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In This Issue:
Spirituality of Abundance 3
Gratitude List! 5
Web Page/Email Guide To The Perplexed 7
Research Insights: Awareness of the Diagnosis Calms the Patient 9
Reaching Out To Our Retired Members 10
Yes, there are Jews in Jail 11
Reﬂections On My Rabbinic Ordination 14
Standing In Their Shoes: Building Empathy For the Frail, Elderly and Ill Through Pastoral Care and
Sensitivity Training 16
Ears of the Heart 18
Hospital Chaplains Monthly Conference Call 20
Holy Encounters 22
NAJC 3950 Biscayne Blvd Miami FL 33137 (305) 394-8018 firstname.lastname@example.org
A Quarterly Newsletter of NAJC — Neshama: Association Of Jewish Chaplains! Vol. 30 No. 2 ~ Shevat/Adar 5778
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC
Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber, BCC
Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC
Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn, BCC, !
Rabbi Rena Arshinoff, BCC
Rabbi Moe Kaprow, BCC
Immediate Past President
Rabbi Dr. Joe Ozarowski, BCC
Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein, BCC
Rabbi Dr. Mark Goldfarb
Secretary, Newsletter Editor
Cecille Allman Asekoff,
Executive V.P. Emerita
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Triumphs and Tribulations in the Practice of Cardiac Surgery 24
Two Book Reviews 27
Review of A New Book & CD Set 29
New Insights on Military Chaplaincy: Book and Journal Article Reviews 31
With Our Members 33
בוט לזמ" 33!
דובכה לכ" 33!
המילש האופר" 33!
םחני םוקמה " 33!
חוכ רשי" 34!
New םירבח 34
2018-19 Ofﬁcers, Board & Committees 37
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Spirituality of Abundance
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC
Last summer, when the NAJC board gathered for a retreat, I presented a little exercise
on abundance. Board members asked me to share some of my thinking with a larger group, and I do
so now with you and hope that reﬂecting on the spirituality of abundance improves your life. I
started thinking about the spirituality of abundance when, as treasurer of NAJC, I noticed how
painful I found some of the calls I made to NAJC members. It hurt me to hear about NAJC members
struggling. It seems that many of us wrestle with feelings of inadequacy when we think that we are
ﬁnancially behind the eight-ball. And those feelings make the logistical problems even thornier. I
recently read the book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and
Eldar Shaﬁr. In it, the authors articulate how the experience of not having enough reverberates
through a person’s life.
I wondered if the NAJC suffers from some of this experience of scarcity, too. So I wanted to think
about how we could move from feeling as if we have too little, towards a feeling of gratitude, for the
abundance that we actually have – especially when we consider the great gifts of our organization in
terms of people. If you would like, you can also take a moment to think about these:
1. Scarcity in TaNaKH – What are some examples of ‘not enough’?
2. Think about the experience of ‘not enough’ in your own life – share with a dyad partner or
3. Think about the passages from Pirkei Avot that describe who is wise, honored, rich.
4. If being ‘rich’ is “having what we want and wanting what we have,” how can we adopt this
spiritual discipline for ourselves?
5. Think about experiences of abundance in your own life – share with a dyad partner or journal.
6. How would we make abundance Jewish?
7. How shall we build NAJC as abundant?
Readers can look at https://thesimpledollar.com/from-the-scarcity-mindset-to-the-abundance-
mindset for some starters in the spiritual disciplines of abundance.
The Immediate Past President of ACPE, Rev. Carlos Bell, gave me food for thought by recommending
these two books. I am using these resources, along with help from other places, as I begin my term.
I’ll write more about the strategic planning process that we are formulating for NAJC in the coming
Part of the charm of NAJC is that we form a community, even though we live in many places. Online
and in person, I am encouraging our NAJC community members to take up some subjects:
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1. We are a community of theological misﬁts. More than a few would describe himself or herself
as a bit of a heretic. How do we sit with illness, healing, pain, and death in our work without it
touching the way we approach the Sacred?
2. Does chaplaincy have a career trajectory? What would that look like?
Please connect with each other – take a look at Member365 and ﬁnd a friend or two. Our greatest
strength lies in our relationships with each other. I am hoping to call each member of our NAJC over
the next number of months, and I’m hoping to hear from you!
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Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein, BCC
Rabbi Nachman of Breslow said that “gratitude is the only antidote for depression”. I am the least
depressed person I know right now, because I am so grateful! Get ready: here is a list of just some of
the NAJC things I am grateful for, not in any speciﬁc order:
Rabbi Moe Kaprow, BCC, who led NAJC during the transition to hiring me and guided me and the
Board in moving forward. His leadership, wisdom and commitment are palpable.
