One Step Beyond
Zvi Kresch has traveled the world helping others.
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
nyone who has ever uttered, "I should
learn that — or do that — or go there,"
but didn't, could learn a valuable lesson
from Zvi Kresch.
Taking each interest and aspiration to the limit,
the 23-year-old, who's considering medical school,
experiences educational and inspirational value in
everything he does.
Kresch grew up in Oak Park and then Southfield
as one of seven children of Ruchy, a teacher, and
Simon a lawyer.
"My parents valued religious studies along with
secular wisdom," he said.
He knew almost anything could be turned into an
exciting learning experience — like the adoption of
his family's two lambs — named Affie and Komin
— last Passover.
"How can anyone have an authentic seder without
the bleating of a lamb — or two," Kresch said.
A mountain biker, scuba diver and ice hockey
player, Kresch attended Yeshiva Beth Yehudah in
gious studies led me to spend a summer intensively
studying Buddhism in Tibet, sleeping in isolated
mountain monasteries and sipping percha (yak but-
ter tea) with the monks," he said.
Among friends Kresch made in Ann Arbor were
Marc Bernstein and Jenny Lewis and their family.
"What is so striking about Zvi is his openness, his
insatiable interest in people and ideas and his ability
to keep his eye on the big picture," Lewis said. "He
is forever turning over new ideas in his head, and
thinking about common issues from an uncommon
She appreciates his deep devotion to his family
and found him a role model for her own children,
including his "real chesec4" his doing for others. His
travels around the
world have all
involved service to
others, she said , of his
trips including one to
Belarus to work with
school breaks, Kresch
II," Kresch said.
That giving back turned into 14 months of volun-
teer work in Ethiopia.
While there, Kresch worked with Dr. Rick Hodes,
administrator and chief physician for JDC clinics.
He assisted the doctor with patients from a dis-
placed community and at Mother Teresa's Mission
in Addis Ababa.
"He has great potential to become a great doctor
and leader," said Dr. Hodes. "His dedication to
learning, to patient care and to Judaism are exempla-
Kresch described his experience as allowing him
to see the person behind the disease," having
learned that "so much can be done for a sick person
by just being there, holding their hand, playing
cards or checkers and talking with them."
Kresch also was able to share a commitment to
Judaism with Dr. Hodes, an American from
"We had wonderful Friday night dinners every
week and we celebrated all holidays together, "
Kresch said. "We picked our own four species for
Suk k ot, made our own wine for Pesach and read
Megillat Esther with Ethiopian kids on Purim.
"My parents valued religious studies
along with secular wisdom."
Southfield through middle school and then Yeshiva
Gedolah in Oak Park for his first three years of high
school. While spending his final year studying at
Reishit Yerushalayim in Jerusalem, he took his
father's advice "to broaden, not only my intellect,
but also my knowledge of Jewish skills," he said.
So he took courses to learn to become a sofer
(scribe) and a shochet (ritual slaughterer).
"To date, I have written four megillot [scrolls] and
have eaten some very fresh chicken," he said.
Chanting from the scrolls he produced was an
extension of a skill he acquired from reading Torah
weekly at Young Israel of Oak Park, said his former
University of Michigan instructor and fellow congre-
gant Gene M. Schramm, professor emeritus in the
Department of Near Eastern Studies.
"This continued after his arrival in Ann Arbor,
both at student services and at a local senior resi-
dence," Schramm said.
Ann Arbor Experience
Majoring in world religions was "a natural expan-
sion" of high school learning experiences and time
spent in Israel, Kresch said
In contrast to his pre-medicine curriculum, "reli-
spent time "shadow-
ing" Dr. Elliott
Weinhouse, a pedi-
atric cardiologist at
Hospital in Royal
"Zvi is very bright
Zvi Kresch, top center, at the Joint Distribution Committee clinic in Ethiopia.
and was always so
interested in learning
and understood every-
thing right away," Dr. Weinhouse said. "He is a very
"Immersing myself so completely in another cul-
renaissance-type of young man, a very compassion-
ture has transformed me on so many levels," Kresch
ate and very devoted person who will go where he is
needed the most."
But even as acceptances to medical schools have
begun arriving, Kresch is still making choices for his
" I am especially attracted to the one-on-one inter-
After receiving a bachelor's degree from U-M,
action between patient and physician," he said.
Kresch accepted a position with the American
"However, I have doubts about the profession in
Jewish Joint Distribution Committee's Jewish
general and fitting my own values and aspirations
Services Corp (JSC), a volunteer program providing
into that framework in particular."
humanitarian assistance to Jewish communities and
And besides, true to the way he has lived his
others in need throughout the world.
life so far, Kresch is always looking for what
"My grandmother tells the that her family benefit- can be given and learned from any experience
ed from JDC programs in Siberia during World War or adventure. Fl
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