israel’s "creative class" is
the fastest growing in the entire world. The creative class consists
of knowledge workers, intellectuals, and artists among other types
who stir economic growth.
Out of Israel, Aharoni said, came a
navigation software system and instant messaging. There is no
Facebook without instant messaging. "The world can look toward a
bright future thanks to start-up Israel’s creative class."