In “Shining Brightly”, AUTHOR Howard Brown highlights the power of light to combat darkness.
A two-time stage IV cancer survivor, Brown is a speaker and interfaith peacemaker. He’s also an expert when it comes to resilience.
Through Brown’s own journey, along with the stories that inspired him, his book shows entrepreneurs, patient advocates and community leaders how to form supportive connections and friendships.
A Silicon Valley pioneer, Brown helped launch a series of technology startups before becoming co-founder of two social networks (Planet Jewish and Circle Builder). They were the first to connect religious communities around the world; he shut down the networks after his more recent cancer diagnosis. Brown’s professional background, along with his devotion to family, religion and sports, drive his mission to make the world a better place.
“We are not born to hate; hate is learned,” Brown told the Journal. “For far too many people, hate is a choice. I work every day to promote understanding, build healthy relationships and confront hate in all its forms.”
“Shining Brightly” is filled with inspiring stories of how to walk the walk of peace, tolerance and love for humankind.
Brown says he tells readers: “This isn’t my world. It isn’t your world. This world was given to all of us by G-d, so that we could share it and share of ourselves. Tikkun Olam, the Jewish calling to repair our world, is our name for a collective mission we all share. And, while that may sound like a burden, that call to spread love and hope turns out to be the key to our happiness.”
Brown, his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Emily, currently reside in Michigan. He grew up in the Boston suburbs and met his wife at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles’ Young Leadership Development Program in 1993. They were married by Rabbi Steve Leder at Shutters at the Beach in July 1994.
“We have fond memories of our time in
L.A.,” Brown said. “We still miss the beach and outdoor shabbat services.” They moved to the Bay area in 1997 and to Michigan in 2005.
As Judaism is the core of Brown’s life, readers will find Jewish life and wisdom interwoven throughout “Shining Brightly.”
“In fact, I have 18 chapters and 360 pages to signify Chai = Life,” Brown said. “In chapter one, I tell the story of my great grandmother who lived to 100: Bubby Bertha Budish, a Jewish refugee from Lithuania who taught me and my twin sister Cheryl lessons of Chesed (living a life of loving kindness) Tzedakah (the moral and ethical basis of giving) and Tikkun Olam (healing and repairing ourselves and our world).”
While Jewish customs, foods, rituals and holidays are interwoven throughout his storytelling, Brown attributes faith as a big part of his survival.
“I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer twice and needed all the spiritual resources our tradition provides, along with a worldwide network of Jewish, Christian and Muslim friends who all prayed for me and my family,” Brown said. “[They] provided many forms of support for me and my family when we were in need.”
Brown was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 1989; subsequent treatments included a bone-marrow (now called a stem cell) transplant in May 1990 from his twin sister. His diagnosis of colon cancer in 2016 involved multiple treatments. He is now more than four years of “No Evidence of Disease.”
“Throughout those struggles for my survival, I drew on the resilience that is a central part of our tradition and … my network of men and women praying for me literally circled the globe.“
“Throughout those struggles for my survival, I drew on the resilience that is a central part of our tradition and, especially as I fought my second battle with cancer, my network of men and women praying for me literally circled the globe,” he said. “Judaism teaches us that life is fragile and we are here on earth for a short time — called on by G-d to use this gift of life to help our families, our communities and the larger world.”
He added, “I often think of how Abraham and Sarah welcomed strangers into their tent. This outreach to include an ever-growing circle of friends is absolutely vital right now, when antisemitism is rising once again to record levels both in the U.S. and around the world.”
After Brown’s second stage IV colon cancer diagnosis, and resulting treatment, survivorship and advocacy, he decided he wanted to leave a legacy of values and inspiration. He also wanted to show the world that when you get knocked down, you can get back up again and again.
During the COVID pandemic, Brown interviewed via Zoom the more than 150 people who were the most important, influential people in his life. Those conversations became the basis of the book, which he completed with the help of his wife, Lisa Naftaly Brown, and David Crumm from Front Edge Publishing.
Since his book’s publication, Brown started the “Shining Brightly” podcast, where he interviews guests who embody triumph over tragedy via human resolve and inspiration.
“The goal of the show is to provide a platform to share human stories of overcoming whatever life throws at you,” he said. “Finding the resilience to survive, strive and thrive.”
Brown frequently appears wearing white metallic sunglasses. He refers to “Shining Brightly” as “a movement in which we all have an opportunity to become a force-multiplier for positive change,” he said. “If we choose to shine brightly a little each day for ourselves, then lift up others and strengthen our neighborhoods and communities, the world will become a better place.”
Learn more at ShiningBrightly.com.http://ShiningBrightly.com