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC, whose leadership is ﬂourishing and who has dedicated decades to
serving on our Board. Sandra is looking at our long-range plans, and how we will move forward into
Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn, BCC, for leading the Conference Committee in making the
Conference the best ever. The Conference Committee: Rabbi Anne Feibelman, BCC; Rabbi Dovid
Gold; Rabbi Judi Ehrlich, BCC; Rabbi Lev Herrnson, BCC; Cantor Rabbi Rob Jury, BCC; Rabbi
Rebecca Ratner Kamil; Rabbi Ruth Smith, BCC; Rabbi Michelle Stern, BCC. What an incredible
committee to work with!
All of the members of the new NAJC Board who are dedicating their time and energy to make sure
we grow in ways to beneﬁt all of our members. What an incredible team! And Chaplain Bruce
Feldstein, MD who dedicated many hours thanking outgoing Board members and recruiting the slate
of new members. And all of the outgoing Board members who gave their time, energy and resources
to bring us to where we are now.
Tara Stiel, our Administrative Assistant, who takes care of a million details, responds to a gazillion
questions from members with grace and consideration, and who has connections with everyone in
the Jewish Community in South FL.
Rabbi Mark Goldfarb, our Webmaster, our Newsletter Editor, our graphic designer, Secretary of our
Board, and who is dealing with signiﬁcant challenges to getting our email and website to work
together. He has spent untold hours helping us all communicate!
Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber, ACPE, BCC Certiﬁcation Commission Chair, who has been leading the effort
to make NAJC Certiﬁcation more friendly, welcoming and user friendly.
Rabbi Robert Tabak, BCC, our Website Curator, who has done wonders for organizing our resources
and enabling us to have a website we can turn to when we need resources as chaplains.
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Rabbi Michael Trachtenberg, who volunteered to help us move and made our transition incredibly
easy by volunteering his brother-in-law’s truck and help!
Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC, and Rabbi Dr. Joe Ozarowski, BCC, outgoing and incoming
Treasurers. Making sure we raise and spend our funds in the best ways possible. Both have shared
wisdom, commitment and dedication to keeping track of income and expenses, and making sure that
no one is ever turned away for ﬁnancial reasons. Doug Turner, our accountant, who helps us keep the
The people who lead each of our Seminars: Rabbi Dr. Edith Meyerson, BCC -- Palliative Care
Seminar; Rabbi Zahara Davidowitz Farkas, BCC -- Case Studies Seminar; Rabbi Dr. Eliot Baskin --
Community Chaplaincy Seminar; Barry Pitegoff -- Hospital Chaplains Seminar. Thank you to Rabbi
Lowell Kronick, BCC, who led the 21st Century Chaplanicy Journal Club; and Rabbi Jo Hirschmann,
ACPE, who led the LGBT Seminar.
Rabbi Joel Chazin, Rabbi Michael Wolff, BCC, and Rabbi Ben Lankton, BCC, who are our Chesed
Committee, bringing comfort to members in health, personal or spiritual crisis.
Cecille Asekoff, who led us for 27 years and continues to be a source of wisdom, knowledge and
All of the members who have logged into the website and used it. We appreciate the positive
reactions to our technological advances. And all of the members who call us with questions, problems
or suggestions and help us become even better at meeting their needs.
The Holy One, for keeping us alive, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this moment.
My dog Maybelle, who helped comfort people at the Conference, and is now working with me in the
ofﬁce every day.
The big limitation of this list is with those whom I’ve missed! There are so many people who have
improved my life greatly by their presence, their advice, their good wishes. If your name isn’t on this
list, it simply means I ran out of space, not out of gratitude. I apologize and will gladly add to my
Gratitude List when I realize who I forgot! Funny thing about gratitude: it comes in an endless
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Web Page/Email Guide To The Perplexed
Rabbi Dr. Mark Goldfarb, NAJC Secretary & Web Maven
NAJC.ORG JEWISHCHAPLAIN.NET Emails ending in @najc.org. Emails
ending in @jewishchaplain.net. It’s so confusing! What are we? NAJC.ORG?
JEWISHCHAPLAIN.ORG? Do emails go to @najc.org or @jewishchaplain.org? Our internet
transitioning has caused some confusion, but all should be made clear in this article and completely
resolved in the next week. First, some history:
Why the change in the ﬁrst place? Our initial web page design package was cutting edge when it was
initially purchased many years ago. However, during the ensuing years, the original company was
bought by another, as often happens in the tech world. In addition, the software itself became
outdated, as newer, more efﬁcient programs were developed. In order to update our web page, to
include graphics, video, etc., we needed to look at a new web page design software. A search was
made of the various web page hosting companies and platforms, and it was decided to create a new
web page using Wordpress — at a substantial annual savings to NAJC. It was also decided that we
would maintain the NAJC.ORG internet address while at the same time develop our new web page
at JEWISHCHAPLAIN.NET. Entering either address in your web browser will lead you to the same
web page. This will always be the case, no matter which address you use.
