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Dallas Jewish Week

Jewish by birth

Jewish by heart

Finding the connection for his Jewish soul


by Deborah Silverthorn

Special to DJW

When Syed Ahmad was a young boy growing up in then British India near Calcutta, the notion of becoming a doctor in Plano, Texas, was not one ever to be dreamed. Many years and many experiences, both good and bad, later, Ahmad is a successful general practitioner offering his patients the spirit of the doctors of the good ol' days.

"I don't travel with a little black bag," said Dr. Ahmad, a general practitioner, "but I do try to give my patients the care, time and energy that was common in family practices years ago." Ahmad, like many of his eight brothers and sisters, followed his father into the field of health care. "I learned medicine as a child when my father use to take me to the hospital with him and I played in the hospital museum. At times, my father would explain the preserved specimens to me. He would also take me to the hospital ward and show me the procedures he performed on patients. I saw the help he provided to people and wanted to continue that work."

Ahmad, whose father's ancestry was Moslem and whose mother was Jewish, was raised with very little religion in their home, although they always knew their background. "I had very little Jewish contact, of any kind, in my school or amongst my friends," said Ahmad. "As the place was Moslem-dominated, most Jews did not want to talk about themselves. In addition, many of them had intermarried and did not want to talk about their religious history."

Ahmad, whose father's ancestry was Moslem and whose mother was Jewish, was raised with very little religion in their home, although they always knew their background. "I had very little Jewish contact, of any kind, in my school or amongst my friends," said Ahmad. "As the place was Moslem-dominated, most Jews did not want to talk about themselves. In addition, many of them had intermarried and did not want to talk about their religious history."

Always conscious of his ancestry, as a teenager Ahmad was curious to learn more about Judaism but found little information. As a member of the International Stampland club, in 1961, Ahmad came across a request for a pen pal from "David" in Haifa. "I still remember my first contact and the letter that I sent to him came back to me with a stamp labeled 'no such country.'" The Pakistani government, like other Moslem and Arab countries, did not maintain any relationship with or recognize Israel as a state at all.

"Determined as I was to have a pen pal in Israel, under any cost, I found a pen pal in Hong Kong that would forward my letters to Israel and vice versa and thus we would exchange stamps and letters." Unfortunately, when Dr. Ahmad abruptly left his home, his letters to and from "David," along with most of his personal possessions, were left behind and subsequently never recovered.

"I was in medical school in Dacca, the capital of the then East Pakistan, when India and Pakistan engaged in the 1971 war of independence which led to the eastern part becoming Bangladesh. There was civil war before that and hundreds of thousands of people were massacred, many of our relatives were killed and to this day I bear both physical and mental scars." Ahmad's stomach was cut open with a bayonet as he crossed a checkpoint and didn't pass a "reading test."

Ahmad tried to escape by sneaking through the border into Burma and India but it was all too dangerous. At first denied a passport to leave the country, Ahmad finally managed to get a passport, due to his father's influence, so he fled to Canada.

Once he was practicing in Plano, through a patient he met Annette Morgenstern, director of TZM/Bnai Zion, who introduced him to their organization which, through their speakers and programs, informs the community about issues facing Israel. The group presents lectures, videos and classes focusing on the history of and the challenges facing the State of Israel.

Part of a national organization, TZM works closely to support humanitarian agencies in need. "I found this group to be exactly what I was looking for in terms of an outlet through whom I could offer my support for Israel as well as my own need to connect with my people," explained Ahmad.

Ahmad, with his wife Robbi and son Medi, a physician in New York, and daughter Zera, a college student, daily appreciates his life here. "What more could a person want or hope for than the freedom to live and breathe? This country has given me so much. To practice the business of choice, your religion as you wish, and to walk freely is a gift."

Syed Ahmad's office, Medical Care Center, is at 2709 W. 15th Street at Independence in Plano. The office number is (972) 612-9355. To contact TZM/Bnai Zion, call (972) 918-9200.


This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, June 6, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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