The Israel-Hamas War first-hand: personal accounts, part II

By Bill Simons 

Many more accounts of lives impacted by the Israel-Hamas War await telling. Death has ended too many of those personal journeys. Others, including the three below, are in progress. 

Kfir Y Shoham is an undergraduate at Syracuse University, studying accounting and finance. An Israeli citizen, Kfir moved to New Jersey with his parents at the age of 13. He contacted me concerning his Israel baseball research. And Kfir offered to articulate his reaction to October 7 and its aftermath: 

“I woke up on October 7 in my dorm room to a bunch of notifications from my extended family with WhatsApp asking if everyone is safe and news from channel 12 that Israel was under attack... [M]y fall break began by trying to reach out to extended family in Israel, friends who I grew up with in Israel... [and those who] went back to Israel after graduation.
“While watching the news, I was not able to turn away. The feeling then and for the next couple of days turned into a feeling of powerlessness and disappointment. There is nothing I can do; I am stuck thousands of kilometers away with no real way to contribute; virtue signaling does not affect anything. I am at the age that if I were in Israel, I would be making an impact as part of the IDF by helping families in trouble. 

“In a sense being a student at college... turned into a ‘what am I doing here?’ moment, playing ultimate frisbee while my friends and extended family in Israel faced attack. My mother would tell me that at least I was not there, at least our immediate family was safe in the U.S. and not fighting terrorists in Gaza... I could have been one of the kidnapped soldiers such as my former classmate Edan Alexander... My grandfather’s memorial had to be pushed back. My mother could not go to our cousin’s wedding as planned. That combination of despair, worry and helplessness got better as I saw that my extended family and friends were not in immediate danger.”

Sports blogger and rap artist David Nachenberg, long ago an attendee at a lecture I gave, provided the following account from Israel: 

“I am a 61-year-old Jewish American/Israeli and have been living for most of the past 271/2 years in Israel. While I am far from the “action,”... the current situation has deeply affected me emotionally. I grew up learning about the Holocaust in school... 

“[The] October 7, 2023... atrocities... and the anti-Jewish riots all over the world have only served to make me fear and hate... more than I ever did in my life. And I fully support establishing chapters of the JDL all over the world.
“While I never served in any army anywhere, I have used a gun as an auxiliary policeman and as an armed guard. Since the war broke out, I, along with hundreds of residents of my city have volunteered at roadblocks. The first time I was at a roadblock, we stopped a car of Arabs to check their IDs, and they had Israeli papers, so we had to let them pass, but the driver’s name shocked me. His name was ‘Jihad.’”

The October 7 slaughter in southern Israel shocked Phil Glick. He pondered what would follow. And he wanted to help Israel. His life course led Phil to mark Israel, its existence and survival, as “existential to Jews.” Through our stints as United University Professions chapter presidents, Phil at Buffalo Health Science Center and I at SUNY Oneonta, as well as mutual activism in an informal Jewish labor interest group and shared baseball enthusiasm, we had come to know each other. On Thursday, January 4, I interviewed Phil, via Zoom, about the circumstances that shaped his response to the October 7 attack.

Growing up in Southern California, Phil was an ardent fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers and their ace pitcher Sandy Koufax, the lefty’s achievements a special source of pride for Jews. His bar mitzvah and several memorable summers at Jewish summer camps deepened his ethnic identification. As a football player, he encountered little direct antisemitism, save for jibes that the “A” grades on his report card made his teammates look bad. 
Phil became an M.D. with a specialty in pediatric surgery. Dr. Philip L. Glick, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.S., F.A.A.P., F.R.C.S., is professor of surgery and management, as well as liaison for Health Sciences Schools and School of Management for M.B.A. programs at Buffalo HSC. No longer performing surgery, he conducts patient evaluations and teaches anatomy and medical ethics. 

Phil married a fellow M.D., Drucy Borowitz, a pediatric pulmonologist and the daughter of a rabbi. They raised two children amidst their demanding schedules. Membership in two Reform temples, sending their children to Jewish summer camps, financial and volunteer contributions and two trips to Israel evidenced their strong ethnic connections. In addition, Phil has long served on the board of campus Hillel. 

A Jewish sensibility influenced additional commitments. He has conducted innumerable “Stop the Bleed” workshops, demonstrating effective techniques to stop a potentially fatal loss of blood. (Regional groups wishing to sponsor “Stop the Bleed” workshops can contact him at An “angel investor,” Phil assists socially conscious startup businesses. A strong proponent of racial justice, he marched not only in Buffalo civil rights demonstrations, but through rural, sometimes hostile, areas of the South. As chair of the Faculty Senate and UUP Buffalo president, he championed academic freedom and employee rights. Now, anti-Israel graffiti and posters have appeared on his campus, and a Jewish student leader was threatened. A former friend repeatedly accuses Israel of genocide on the Internet. 

Phil took a special mentoring interest in Aaron Epstein, M.D., a fourth-year resident, now in his mid-30s, at Buffalo HSC. Epstein in turn provided inspiration and information. A former special forces operative, proficient with firearms and a veteran of dangerous postings, Epstein morphed into a physician. A founder of the Global Surgical and Medical Support Group, Epstein and his organization have brought critical medical care to regions beset by war and turbulence, supplying their own security. It appears that Epstein’s example contributed to Phil Glick’s response to October 7 terrorism. 

Along with 10,000 other Jewish American doctors, Phil volunteered to provide medical services in Israel, even as the prospect of a broadening war looms. From Israeli authorities and from Epstein, he knows that such a venture would entail gas mask, flak jacket, helmet, satellite phone – and the reasons for such provisions. Phil has completed credentialing and interviews, and is now on the Israel Ministry of Health’s waiting list. At age 70, Phil is prepared to board a flight to Israel on a week’s notice. 

Dr. Phil Glick’s willingness to go to Israel exemplifies the desire of many frustrated American Jews to do more. Financial donations, institutional support, political advocacy, participation in rallies, letters to the editor, corrective conversations and educating our children are avenues to affirm solidarity. With public opinion embattled and the war continuing, support for Israel is urgent.