|Spiritual Care volunteers: Making a difference in community|
|Written by Ruth Baum Bigus, Special to The Chronicle|
|Wednesday, June 27 2012 15:52|
Harold Schlozman is no stranger when it comes to a hospital setting — he spent years working as a pharmacist at the Veterans Hospital in Kansas City. He saw patients on the various wards who were anxious, depressed and in various stages of illness. It was that very setting that inspired him to become a Spiritual Care Volunteer through the Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program housed at Jewish Family Services.
“I vowed that when I retired I would try to bring these people and others comfort and a few kind words and a smile,” he said.
“When Rabbi (Jonathan) Rudnick (the Jewish Community Chaplain) asked me to become an SCV, I enthusiastically agreed,” Schlozman said.
Rabbi Rudnick overseas the program that brings care and comfort to Jewish patients in local hospitals and older adult facilities around the metropolitan area. Schlozman is one of 11 in the community who are part of the Spiritual Care Volunteer program at JFS. The mission of the Chaplaincy Program is to address the spiritual needs of Jewish people and their families facing health and healing challenges in the metropolitan area.
Spiritual care volunteers carry out the Jewish mitzvah of bikur cholim — caring for the sick — and the program is making a difference in people’s lives.
SCVs have made more than 4,000 visits in the program’s four-year history. They visit Jewish individuals, patients, residents, their families — even inmates — on a regular basis and bring them the spiritual care resources of the Jewish community and Jewish tradition. The program was started as outreach to unaffiliated Jews who were either in the hospital or residing in assisted living or long-term care facilities.
In cooperation with area congregational rabbis, Rabbi Rudnick reaches out to affiliated patients and residents as well.
These volunteers go through an extensive orientation that covers the fundamentals of being a spiritual care volunteer. Each one has been assigned to one of six area hospitals and six elder-care facilities. Rabbi Rudnick said SCVs visit with patients and residents; they may pray, read or just talk about what is meaningful to them. Volunteers also leave a copy of “The Circle of Healing,” a booklet created by the first community chaplain, Rabbi Nathan Goldberg, and published by JFS. It includes readings, prayers and spiritual resources.
When visiting others, “sometimes we hold hands and we’ll feel the person is more light-hearted merely from the presence of someone who he knows is there to see him and offer him encouragement,” said Schlozman of the experience. “It’s important to do something to help someone who is in need of spiritual comfort.”
Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah has been a supporter of the spiritual care volunteer program.
“These volunteers bring their caring and listening skills to the bedside of people who may simply want to tell their story to a supportive person,” Rabbi Levin said. “It demonstrates that even people we do not yet know well matter in our lives, that the community is attuned to their welfare. We want to make sure that no one disappears from the community’s radar.”
Rabbi Alan Cohen of Congregation Beth Shalom is part of the Chaplaincy Advisory Board Rabbi Rudnick has established.
“I have been privileged to see this program begin and grow,” Rabbi Cohen said. “Each new cohort has added greatly to the level of care our community can provide by bringing caring lay volunteers into the field of spiritual care. They are a complement to the clergy of our community and exemplify the fundamental principle that all of us should be concerned with ‘visiting the ill.’ ”
Schlozman has found his time as an SCV personally fulfilling.
“I enjoy being with people and meeting people,” he said. “By offering my time, encouragement and presence, I try to help them on the path to recovery or acceptance.”
Rabbi Rudnick said the program’s impact in the Greater Kansas City community has been significant, and Chaplain Jean Murphy agrees. She has been working with the rabbi and his volunteers, first at Villa St. Joseph and then at St. Joseph Medical Center.
“Volunteers add greatly to our effectiveness and each one brings their own personality and spirituality to the mix,” Murphy said.
“It is a great outreach to be able to provide chaplains and spiritual care volunteers of different denominations and different faiths. It adds to our diversity.”
Murphy said Rabbi Rudnick has been an inspiration for her.
“I have learned so much from him and he has provided wonderful resources for the chaplains,” she said. “We are grateful for the support and resources made available to us by Jewish Family Services and Rabbi Jonathan.”
Schlozman highly recommends volunteering for the spiritual care volunteer program.
“If you enjoy being with others, helping others and making a difference in their lives, I encourage you to contact your rabbi or Rabbi Rudnick and become a spiritual care volunteer. We bolster hope for those in need.”
Those wishing to serve as an SCV should contact their congregational rabbi. Unaffiliated individuals wishing to volunteer may contact Rabbi Rudnick at 913-327-8250.