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August 20, 2009 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-08-20

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Special Report


A Mighty


Inspiring native Detroiter

Dr. Larry Brilliant

helps heal the world.


from top left:

Larry and Girija Brilliant

on the Khyber Pass

through the Hindu Kush

Mountains, 1972

Larry Brilliant helped

eradicate polio in

India in the 1970s.

Dr. Larry Brilliant

with his family:

Jon, Iris, Dr. Girija

Brilliant and Joe.

Larry and Girija

Brilliant at the

Taj Mahal in


Adam Finkel

Special to the Jewish News


hree of America's leading public
health advocates have roots in a
small enclave in Detroit around
Northlawn Avenue.
Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University's
public health rock star, is one. His mother,
Joan Abrams Sachs, grew up in the neigh-
borhood. Dr. Nathan Wolfe, global disease
expert, is another. His
father, Chuck Wolfe of
Cincinnati, formerly head
of Detroit's Jewish Home
and Aging Services,
called that street home.
And nearby lived
Lawrence Brent Brilliant,
now 65, and listed among
the "Time 100," Time
magazine's list of the
world's most influen-
tial people. He's a globally known public
health expert, an epidemiologist who
helped wipe out smallpox in India. He's
also a noted philanthropist who headed
Google.org , the company's philanthropic
His journey from Detroit across the
world is a reminder of the diverse paths
life can take.
Brilliant's great-grandfather was an
Orthodox rabbi in Belarus and his father

owned Brilliant Music at West Eight Mile
Road and Livernois in Detroit — 5,500
miles from the motherland.
A self-described "first-and-a-half-gen-
eration American," Brilliant says the name
was originally something like Brilliantov.
Lawrence would give way to Larry, who
says that one Sunday he was dismissed
from Hebrew school
because he believed
science and religion
intersected. His rabbi
disagreed. Brilliant
would describe the event
as his "first great moral
He reasoned then that
"faith not founded in
- Larry Brilliant science is not the deep-
est faith."
"I still believe more than ever in the
coexistence between science and religion:'
he said.
Brilliant would support the NAACP at
15. He would lead his teen youth group. He
would become Brandeis AZA president.
He would meet his wife at a B'nai B'rith
Youth Organization dance. He would grad-
uate high school, first in his family on

"Faith not
founded in science
is not the deepest

Mighty Heart on page 12


20 2009


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