Emails. The @najc.org email addresses were originally created using Google to manage the email.
Though totally invisible to the email senders, the @najc.org emails are actually Google Mail. This
complicated setup became unmanageable when we linked NAJC.ORG with
JEWISHCHAPLAIN.NET. Because of the hosting disparities and the convoluted way the emails were
initially set up, the email links between Google, NAJC.ORG, and the ofﬁce computers became
inoperative. The membership was informed to please email Rafael, Tara and the ofﬁce at emails
ending with @jewishchaplain.net.
The Solution: For ease of operations, the NAJC.ORG address is being merged with our present
hosting platform. This is set to take place this week. Once that is completed, we will have unfettered
access to emails ending in @najc.org. The previous @najc.org emails will brought online and all will
function smoothly between all of our email addresses; those ending in @najc.org as well as those
ending in @jewishchaplain.net.
NAJC-Listserv. The NAJC-Listserv is being phased out in favor of using Member365. We will create a
new discussion group for all NAJC members called “ChapLine.” Not only will the postings be
archived, but they will be searchable as well! Watch your inbox for notiﬁcation of ChapLine
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In the meantime, keep using the emails ending in @jewishchaplain.net or permanently change
Rafael’s, Tara’s and the Ofﬁce email the @jewishchaplain.net emails, as those will be forever linked in
the future to @najc.org. Email me with your questions: email@example.com
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Research Insights: Awareness of the Diagnosis Calms
Barry E. Pitegoff, Research Maven and Professional Member NAJC
Families often ask, “What shall we tell the patient?” Two universities in Italy asked the same question
as a research study, with ﬁndings reported in The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative
Medicine, 2017. The study was conducted with newly admitted patients in a hospice in central Italy.
All participants had a diagnosis of cancer. Four hundred patients were recruited; 100 met the study
criteria. The gender split was 47 female and 53 male.
After admission the patients were examined by a Palliative Care doctor. They were invited to be
interviewed by a Psychologist the next day, who explained the study to them. Patients who
proceeded into the study completed two instruments: the “Systems of Belief Inventory (SBI),” and the
“Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS).” All patients were also offered religious support,
but its nature was not explained in the journal publication.
The SBI measures “religious and spiritual beliefs and the social practice and support derived from a
community sharing those beliefs.” The HADS measures anxiety and depression. Patients’ awareness
of their diagnosis was reﬂected in questions such as: “Do you know where we are?” “What is your
illness?” and “Please talk to me about your illness.”
Conclusion: “The main ﬁnding of the study was that patient awareness of diagnosis was associated
with a lower level of the clinical symptoms of anxiety and depression.” This was consistent with
other studies cited from other countries, so the authors posited that, “an awareness of one’s own
diagnosis of cancer is cross-culturally associated with a greater psychological well-being.” However,
“it is quite difﬁcult to draw conclusions between the intrinsic or extrinsic spirituality of the patient
and the patient’s awareness of the diagnosis….Limitation of the present study is that the sample is
constituted only by Catholic participants.”
Source: “Spirituality and Awareness of Diagnoses in Terminally Ill Patients with Cancer” American
Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, 2017, Vo. 34 (6), 505-509).
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Reaching Out To Our Retired Members
Rabbi Sol Agin, D.D., B.C.C.
I have been asked by Rafael and the Board to try to bring together those colleagues who have left
active chaplaincy (I am not comfortable with the word “retired”). If it is at all possible, I would like to
bring this special group of colleagues together at the convention to be held in Cherry Hill, New
Jersey, in May of 2019. This group will be comprised of chaplains who have left active chaplaincy
and those that are contemplating moving into that category.
At present, NAJC does not provide an outreach or support system for this talented group of people.
While NAJC does not have funds for ﬁnancial assistance there are other ways that NAJC can help. It
will be this group that will get the ball rolling.
Anyone who wishes to share any thoughts with me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or
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Yes, there are Jews in Jail
Chaplain Deborah Schmidt, BCC
I provide chaplaincy for Jewish inmates in the Los Angeles County jail system.
Several times a month, I venture out of my comfort zone and into another reality.!In
this alternative universe, men and women are locked up in little cells. Sometimes the inmate is alone
in a cell that is maybe 9 feet by 3 feet – enough room for a bed, sink and toilet. If the inmate is lucky,
they might be housed in a small cell with a “bunkie,” i.e., a roommate. In this type of jail housing
there’s a ‘common area’ and the ubiquitous platform where guards watch over the round metal tables
and chairs bolted to the ﬂoor where a Chaplain or Substance Abuse counselor might sit with an
inmate, a few pay phones (really!) and a TV. Sometimes there is programming, such as a Parenting
class, a GRE class; or simply watching TV or exchanging dirty laundry for clean laundry. Also, if a
request is submitted there is the possibility of leaving one’s cell to visit with a chaplain.
