Daniel Feld was born to be an alternative health practitioner in Israel. Feld, 27, describes his family as “hippie Chabad.” His father, Rabbi Chanan Feld, was a semi-professional soccer player before coming to Kfar Chabad to study. He served as a Chabad rabbi and mohel for Northern California, Hawaii and Alaska until his death in 2009. His mother, Jody Rosenblatt Feld also spent time studying in Israel as a young woman. Her family’s hassidic roots didn’t stop her from later studying at Cornell University and becoming a writer. After the death of her husband, she made aliya and worked with newly religious young women in Jerusalem.
Together with Noach and Tamar Bittelman, Feld’s parents ran the non-denominational Beit Midrash Ohr HaChaim study center, which attracted a wide range of people in Berkeley, California – a city known to be a breeding ground for exploring alternative lifestyles. While the rest of the country was consuming Pop-Tarts and bologna, the Feld family was already very health-oriented and careful about how they ate.
At 14, Feld began studying medical Qi Gong, a system of breath, movement and meditation, with Dr. Bingkun Hu. After a year of attending an East Coast yeshiva, Feld sensed that something was missing from his education. He set his sights on Mekor Haim, the prestigious yeshiva high school, run under the leadership of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. “Beginning in 10th grade, I heard about Rav Steinsaltz’s yeshivot in Israel and it piqued my interest to be in Israel. “So at the age of 16, I came to Israel. I was the only American out of 300 students for 11th and 12th grade. I came not knowing any Hebrew and learned fluent Hebrew. That set my path toward wanting to make my life here and help contribute in whatever ways I could.” During his years in yeshiva, Feld continued to study acupuncture, herbology and nutrition on the side.
Once he decided to pursue that path professionally, he returned to the US to train. Even though “acupuncture education in Israel is improving,” Feld commented, a temporary return to California offered him the chance for more comprehensive training as well as licensure. As part of his training, Feld interned for two years at the Ground Floor Clinic in Berkeley under licensed acupuncturist Noach Bittelman, who had worked with his parents. There, he specialized in Master Tung acupuncture. Bittelman is a top student of Dr. Wei-Chieh Young, who was a direct disciple of Master Tung. Feld believes that Master Tung acupuncture is a particularly effective acupuncture system that uses fewer needles and fewer treatments to get exceptional results.
Eventually, Feld earned a master’s in acupuncture and Chinese medicine at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco and passed the California licensure exam. Feld was committed to using his academic and clinical training to help patients in Israel.
A mother-tongue English speaker already fluent in Hebrew, he had a desire to learn Yiddish as well, in order to fulfill a long-term dream to bring acupuncture to the hassidic community. “I had two months between the end of my master’s and my aliya date. I thought about what would be the best use of these two months to further my goal to learn Yiddish. I moved to New York, bought the proper clothes and showed up in a Kiryas Joel [a Hassidic village in Orange County, New York] pizza shop doorway. I agreed to work for minimum wage in a pizza shop, just so I could learn Yiddish.” Once he arrived in Israel, Feld was drafted into the IDF. “I got a very good position working as a non-commissioned officer, helping olim integrate into the army.”
Feld spoke to In Jerusalem about the parallels he sees between Torah study and Chinese medicine. Both Torah and Chinese medicine have “thousands of years of tradition and central books full of complexities and nuances,” he said. “The further back you go in the Asian philosophy, there is a stream of Asian philosophy that branched into Asian religions. However, the fundamental Chinese medical scientific texts actually predated the religious texts in Asia. They were strictly scientific, medical texts that did not have religious allegiances.” Nevertheless, Feld acknowledged, “When you compare [the two systems], there are fundamental differences. When I would encounter something that was a conflict, I would compare it to the Jewish ideas I knew. It became clear to me after speaking to rabbis and looking into the sefarim [holy Jewish texts]. I wasn’t looking for another religion. “I wanted the tools that came out of Chinese philosophy to learn to help people. It didn’t come into conflict so much. I wasn’t looking for something to enhance my own spirituality. That’s not at all the place I came to it from.
