While he was a second-year student at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1992, Gary (Gidone) Busch was diagnosed with a potentially fatal disease that changed his life.
"He learned that he had a kidney disease that causes partial renal failure, and a nephrologist told him it could be life threatening," recalled his brother, Glenn, 39, a Manhattan lawyer.
"The doctor told it like it was and it was too much for [Gary] to handle. It set on his depression and he decided to take time off from school. My father and I tried to make him stay, but he was so upset about the disease that he decided to go to Israel and try to find himself religiously … and understand the meaning of life."
Through bursts of tears, Glenn Busch remembered his lanky, bearded brother Tuesday, just hours after Busch was shot and killed in a hail of police bullets in Borough Park. Police said Busch, who they say was apparently high on drugs, was striking one officer with a claw hammer and that other officers on the scene believed they were in a life-threatening situation.
Gary Busch, 31, was the youngest of three sons of Doris and Norman Busch, who divorced and both remarried. While his father maintained a dental private practice in Commack, L.I., Gary grew up in neighboring Dix Hills, attending the Half Hollow Hills public schools and graduating from its East High School in 1986. He then graduated from Emory University in Atlanta and "did incredibly well on the medical boards," recalled Glenn. "He was in the top 10 percent on the boards."
At Mount Sinai, where he hoped to become a plastic surgeon, Busch often spent his free time riding in the ambulance to medical emergencies, his brother said.
"He would take food to the homeless," Glenn added. "He could never give away enough of his money. He always helped other people and had a great sense of humor. He was a skier and he liked to play piano and the guitar. He listed to the Grateful Dead, Bach and Mozart."
But once he discovered the kidney disease (it was believed he contracted it from a patient) Busch "became much more serious." He went to Israel and studied at a yeshiva in Jerusalem and then moved to Safed, a city known to draw those interested in Jewish mysticism.
"The city was too stressful for him, and it was in the mountains of Safed where he spent time in 1996 and 1997," said his brother. "He loved to write poetry."
Busch returned to the States several times in recent years, living at the Dix Hills home of his mother and stepfather, Dr. Howard Boskey, a psychiatrist.
"He suffered from depression, and they had to bring him back and take care of it here," said Glenn, noting that his brother was hospitalized in White Plains for the problem. He was involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals twice in 1996 and once in 1977.
"But at no point was he ever a threat to anyone," Glenn went on. "As a matter of fact, after he was hospitalized he would stop on the street and help older people cross the street."
Rabbi Chaim Bausk of the Young Israel of East Northport said Busch in the last five years would come to his synagogue for services and to attend classes.
"He was a baal teshuvah," said the rabbi, "trying to find his niche."
In the last year, Rabbi Bausk said, "When he decided it would be more beneficial, he moved to Borough Park. I do not have [as congregants] that many people his age, and so for that alone the move might have been good.
"He had his difficulties, like a little depression here and there, but he was fine. He seemed pretty good and friendly. In all the years I knew him, I never saw him in any violent capacity. Never."
A congregant, Dr. Jay Federman, said it was only in the last two years or so that Busch began wearing payes, a kipa and chasidic garb. "He told us he went to Poland with a chasidic group and how stirring it had been," said Federman. "He was a nice, gentle guy who kept to himself."
In recent months, Busch began his own firm making Web pages for companies. He also sold ads for an Internet company.
Glenn Busch said it was because his brother’s religious transformation (the family had been Conservative-Reform) that his mother began keeping a kosher home. And because Busch was living in Israel, Glenn said he and his parents visited Israel for the first time.
He said his first trip, made with UJA-Federation in 1994, so inspired him that he co-chaired a UJA-Federation Young Leadership trip the following year. That led to his involvement with State of Israel Bonds, where he now serves as chair of its new leadership division. Of the shooting, Glenn said the police knew of his brother’s history of depression and that he finds it difficult to understand what happened.
"He had a hammer, but police have riot gear and shields," he said. "This has to stop. We are human beings. What has society become when things like this happen?"