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Saturday, April 19, 2014

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A reluctant goodbye

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It was more than 10 years ago that Mordechai Ben-Dat invited me to begin writing for The CJN. My challenges ever since then have been to meet my monthly deadlines and, with each succeeding column, to not only find something current and relevant to write about, but also to tightly frame each piece within a requisite word limit.

None of this has been easy. When the inevitable vicissitudes of life get in the way, writing deadlines get all the more daunting, and I can well remember those occasions when I’ve come within a whisker of missing those all-important timelines. Nonetheless, for the 124 consecutive months that I’ve had my articles published in The CJN, I’ve failed to file on time only once.

Were I a journalist by training, or an author by reputation, I could probably wax poetic about the lonely craft of cobbling words together to create tone and content that is both informative and inspiring. Since I am neither, I can only but attest to the grind of crafting sentences that convey precisely what’s intended and selecting just the right words to make sense of a particular construct.

It’s therefore amusing, though perhaps backhandedly complimentary, to have someone express admiration for the way I must obviously be able to “churn out” my articles. Nothing could be further from a writer’s reality, at least not mine. The effort that goes into structuring each piece is enormous, often involving many hours of research and fact checking even before the laborious process of the actual writing begins.

Yet despite one’s best efforts to provide specific context, there are, and likely always will be, those who choose to fish for any nuance, any perceived hint of affront, that can be finagled into a cause celebre to hit back at the writer, not with a reasoned response, but with a vindictive personal attack. Being on the receiving end of such foolish rants – as rarely as they have occurred – has been especially unpleasant.

On the flip side, my role as a CJN columnist has been immensely positive. It has been at once a welcome distraction from, and a valuable enrichment of, my “day job” as a physician and educator. It has given me the opportunity not only to explore my passion for writing, but more importantly, it has allowed me to engage in the crucial discourse that underpins my core values as a Jew and a Zionist. 

When reflecting on the scope and content of what I’ve written about over the years, I am somewhat reassured, based on what feedback I’ve had, that my topic choices have usually hit the mark. I have tried often to push the envelope, at least a little, to maybe provide fresh insights, to maybe offer contrarian perspectives, or to maybe just rankle the establishment, with a view to “making the comfortable feel uncomfortable,” which is, after all, the very essence of effective advocacy.

In signing off, I would like to thank, so very much, all of those who’ve read and appreciated – and at times even enjoyed - my articles. I’ve always found the last paragraph of each column to be the most difficult to write. This one is no exception.

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