“Traditionally, when it comes to healing, because there is not such a cohesive medical system, Judaism has no more allegiance to X-rays than to Chinese medicine. Jews love Chinese medicine. And I understand why, because I love it too. It’s very engaging, very deep, and it has practical applications. “I was fascinated, applying the tools of Gemara [Talmud] learning and getting into the nuances of words to develop a medical system. My previous yeshiva study was a prerequisite to learning Chinese medicine. These things came together amazingly well and allow me to do the most meaningful thing in the world – to help the person in front of me to be healthier and fulfill their dreams.”
Today, Feld brings his training and clinical expertise to a population close to his heart – English-speaking olim. He works out of a clinic in Beit Hakerem and also sees patients in the Inspire Yoga Studio on Agron Street in downtown Jerusalem.
Acknowledging that acupuncture is available through Israel’s health funds, his practice is distinguished by, among other things, much more time spent with a patient. He takes a full medical history and is comfortable integrating all the diagnostic tests of Western medicine. He will use whatever it takes to provide the best health care to his patients.
The main tools of his practice are acupuncture, Chinese herbology (which is the heart of Chinese medicine), diet and nutrition, and medical Qi Gong, in the form of exercises that are taught to individual patients. Feld commented that his greatest successes to date have been with orthopedic pain conditions – backs, knees and shoulders. He also specializes in infertility, gynecological disorders and insomnia.
“I’ve seen wonders, incredible results with migraine headaches,” he noted.
What is in store for this young, highly trained, Chabad yeshiva-educated Chinese medicine practitioner? “My goal is to spread Chinese medicine to olim. I plan to grow the clinic where I work in Beit Hakerem. After the summer, I hope to open a clinic focusing on the hassidic community in Mea She’arim. These are the two communities that I have the most in common with and feel I am most effective in treating.” Regarding what has happened to him since making aliya in 2014, Feld reflected, “Like many olim, I find that Israel is the place that allows me to tie together my various worlds. Israel provides amazing opportunities to Jewish people to give back to the Jewish community.”
The kitchen walls are coated, floor to ceiling, in tiny bags of Chinese herbs, their Chinese names transliterated beneath them. In the living room the art is simple — charts of the body, the channels and meridians for acupuncture. There are enough couches to seat a family of fifteen. You don’t expect Chabadnicks to become acupuncturists. Not usually. But this is Berkeley.
Now a student at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, the walls of Daniel Feld’s home have become textbooks. It is like an old Polish synagogue, how they wrote the new prayers on the wall, only these prayers involve reading the patterns on a tongue, understanding what a hot or cold system imply, and learning, in detail, how to balance them using acupuncture needles and herbs. Think Baal Shem Tov meets Isaac Luria: the 2014 California edition.
The biggest Shabbat dinner in town is when Daniel, 25, the son of the late and well-loved Berkeley Chabad Rabbi and Mohel Chanan Feld, hosts a meal. It happens once a month in his two-story California walk-up apartment. We are asked to remove our shoes before we enter, sometimes up to 50 pairs littering the doorway to the entrance.
Daniel sports glasses, an off-kilter kippah, a short beard and unruly hair. He is a bit mad scientist looking up to his soft hazel eyes, which betray any seemingly rough edges — he is a good guy, surprisingly un-hippie, genuine, sincere and composed for the role he plays. When he hosts a dinner, everyone comes. Up from the South come the hippies from the Jewish commune in Santa Cruz. Down from the North come the marijuana healing cream experts, the neo-Chasid’s of Humboldt County. From the East, young secular Israelis or Chabad rabbis of all ages show up and from the West, the more secular academics and dot commers.
The food is gathered from these four corners as well. Cooking, as Daniel explains, “is a collective group effort.” Volunteers show up in groups on Friday afternoons to help with the cooking. “The Chevrah from the Busboys,” the Watsonville commune dwellers, they make a mean “strongly ginger-flavored shakshuka” in a giant wok. Others make homemade guacamole and hummus and the Berkeley Chabad Rebbetzin Miriam Ferris donates potato kugel and a challah or two. Doc Green’s Collective, a group of neo-Chassidic entrepreneurs who produce a cannabis-based pain relieving cream — they donate salmon which they cook with roasted root vegetables, tamari, olive oil and rosemary. The salad greens come freshly picked from Urban Adamah’s urban Jewish farm, smothered in a homemade maple syrup dressing.
