After earning a Ph. D. in biological sciences and studying medicine at Oxford, I was appointed assistant professor in the Department of Immunology and Bacteriology at the University of California in Berkley. When I took up this post in 1957, I moved with my family to the San Francisco area. While there, I befriended Rabbi Shlomo Cunin, who was the Rebbe’s emissary to California, and I believe that it was Rabbi Cunin who brought me to the Rebbe’s attention.
The first and only time that I met the Rebbe was after a trip that I made to the Soviet Union in 1965, when the Rebbe asked to see me.
That year the Soviets decided to host their first symposium in modern medicine to which they invited twenty-five scientists from abroad, along with twenty-five of their own scientists. It was a very select symposium, and I was one of those honored by their invitation.
However, I didn’t feel honored. I knew very well about the oppression of the Jews in the Soviet Union, so I refused to attend. But then, Avraham Harman, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, appeared on my doorstep and convinced me that I should go. He told me of the dire situation the Jews in the USSR were facing – many had been imprisoned for minor offenses such as hoarding flour, which they were only saving to bake matzot for Passover! He told me that the staff of the Israeli embassy in Moscow was under constant watch and could not reach out to the Jewish community, but that I would have a chance they did not. I would be going to Russia as a VIP with special privileges; I would have a car and driver at my disposal, and I would have the freedom to move around. Thus convinced, I accepted the invitation and I went. (more…)