Lifer Report
June 2012
Paul Fine, M.D.

Life Member LogoInvited to compose a brief description of semi-retirement here in Omaha one year short of eighty, I am pleased to comply. Such reports presumably will describe a full variety of life solutions for us psychiatrists in our later years.

Sally and I are well ensconced in a comfortable prairie style house within the city limits. We have enough land for flowers and to garden vegetables, are reasonably healthy, able to travel and enjoy family events. One particular pleasure is to spend time with great-grandchildren. Almost miraculously, all of our children seem to have turned out well and are living constructive lives.

I volunteer teaching as an emeritus at the combined Creighton-University of Nebraska CAP training program, and enjoy a limited part-time practice in a well-run multidisciplinary outpatient setting. Consultations tend to be continuous based on four decades of work in the same community. There is a reasonable mix of middle class, multicultural, welfare and children in therapeutic foster care.

At first glance it may seem remote that someone from the old Bronx would find comfort in Midwestern Omaha, but historical connections are clear. My grandparents immigrated from shtetls in Eastern Europe. They had large families and overcame the usual hardships. Both of my grandmothers died young and my parents did not get to attend high school. Nevertheless both valued education and were self-educated. Their goal was to assimilate the American dream and there was an implicit imperative to look west. Most of my generation of cousins are college graduates and professionals. Our children live in various parts of the country and around the world.

It turns out that Nebraska also was populated by eastern European Jews at the turn of the last century. Many came from some of the same shtetls as my grandparents, mostly in ships that routed up the Missouri River rather than the port of New York. Many stayed on and as a group they did well. The ethnic mix in South Omaha to this day is similar to the ethnic mix in the Bronx when I grew up. What is different is the fact that Omaha is on the crossroads and has been able to maintain an attitude that mirrors our open landscape and the neighboring farms.

There is an unusual sense of history, and hopefulness in Nebraska. This year for example began The Trifaith Initiative, partially sponsored by our temple, and best described in an Episcopalian newsletter:

"Omaha Nebraska may not be the place that some imagine as fertile ground for the prospect of the three Abrahamic faiths finding common ground but, the vision of such peaceful co-existence has taken a major step towards becoming reality.

The Tri-Faith Initiative of Omaha announced Dec. 13 that it has completed the purchase of four adjacent parcels of land, amounting to about 35 acres, on a former golf course in the heart of Omaha. The...development...will also include single-family homes, an assisted-living facility, office and retail space and a hotel.

Tri-Faith is a partnership of Temple Israel, the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture. Eventually what Tri-Faith calls 'a multi-faith neighborhood of collaboration' will encompass a synagogue, a mosque and an Episcopal church along with an ecumenical center...

Tri-Faith's goal is greater understanding through greater proximity. 'Experience teaches us that interaction can transform intolerance, ignorance and fear into understanding, respect and trust,' Bob Freeman, Tri-Faith Initiative board chairman, said in a press release. 'These basic values are shared by the three Abrahamic faiths and are rooted in our Midwestern culture.'

And Dr. Syed M. Mohiuddin, president of the Islamic institute, spoke about the global urgency of developing interfaith relationships. 'In a time when the world is engaged in building walls, this is a celebration of building bridges,' he said, noting that the Quran says 'Our God and your God is one and the same.'

Officially launched in late 2006 after years of discussion, Tri-Faith Initiative began as a series of conversations between Temple Israel, a historic Reform Judaism congregation in downtown Omaha, and the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, both of who want to establish congregations in west Omaha. Temple Israel... plans to relocate to the new site, while the Islamic community will start a new congregation."

Other examples of openness, collaboration and creativity are abundant around here. They include the opera company, a symphony, world-class zoo and botanical gardens, galleries, an art and children's museum, amateur athletics such as the College World Series, and educational innovations such as "Building Bright Futures" sponsored by the Buffet Foundation. It's relatively easy to get around Omaha. We enjoy them all.

Spring came early to the Great Plains this year and with it the annual migration of Sandhill and Whooping Cranes. Half a million of them pass through to Canada from the Gulf of Mexico. They migrate through an hourglass stretch of Nebraska in a thirty mile corridor on the Platte River. To watch them land, roost and dance each dawn is a sight to see. To hear the multitudes of their call is to evoke an image of nature from ages long passed. Life members of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, if you pass by this way, please feel free to drop in to visit us.