The young Chabad herbalist

“So at the age of 16, I came to Israel...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.”

Daniel Feld: ‘I wanted the tools that came out of Chinese philosophy to learn to help people... I wasn’t looking for something to enhance my spirituality.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
Daniel Feld: ‘I wanted the tools that came out of Chinese philosophy to learn to help people... I wasn’t looking for something to enhance my spirituality.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 wondrous, 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.”