(This story originally appeared in The Jewish News, and is authored by Marielle Temkin.)
In an unusual collaboration between two historically contentious faiths, Drs. Mahir Elder and Theodore Schreiber, who are Muslim and Jewish, have worked together at Detroit Medical Center (DMC) to better Detroit through medicine since 2004.
Now they are working to benefit the community in a new way: On July 15, the duo donated $10,000 of their personal money to a scholarship fund that sends underprivileged African-American students to college.
The scholarship, part of the Jesus Was A Teenager Too (JWATT) Foundation at the Rose of Sharon Church of God in Christ in Detroit, awards college scholarships to high school graduates who were accepted to college but unable to attend for financial reasons. Elder, 41, of Dearborn, heard of the church and its scholarship through the pastor’s wife, a patient of his.
Elder told Schreiber, 57, of Bloomfield Township, about the foundation, and the two doctors decided they wanted to contribute to the students.
“We have given our time and intensity through professional efforts to help health outcomes in Detroit,” Schreiber said, “and now we want to help young students succeed and benefit their community in an academic way. I believe the best investment of funds is to help young minds.”
Pastor Ronald Griffin said JWATT was able to give scholarships to 10 students, three of whom are going into medicine, with the help of the personal donation from the doctors. “Their donation was phenomenal,” he said.
“They’re both amazing people, and we are so grateful for their generosity. Neither one of them had to do what they did, and their commitment to the advancement of young people is exceptional.”
Schreiber said, “This isn’t just a contribution to individuals but also to Detroit — a city that needs young, active, creative minds with a desire to move us forward.
“I’m 57 and, unlike Dr. Elder, old age is looming for me. Seeing effective social change with these young kids with so much potential tickles me pink. I’m excited to see the kids as they smile toward a successful future.”
The doctors first met when Elder came to the DMC to be trained in interventional cardiology (a catheter-based treatment of heart diseases) by Schreiber, who says he has trained more heart doctors than anyone else in Michigan. Elder was one of the first doctors he trained. When
Schreiber created Cardio Team One at the DMC, he named Elder as one of the senior physicians on that staff.
“We are not the most likely pair to be working together,” Elder said with a smile, “but we do hope our collaboration isn’t unique in the future. For me, I have been blessed that I chose medicine and that my path led me to Dr. Schreiber. I’ve followed in his footsteps, and together we’ll show that by working together, despite our faiths, we can help an area that needs it,” he said.
Through working together, the doctors have established a relationship that goes beyond a professional one. They spend time at each other’s homes on holidays like Passover and Eid and feel they are better people because of their understanding of their faiths and background. The duo also mentioned that when they talk politics, it is always as a dialogue, never an argument.
Griffin said, “This event crossed lines of diversity and faith. This was the first time in my 20 years of being at this church that we had Christians, Muslims and people of the Jewish faith in the same pulpit. It was a remarkable experience.”