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Larry Nussbaum, 77, was a fierce advocate for Israel and the Jews – and an exceptional doctor

Larry Nussbaum (Courtesy)

Larry Nussbaum, who died on June 7 at age 77 following a long illness, was already working as a successful pediatrician in Tulsa when he decided to make a big change in his career.

Always a fan of technology, Nussbaum decided he wanted to switch fields and become a radiologist. Despite having two young children and a pregnant wife at home, he went back to the grueling requirements of doing a second residency — eventually earning a reputation as a cutting-edge radiologist and serving for 26 years at Liberty Hospital in Kansas City.

A father of four known not just as an exceptional doctor but as a passionate lover of Israel and the Jewish people, Nussbaum died at his home in Prairie Village, Kansas; his funeral was held on June 9.

One of his daughters, Jennifer Elyashar, said her father’s mid-career change was an inspiring example. “If you’re not happy in your career — make a move, take a risk,” she said. “It’s a really big deal to go back and do another residency like that. I’ve always found that to be incredibly powerful.”

Another daughter, Ashlyn Gorlin, said her father used his passion for technology to great effect. “He was quite pioneering within his group, pushing for advancements in interventional work and opening vein clinics and laser facilities,” Gorlin said.

Whether in his medical practice, on the racquetball court or in conversations with family or friends, Nussbaum always spoke his mind and fervently pursued what he believed in, she added.

“The things that were important to him were made clear constantly,” Gorlin said. “When he wanted to say something, he didn’t wait. He said it in the moment.”

Larry Nussbaum was born on November 15, 1946, in a displaced persons camp in Santa Maria di Leuca, Italy, to Holocaust survivors Sam and Elizabeth Nussbaum, who had met at the DP camp. Both Sam, from Poland, and Elizabeth, from Hungary, were the sole survivors of their families.

Sam wanted to immigrate to Palestine, but because the family was not permitted to travel there with a young child they opted instead for the United States, settling in Kansas City when Nussbaum was 2. Sam, who had trained as a plumber and used those skills to survive during the war by proving useful, started a successful plumbing company. The family had three other children, and the Nussbaums were leading members of their local Orthodox synagogue, Beth Israel Abraham and Voliner (BIAV). 

“They were more than active,” recalled Jered Nussbaum, Larry Nussbaum’s son. “For a long time they even held services in the basement of their new home as the synagogue was moving.”

Nussbaum went to Southwest High School, got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and attended medical school at the University of Missouri. He married Ronna Gumowitz, and the couple had two sons and two daughters: Jered, Ashlyn, Jennifer and Alex.

Like his parents, Nussbaum was deeply involved in the Jewish community, supporting his local Jewish school, federation and synagogue. He was also deeply passionate about Israel and supported AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“He and his father believed that had there been an Israel there wouldn’t have been the Holocaust,” Jered Nussbaum said. 

Bonnie Siegel, the only AIPAC national board member from Kansas, said Nussbaum lived his life centered around Israel, advocating for its safety and security. 

“Larry viscerally believed that without a pro-Israel Congress, Israel cannot be safe in the Middle East,” she said. “I don’t think I ever met as strong a force of nature as Larry when it came to Israel.”


Larry Nussbaum and members of his family on a 2019 trip to Israel. (Courtesy of the family)

Nussbaum bought property in Israel, spent significant time there, and drilled into his children that Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people and a safe haven should they ever need it.

Son Alex Nussbaum said, “Our dad was often quoted as saying, ‘Don’t forget who you are, where you come from, and where you are going,’ and he instilled in all of his children and grandchildren a pride for and understanding of our past to fuel our commitment to ensuring our future — specifically, the State of Israel.”

Nussbaum’s drive carried over even into his leisure pursuits; he was a fierce — and loud — athletic competitor, according to his children.

“He was excellent at baseball, tennis, racquetball, and an early adopter of pickleball,” Jered Nussbaum recalled. “He was passionate about competing and excelled at all forms of racket sports.”

Nussbaum’s skills extended even to an obscure sport called aerial tennis, where he was a world champion among a small group of enthusiasts.

One of Nussbaum’s cherished moments was attending a Kansas City Royals dream week in Florida, where he got to play baseball wearing a Royals uniform and played with professionals, Jered recalled. 

After he was diagnosed with ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — and began suffering from its increasingly debilitating symptoms several years ago, Nussbaum refused to let the disease define him. 

“Every day he said, ‘Today is my best day,’” recalled Elyashar. “He forced us to live in the moment and not worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow was uncertain. He fought it until the very end. He wanted to be the outlier.”

She said he never complained.

“He couldn’t move a single part of his body, and you could tell when his head itched, but he wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything,” Elyashar said. “He just never wanted to burden anyone and never complained about the situation he was in. I think he felt blessed to be here.”

It was apt that for such a vocal person, Nussbaum never lost his voice — a common symptom of ALS. 

“For someone who was so vocal and so passionate about things and had that zest for life, that’s how he beat ALS,” Jered Nussbaum said. “The ALS was never able to take his voice from him.”

Daniel Gorlin, a 70 Faces Media board member and Nussbaum’s son-in-law, said Nussbaum’s fierce advocacy for the Kansas City Jewish community and for the State of Israel was a deeply ingrained part of his character that he imparted to his family.

“He was never apologetic even at times in which I think other people would have wanted him to say it less forcefully,” Gorlin said. “He felt that pressure in his years on Earth to relay that to his children and his in-laws and his grandchildren, but also to make sure the world heard it. And that was especially true for Jewish causes, and Israel and AIPAC specifically.”

Larry Nussbaum is survived by his wife of 51 years, Ronna; his mother, Elizabeth Nussbaum of Overland Park, Kansas; his brother Mel Nussbaum of Kansas City, Missouri; his brother and sister-in-law Rabbi David and Sara Gitti of Denver; his sister and brother-in-law Bonnie and Russell Mannis of Westchester County, New York; his son and daughter-in-law Jered and Corey Nussbaum of Leawood, Kansas, and their children Sam, Kyra and Marah; his daughter and son-in-law Ashlyn and Daniel Gorlin of Chicago and their children Nitai, Liat and Caleb; his daughter and son-in-law Jennifer and David Elyashar of Chicago and their children Jake, Eva and Livia; and son and daughter-in-law Alex and Rebecca Nussbaum of Dallas and their children Annaelle, Judah and Liev. 

The post Larry Nussbaum, 77, was a fierce advocate for Israel and the Jews – and an exceptional doctor appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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