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Don Cohen I Contributing Writer
Dr. George Mogill doesn't
remember the exact year,
but it likely was 1947
when he first met Father
Thomas Bidawid, who had
just arrived in Detroit to
establish the first Chaldean
Mogill, a medical doctor, was
driving along Woodward Avenue
after a house call. He would make
80-90 house calls a month in those
"It was raining and dark. And I
saw a priest waiting for a streetcar,"
he recalls. "I asked if he wanted a
ride, and he got in."
It turned out they only lived
a few blocks from each other in
Detroit's Boston-Edison neighbor-
"He sounded like a Frenchman
when he spoke English, but he
told me his original language was
Aramaic, so I told him a Jewish
prayer, Barich Smea in Aramaic,"
Mogill says. "I was listening to a
symphony and he liked it, so we
listened, and I drove him home."
Home meant Mogill's house.
"It was Friday night:' Mogill says.
"I said, 'Mom, I brought a Father
home for you.' We had both chicken
and fish for dinner. My mother
didn't know why he only ate the
fish, but I said, 'Father, it's OK; I
10 CHALDEAN NEWS I JEWISH NEWS December 2011
Catholic tradition at the time
prohibited eating meat on Fridays.
Mogill, 94, is a former chief of fam-
ily practice at Grace Hospitals and
clinical professor at the Wayne State
University School of Medicine, both
in Detroit. He still sees patients two
days a week.
The sharp storyteller and gentle-
man relishes talking about his
friendship with Bidawid. "He spoke
11 languages fluently, and I had
thought I was smart because I spoke
five says Mogill, a Detroit native.
Many years ago, Mogill's father,
Samuel, was a cantor and mohel
(ritual circumciser) at B'nai David
and later at Ahavas Achim as well as
other Detroit synagogues.
In 1948, Bidawid established
Detroit's first Chaldean church,
Mother of God, near Grand
Boulevard and Second. He served
his parish until he was transferred to
Chicago in 1951. Mogill remembers
attending Christmas Mass at Mother
of God with Congregation Shaarey
Zedek Rabbi Morris Adler, his wife,
Goldie, and Mogill's mother, Anne.
One time when Bidawid vis-
ited from Chicago, he asked to visit
Shaarey Zedek, by then in Southfield,
to see the stained-glass Chagall win-
dows."He and Rabbi Irwin Groner
started talking about gematria
[numerical equivalents for letters] ...
Rabbi Groner and Father Bidawid
were equally brilliant," Mogill
Mogill kept in touch with Bidawid,
eventually exchanging letters
through the Vatican's diplomatic
pouch when Bidawid was elected
Bishop of Ahwaz, Iran, and Northern
Iraq, in 1966, before becoming the
Vatican's representative in Cairo,
where Cardinal Bidawid died in 1971
A Special Bond
Mogill's connection with the
Chaldean community continued
long after Bidawid left Detroit.
While he says he wasn't the doctor
the Chaldean community, he
delivered many Chaldean babies,
Mogill sees a lot of similarities
and tended to many Chaldean
between the Jewish and Chaldean
families, including the clergy.
communities. He regrets they didn't
Sister Therese Shikwana, 66, has
grow as close as they could have.
been a patient and friend of Mogill
"In Baghdad, Jews and Chaldeans
for almost 40 years. She lives with
were two minorities with a Muslim
eight other sisters in Our Lady of
majority, so they were very close
Chaldean Convent on Middlebelt in
Mogill says. "You'd assume they'd be
close here, but maybe there weren't
Mogill calls her brilliant; his face
enough Chaldeans here at first
shines when he tells that she taught
[maybe 30-40 families]. Or maybe it
for 25 years at Pershing High School
was because there were no Jews from
Detroit. "She was so effective they
allowed her to wear her habit in the
Mogill adds with a grin:
classroom. Amazing," he says.
"Chaldeans and Jews have a
While a University of Detroit
great history of being together
student in 1973, Shikwana began
— Abraham comes from Ur of
to develop a condition that left
Chaldees, so we go back a few gen-
her tired all the time. She had met
erations. Our communities started
Mogill through Father Jacob Yasso
here in the same way. They were the
of the Chaldean community and
closest I could identify with because
went to see him.
they took care of each other the
"He was very much concerned
same way we did when we brought
about me Shikwana recalls. "He
in the Russians, the Hungarians and
was very patient, very dedicated
the Polish Jews. I remember Hebrew
and very good."
Free Loan: God forbid you didn't
He examined her, let her rest and
give. They came after you to give
drove her home afterward.
Soon, he had her admitted to the
As Mogill recalls, Chaldeans
hospital. After 10 days of evaluation,
"opened grocery stores just like we
they still weren't sure about the
did when we came.
problem. "One day he came in and
"I think they did it faster than
said, 'Sister Therese, I know how to
us, but who knows?" he adds. "The
treat you!'" she says.
Jewish community today is a whole
She started a series of B-12 shots
different ballgame than we were 50
every other day in his office. "I had
years ago. But I think the Chaldean
no insurance. He did it all for free
community is further ahead than we
she says. "He did it for all the clergy."
were at the same time