Attrition in Jewish life or in medicine rarely means ceasing to exist. People move on to someplace else to worship or to practice or maybe retire from communal or professional activities, but they do not get vaporized, as happened to the deviants and malcontents in George Orwell's 1984. Talent, energy, and dedication are all highly portable.
This morning I made arrangements to discuss my Jewish future with an old friend who looks at the Jewish world a little differently than me, has progressed within it and probably was treated a little kinder by it. He is concerned about depletion of participation from the synagogues and Federations but legitimately challenges my view that the participants are now left to salvage the misdeeds of their predecessors.
While discussing this and sipping coffee, another old friend strolled into the Brew-Ha-Ha coffee shop. This fellow, the man who I regard as the finest pulmonary physician to ever preside over the ICU and resident training at Christiana Hospital, departed a few years ago to join a practice in nearby Pennsylvania. Everyone misses his knowledge, insight, dedication and good nature. I do not know the circumstances of his exit other than he needed to find professional fulfillment and contentment elsewhere. We recognized each other immediately, each of us with an instant smile. He asked me about Christiana, only to learn that I am also on the exit ramp. I found it gratifying to learn professional life has been good to him since he left.
My neurology professor Dr. Simon Horenstein, used to describe strokes as bimodal. There is usually something lost, but there is usually something that remains as well. Jewish and medical organizations are indeed depleted by the people who depart. But these individuals typically end up bringing to the next destination their presence in a way that went underappreciated by the last.