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Told why the Observer wanted to interview him, Eliyahu Gurfinkel, 51, burst out laughing. "You caught me on my first day of employment as a nurse at U-M!"
If Elli Gurfinkel's name is familiar, it's because his photographs were one of the highlights of the Ann Arbor News during its last years. Yet he was growing restless even before the paper closed in 2009. "While I got this joy from photo stories, some assignments were more interesting than others," he admits. "I was never into sports photography." So, while some of his colleagues held onto their jobs hoping to ride out hard times, Gurfinkel took a buyout before the paper closed--the equivalent of six months' salary.
Gurfinkel had hoped to make his living as a freelancer, embracing the potentially lucrative specialty of wedding photography. However, he quickly found the work too precarious: "I like the security of a regular check." His next career was born when his mother needed gallbladder surgery. As she recovered in her hospital room, he was impressed by the nurses caring for her. "They were so kind, they were so warm, they were so compassionate! This seemed a wonderful way to help people at the worst time of their lives." Soon afterwards, he began taking life science classes at Washtenaw Community College.