As for the alcohol, an urban farmer named Casey Yurow brings homemade mead, Doc Green’s brings whiskey made from snowmelt, Four Gates, an organic kosher winery in Santa Cruz donates a few bottles of wine, and Daniel provides the Chinese medicated Sake.
By eating time there are people, practically in piles, perched on couches and futon mattresses lining the walls — it is like a mini Jerusalem only here all sides get along. Why? Because of what is allowed — everything. Deep prayer, shomer ngiyah, total secularism, holistic offering — the only rule: be nice and eat plenty. No one has to get up. A few people pass troughs of what you expect to be bad kosher food over heads and into the center of the gaggle where someone dishes it out onto plates. The food is not bad, not even good. It is something else, otherworldly. It is your mother’s kugel laced with an herbal cure. This is new-age old school kosher, only without an agenda. It is the ingathering of the California tribes.
The guacamole and hummus are passed around, the salad greens spill onto the floor, the shakshuka, the salmon — everything moves through the room and whether there are 20 or 50 guests, there is always enough. Sometimes there is rice and daal, made by the Busboys, and always there is chicken soup made my Daniel himself — an old family recipe spiked with Chinese healing herbs.
The chicken soup does something to us. We are eating the food of his ancestors — a soup inspired by his Great Grandmother Shprintza Dina, reminiscent of his mother’s soup as well. Something in this room is taking place — a healing. The soup is slightly salty, light and sophisticated, warming like a grandmother’s chicken soup. The Chinese herbs are an original flavor, balanced — it is a surprise soup, really, because the tastes are less than recognizable but the feeling as it goes down, a calm memory — that is where the flavor lives.
It is impossible in most cities to bring these groups together. In most cities, these groups may not even exist. At this cross-secretion we are usually at war with one another, within Judaism, and in this room, drinking Chinese neo-Chabad chicken soup and just relaxing for hours and hours on end, the Orthodox, secular, and everyone in-between suddenly gets along.
Chinese Chicken Soup For the Soul
This delectable soup is a perfect combination of your Ashkenazi mother’s traditional, hearty chicken soup and an elegant mixture of Chinese herbs designed to fend off colds and warm the atmosphere.
For the soup
4 Organic kosher chicken thighs
2 Large onions (cut in eighths)
1 Daikon Radish (medium sized)
1 Sweet Potato
2 Stalks celery
12 Shitake Mushrooms
4 Slices of Fresh Ginger
2 Handfuls of White Rice (to give it some body)
2 Bunches of Green Onions (sliced)
A Dash of Organic Gluten Free Tamari
A Splash of Whisky, Sake, White Wine or any other alcohol lying around
6 Tablespoons light white or yellow miso mixed with some of the soup broth
Chopped fresh herbs: Thyme, Basil, and Mint
“Shan Yao” - Nagaimo Root - Promotes Digestion and Strengthens the Kidneys – 8 Slices
“Ling Zhi” - Reishi Mushroom - Strengthens Immunity and Lightens the Spirit - 5 Slices
“Hung Qi” - Astragalus Root - Gives one Energy, Strengthens Immunity and Brightens the Spirit – 4 Slices
“Gou Qi Zi” - Goji Berries - Nourishes Ones Blood and Improves Vision - a handful
“Fu Ling” - Poria Fungus - Imrpves Digestion and Calms the Spirit - 5 Pieces
“Chen Pi” - Dired Tangerine Peel - Awakens the Digestion and Improves the Mood – 5 Pieces
1) Begin boiling a large pot of water.
2) Add the sliced onions, radish, celery, carrots, potato, sweet potato and minced ginger. Half-cover and simmer at low heat for at least an, adjusting the seasoning to taste.
3) Remove the skin from the chicken and wash chicken in warm water.
4) Add to soup at 1 hour. Let simmer for another hour.
5) After a total of two hours, add in the Chinese Herbs.
6) In last 5 minutes of cooking, mix in Miso and fresh cut thyme, basil, and mint.
7) Leave on very low flame or on blech.