There is more than one way to reach the heart, as evidenced by nearly 100 physician-musicians who traveled to Israel last week to perform, fundraise and fraternize. Members of the delegation, which included Deborah Tabas — an internist and violinist who has practiced medicine at UPMC for 20 years — belong to World Doctors Orchestra, an organization founded in 2008.
“This was my fourth time playing with World Doctors Orchestra. The other three times I went, I did events that were in the United States,” said Tabas, now back in Pittsburgh.
Part of the appeal in venturing to the Jewish state is “I’ve never traveled overseas to play my music before. I’ve traveled within the United States — playing in Cleveland, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco — but to go to Israel I knew would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to play my music and I was very excited to do that,” she said.
Between Feb. 3 and 7, the orchestra performed benefit concerts in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Proceeds from donations and ticket sales supported Save a Child’s Heart, an organization that provides pediatric cardiac care and training for medical professionals.
Since its founding in 1995, the organization has saved the lives of nearly 5,000 children diagnosed with heart disease.
For more than two decades, the organization, which operates out of the Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, Israel, has welcomed children from across the globe. Similarly, in that span, nearly 150 medical professionals have received training through the organization. In 2018, Save a Child’s Heart was awarded the United Nations Population Award. According to
Haaretz, of the nearly 5,000 children who have received surgical care from the organization, “more than 2,000 [were] from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 300 from Iraq and Syria.”
Like those who volunteer for Save a Child’s Heart, members of the World Doctors Orchestra paid their own way.
“All the doctors, we pay our own way and we give a donation so none of the money that is raised for the charity, none of it goes to pay for the doctors’ detail,” said Tabas.
Along with aiding a good cause, participating in World Doctors Orchestra enables physicians to meet like-minded adults.
“I sat next to a man who’s an internal medicine doctor from South Africa. He was on my left. On my right was a psychologist from Australia. Our concertmaster is a violinist from Vancouver who is a cosmetic dermatologist, and I could go down the list and tell you all the accomplished people who are both musicians and physicians who have become members of the orchestra,” said Tabas. “So to take our breaks together and spend time chatting and learning about each other, and about where they’re from, and what their medical practice is and what their musical practice is, how many kids they have, it was just a wonderful experience.”
Tabas began playing violin in the fourth grade. As she got older, her school years and summers revolved around music. In high school and college, she continued playing and eventually served as concertmaster in Hofstra University’s orchestra before attending medical school at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I had a lot of experience playing music growing up,” she said. “Then, when you become an adult and have a different career other than music, it takes you away from those opportunities.”
In Pittsburgh, through programs and private lessons, Tabas has continued playing. Performing in Israel was something else entirely.
“Playing in Israel was very, very special,” explained Tabas. “You know, Israel is somewhere that you hear about since you’re a young kid being Jewish and growing up in a Conservative synagogue. You always say the prayers ‘next year in Jerusalem’ and you always smile. You never know if you’re going to get there.”
For Tabas, this was her third time visiting the Jewish state.
“I went there after college and again 10 years ago when my second son had his bar mitzvah,” she said. Going there as a family “was a wonderful experience but now this time was new because I was able to play my music there and was able to meet more people through my music, and that really made it very special.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at email@example.com.