JBuzz Interviews February 20, 2012: Eitan Fishbane: A conversation on love and loss with Jewish studies professor

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

A conversation on love and loss with Eitan Fishbane

Jewish studies professor whose new memoir recalls the tragic death of his wife at age 32.

Source: Haaretz, 2-20-12

In February 2007, Leah Levitz Fishbane arrived at a hospital in Hackensack, NJ, complaining of severe headaches and vomiting. Within hours, she was in a coma, and two days later, she was dead at age 32, killed by a tumor in her brain that had announced its existence with a swift and dramatic finality. She left behind her husband, Eitan Fishbane, and a 4-year-old daughter, Aderet, and was nine weeks’ pregnant at the time. Not long after Leah’s death, Eitan began recording his memories and meditations about their life together and his responses to the loss. Eventually, Fishbane became convinced that his ruminations might be able to provide comfort to others who had suffered similar losses. The result is the book “Shadows in Winter: A Memoir of Love and Loss” ‏(Syracuse University Press, 156 pages, $19.95‏). The couple had met as graduate students at Brandeis University, where Eitan completed his PhD in 2003, and where Leah, at the time of her death, was working on her own doctoral dissertation, in American Jewish history. The same month Eitan, an assistant professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), published his memoir, Jewish Lights brought out an edition, which he selected and translated, of writings on Shabbat by early Hasidic masters, “The Sabbath Soul: Mystical Reflections on the Transformative Power of Holy Time.” In 2010, Fishbane, today 36, remarried, to Rabbi Julia Andelman. Haaretz spoke with Eitan Fishbane by phone from his home in Teaneck, New Jersey.
•••
When did you actually begin writing this book?

The process of writing began relatively early, within a month of the shivah. Initially it was more of a therapeutic anchor, a stable activity to return to during those fragile days. But the process of writing awakened in me the power of words to heal the writer and to hopefully bring the force of that experience to readers as well. It stretched out over five or six months, though the first three months were really when a lot of the white heat of my experience was flowing out through the writing. [Afterwards, I did] some editing, though I really tried to preserve the authenticity of those early hours, to capture the ferocity of early grief in a way that’s hard to conjure up from a distance.

Eitan Fishbane - February 2012 Eitan Fishbane.

You do that, but am I right that anger isn’t a strong emotion here?

I didn’t feel anger as a dominant emotion. Certainly I did experience moments − I think that everybody in the swell of grief does − but when there was anger, it was less directed at something or someone in particular, more a surge of feeling….READ MORE

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