Lazarus remains to lead growing Maimonides Society for third year
By Deborah Moon Seldner
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After two years of leading the relaunched Maimonides Society to steadily increasing participation, Dr. Howard Lazarus thought it was time to step back and enjoy the group as a participant while learning about his new role as a first-time father.
The nascent group of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland for health care professionals has grown steadily since Lazarus took the reins. Designed to offer social, networking and educational opportunities for health care professionals, the group had previously failed to take off on two earlier start-up attempts. Now the Maimonides Society has nearly 700 health care professionals on its mailing list and is approaching 100 participants at each of its four annual dinners.
Lazarus said two women convinced him to continue leading the group for a third year. His wife Lee, who is expecting their first child soon, told him that he enjoys the group so much and he is so clearly making a difference that he should remain chair of the event. And with Jen Feldman as the Federation staff liaison for the group, Lazarus said he is more of a figurehead with her doing most of the groundwork.
For her part, Feldman credited Lazarus with the success of the Maimonides Society.
"He is a true leader," said Feldman. "In everything he does, he is a mensch."
For his third year leading Maimonides, Lazarus said he expects to follow the same format of a campaign kickoff event for physicians and other health care professionals followed by three or four dinners for fun, socializing and learning. The only change he expects to make is to further encourage outreach to other health care professionals.
Lazarus said he initially agreed to chair the Maimonides Society because he wanted to get involved in the Jewish community he had just joined and as a physician, the health care group made sense. Lazarus moved to Portland in September 2002 from the Bay area where he had moved from Montreal, Canada, in 1991. He is part of Oregon Pulmonary Associates, a practice specializing in pulmonary (lung) issues, critical care and sleep issues such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Lazarus said his personal interest is in critical care, and he feels most challenged and most stimulated in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit).
Lazarus is also a musician. He plays the bass, guitar, oboe and English horn, with which he performs in the Lewis and Clark College Double Reed Ensemble.
Once his child arrives, Lazarus said he and his wife probably will get more serious about shul shopping. So far he said he has attended services at just about every synagogue in town. Having grown up in an Orthodox home, he said he feels comfortable at Kesser Israel and Chabad of Oregon. Though not shomer Shabbat, he said "when I go to shul, what rings true is what I grew up with."
Lazarus said he believes the Maimonides Society "fosters connections between health care professionals and with the Jewish community worldwide, which is what federation is all about."
"It helps build community and professional relationships," he said. "I feel closer to some colleagues since meeting them in a social connection."
Lazarus emphasized that Maimonides is foremost a social, networking and educational group.
"These are not campaign events," he said. "They are for socializing, networking, building community with the exception of the first event each year. Even at the first event, there is no obligation to give."
Lazarus said he wanted to begin each year with a campaign event because, "I believe that physicians have a history of being involved in philanthropy. And Maimonides is nice because aside from writing a check, you also get to see what the dollars are used for and you get to meet colleagues who care about the same things you do."
This year's final Maimonides event is a 7 p.m., April 26 dinner at the Multnomah Athletic Club featuring Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, a world-class authority on evil in society who has published numerous books and is a sought after speaker on radio and television. Cost is $40 in advance, $50 after April 21, which includes dinner, wine/beer and 3 percent for Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
For more information on Lifton's appearance or the Maimonides Society, call Jen Feldman at 503-245-6449.