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"Who We Are"- Focusing on Members of Our Kol HaLev Community

Remembering Noel Rose  
Noel Rose (Ricki Henschel)
Remembering our friends and, for those who never knew him, learning about the generous nature of one who helped shape who we are as the Kol HaLev community, matters. Noel Rose was a friend and a co-founder of Kol HaLev. He died July 30 in Boston at age 92. I wanted to share with the Kol HaLev community of today a bit about Noel and his wife and life partner, Deb, who were so important to how we started.
His life was rich and varied. This man, whose experiments in the 1950s helped launch the study of autoimmune diseases and is known as the “father of autoimmunity,” was a lover of music (mostly classical and opera), art, literature, and his synagogue community.
Noel and Deb connected with those they met. “The main lesson I learned,” he told the Johns Hopkins Gazette, “is that teachers are there to serve the students, not to demonstrate their own accomplishments.” He lived life that way—finding ways to serve and be a part of his communities. When you spoke with Noel, until you engaged in deeper conversations, you would never know he was an internationally renowned scientist—he was there, at that moment, with you, as was Deb. They often had students from Peabody and the local theaters engaged in special projects live with them. As with everything else in their lives, they supported the arts with more than money.
Noel was a part of Baltimore from 1982 until 2015. He and Deb left Baltimore for Boston to be closer to their kids, and where he had a joint appointment to lecture at Harvard Medical School and work in the pathology department of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which he maintained until his death.
He came to Johns Hopkins University in 1982 to chair the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the School of Public Health. He founded the Johns Hopkins Center for Autoimmune Disease Research in 1999. He published over 900 scientific papers and helped write or edit more than 20 books, including a textbook, “The Autoimmune Diseases,” which has had multiple editions. He was a consultant to the World Health Organization, chaired the Autoimmune Diseases Coordinating Committee at the National Institutes of Health and was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He spoke at scientific symposiums and on radio shows, taking calls from patients with autoimmune diseases.
There is so much more to his career, and you can learn more about his contributions to the world of medicine on your own, but I am going to share some of my memories and those of other members of our community. If you have something to add to this remembrance of Noel, please send it to me, Ricki Henschel, and I will add it.
I only knew Noel through Kol HaLev. When George and I first came on board, he and Deb were warm and welcoming. We sparred a little about music---my love of jazz and rock, and his of classical and opera. He and Deb often opened their home for our once-a-month Shabbat dinners—and I smile thinking about the beautifully set long table in their apartment, the wonderful food Deb would have prepared (though this was pot luck), their two kitchens that allowed them to easily offer their home for events, and the topics that Noel and Deb would choose as discussion topics. They hosted a gathering to celebrate the publication of Amy Davis’ book Flickering Treasures, and I remember the deep conversation at one point of our city and issues too many ignored. Sometimes the conversations before we started dinner were the most engaging--and Noel was always fully focused and ready for a laugh as well. His spirit /their spirit still permeates who we are as a community—open, engaging, thoughtful, and warm.
Noel Rose (Erica Breslau)
Noel used to say, “people remember your first line, so plan it well.” Another thing Noel said was “science is full of ideas that have been proven wrong.” This latter was the opening sentence from The Scientist who this past July wrote a remarkable retrospective about our friends’ distinct academic mark on science.
Noel’s intellectual curiosity led him to understand that the body can attack itself in a process known as “autoimmunity.” An idea that in 1951 was considered “crazy.” This discovery led to potential treatments to interrupt the development of lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
In addition to being a low-keyed, brilliant scientist, Noel was similarly devoted to Judaism on many levels. First, he never stopped questioning what it meant to be Jewish, a conversation he began while we were congregants at Bolton Street Synagogue. Second, still searching for answers Noel along with his wife Deborah joined a small group to start a new reconstructionist synagogue, Kol HaLev.
What Noel brought to Kol HaLev’s early days was the curiosity to comprehend how Reconstructionist dogma fit within his spiritual world view. I have indelible memories of Sunday afternoons reading, discussing, and arguing the foundational Reconstructionist teachings of Mordecai Menahem Kaplan, trying to identify and interpret what it meant to be part of an evolving Jewish civilization. Reconstructionism theology suited Noel and colleagues in the founding group who had been schooled in other branches of Judaism, and who recognized that later life brought intellectual and spiritual freedom with like-minded people.
Lastly, Noel and our spouses belonged to a Chavera that met monthly to explore a Jewish themed topic. Here, Noel was rarely the first to speak, and when he did you always remembered his first sentence. I am grateful to have shared these years with my curious, gentle, and generous friend who was always the teacher.
Remembrance. (Bernie Guyer)
I first met Noel in 1989-90 when I came to Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health where he was chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and I was chair of the Department of Maternal and Child Health. We didn’t share many professional interests as he was a laboratory scientist and I was involved with policy and child health services. But, we had some conversations about my experiences doing infectious diseases work in tropical Africa and focusing on childhood immunizations. We also shared the concerns of leading two of the ten departments in the school. We served on committees together. In those early days, I failed to appreciate the fundamental nature of his contributions to the study of auto-immune diseases.
We connected further when we started attending Bolton Street Synagogue in around 2004, when it moved to the current location near our house on Cold Springs Lane. The Roses were members and lived in nearby Highfield House on Charles Street. We shared a fondness and respect for Rabbi Geoff Basik, wanted to see him develop a successful career, and thus participated in the founding of Kol HaLev.
The Roses were active, lively members of KHL. There were many chavurah events and pot luck dinners at their elegant condo. We enjoyed their company and discussions. They brought a love of classical music and opera. They were important members of the KHL community. Although we understood, we were sad when they decided to move to the Boston area to be closer to their children and grandchildren. May Noel’s memory be for a blessing!
Sun, May 16 2021 5 Sivan 5781