Be Your Authentic Self: Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month

“Each of us has our uniqueness, but we share many of the same core values. I believe that our collective strength should be celebrated in our efforts to make the world a better place in which to live.” Physical Therapist Shelly Peller believes that her Jewish heritage has played a pivotal role in who she is today and the life she leads daily. Peller and her husband, Rheumatologist Jeffrey Peller MD, share how their heritage deeply influences their personal and professional lives. 

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, and as part of our “Be Your Authentic Self” series, we’re celebrating how Jewish Americans have made vibrant and powerful impacts in our country throughout history. The “Be Your Authentic Self” series allows us to discover, explore and celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of the employees that make up Harbin Clinic. When we bring our authentic selves to work, we connect with others in a genuine way that boosts engagement and productivity and enhances our colleagues’ ability to care completely for one another and, most importantly, our patients. 

Rheumatologist and Harbin Clinic board member, Dr. Peller, explains some of the traditions of Judaism and how those inspire his approach to patient care. Dr. Peller says, “Judaism has a strong, long-time tradition emphasizing study. Significantly, this study emphasizes the never-ending search for a deeper understanding of things that cannot be fully understood. It expects debate and differences of opinion. It teaches that there is no single answer that is true for everyone. This is very different from being taught principles that are laid down by an authority as incontrovertible truth.”

He shares that this background almost inevitably led him to the field of rheumatology. “Many of the diseases I diagnose and treat are not fully understood. Yet, what we do understand continues to evolve and leads to even more interesting questions. This makes a cognitive field such as rheumatology a natural fit for a person like me.”

Dr. Peller makes sure to highlight a specific value of key importance and appreciation: an emphasis on outward behavior. “There are daily concerns about social justice and environmental issues. There is an aspiration to behave and act in constructive and beneficial ways to our community and the entire world.” 

Shelly Peller recalls the lessons imparted to her by her family, “I am standing on the shoulders of my parents and my grandparents. Collectively, they taught me the importance of treating others with dignity and respect.  It was instilled in me to never look down on others, that no one should be ‘invisible,’ and that we should always strive to see the world through another person's eyes.  Taking care of each other, helping those in need, welcoming the stranger, seeing the good in others, protecting nature, and taking care of the environment … all of these ideas are part of my heritage. Also ingrained from my family was the importance of finding joy in the little things in life. To this day, I reflect on ordinary and everyday occurrences, so nothing is taken for granted.  Although I have my beliefs based on Judaism, my heritage has taught me to respect other religions and traditions, with each bringing something special into the world.  Each of us has our uniqueness, but we share many of the same core values. I believe that our collective strength should be celebrated in our efforts to make the world a better place in which to live.” 

She shares that, as part of only a handful of Jewish people in Rome, one of the great joys of her heritage is sharing information and answering questions aboutJudaism, “Many people have not met anyone Jewish or do not know about the religion. Sharing the knowledge or experiences that I have helps bridge the divide that separates so many people today. We have so much more in common with each other than many people know or believe.” 

The Pellers inspire us to ask open-minded questions, strive to better our communities, and celebrate what makes us all different. They remind us that we are a group of unique people, with various backgrounds and experiences, living out the same mission every day – caring completely for people.