It takes a while to get to where the inmates are housed. First there’s a slider that separates the secure
part of the jail from the non-secure part. If the inmates are not on lockdown, and if I’m on the “Non-
Escort Guest List” I get a green badge and the guard will open the second of ﬁve formidable steel
doors (each, a slider) that form a large cage separating the inmates from the outside world. Next,
there’s a slider, to exit the ‘sally port’, a small exit point in a fortiﬁcation for passage into the next
corridor; next there’s a slider to get to the elevators, which will take me to the ﬂoor where the inmates
are housed. In order to be admitted to the next passageway another guard, in a dark foreboding-
looking central guard station, must notice that I’m waiting to enter, or I can risk annoying the guards
by pressing the intercom and saying, “Slider.” Another slider separates the central hallway from one
of four secure areas. The same guards in this central station are responsible to open this next slider,
and another slider slithers open. Once outside the housing area, another!guard who keeps eyes on the
inmates saunters over to the inner door and unlocks it with a large key. Finally I’m admitted to the
I wait while this same guard appears to be busy with other work. When it’s evident that guard has
ﬁnished their conversation or whatever they are doing, I introduce myself as the Jewish Chaplain and
ask if I can meet with Amber Goldberg (not her real name). I need permission from the guards to visit
with an inmate. Still, this may not be possible if the inmate is in court, away from her cell at the
moment, on lockdown, or has been moved to another housing location. If the inmate isn’t available
on the particular day of my visit, when I return on another day, I repeat the same time-consuming
The guard then,
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Privacy is a luxury not available in jail. Thus, if I do have an opportunity to meet with an inmate we
meet in a noisy room abuzz with close to 100 other inmates. Our meetings take place in the public
space where it’s loud, dirty, and chaotic. Occasionally a guard will shout —“Move that shower line
along, ladies you got 2 minutes” or “Quiet down” or “Not now Jones.”
Finally, I meet the inmate – Amber Goldberg. We sit at one of the tables bolted to the ﬂoor. The inmate
sits on metal bench that has handcuffs hanging off the side. On another day the inmate might have to
sit handcuffed to the bench. Yet I do the same thing as at the spick and span hospital that comprises
another part of my work as a chaplain; where in lieu of bars, art bedecks the hall. I sit with an inmate;
I provide presence and witness to the indescribable pain – physical, emotional and spiritual --these
human beings experience day in and day out.
Amber had submitted no less than 25 requests to meet with a Jewish chaplain. But there are a lot of
women at this facility who had submitted their own requests, and Amber was housed in an out-of-
the-way place where I don’t often have a critical mass of inmates to visit. But last week I did get to
her module.! When the deputy called her name and motioned to where she was sitting I noticed she
was visiting with the Jehovah’s Witness Chaplain. She looked in my direction and waved frantically
mouthing, “Please wait, I need to see you.” So I did.
Five minutes later, when we ﬁnally met, my ﬁrst question was cynical, “Are you Jewish?”
“Yes!” she blurted out enthusiastically, “My dad is Jewish.”
“I’m sorry it took so long for me to get here but I had other inmates to visit.”
Amber was surprised. “There are other Jews here? I haven’t met any other Jews.”
Well, I thought to myself, more than you realize – many inmates have a Jewish parent, or auntie, or
cousin, or boyfriend, or husband, or child.
Amber had something very Jewish that she needed to talk with me about, and it wasn’t about
wanting a kosher diet, a frequent request of inmates. “I’m trying,” she told me, “to connect with God,
but I have so many questions.“
“Questions,” I told her “are a quintessential part of the Jewish faith.“ I settled in for some spiritual
counseling. “Amber,” I said eyeing the silver bible that the Jehovah’s Witness chaplain had just given
her, “hand me that Bible.”
Opening to Exodus Chapter 3, I asked Amber to begin to read: “Now Moses, tending the ﬂock of his
father-in-law… came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a
blazing ﬁre out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush aﬂame, yet the bush was not consumed.
Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight”.” (Exodus 3:1-3) As Amber and I read
together, we explored the story of Moses, the burning bush, and what it means to experience God’s
Presence.!Amber’s curiosity turned into an encounter with the Holy. !
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But Amber’s questions remained. What does it mean to have a relationship with a “Higher Power”?
What does it mean to know that God is with you? How do we know we are in the presence of the
Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He? Am I allowed to question? Is it okay to be skeptical? But as we continued
to read the account, Amber discovered that Moses, too, had questions of God.
As we read more, Amber began to keep count: !Moses challenged God no fewer than ﬁve times: “I
can’t” “I don’t know your name” “I’m afraid” “The Israelites won’t believe me and will laugh at me”
“And besides, I’m disabled and stutter.” Can you imagine that Moses comes to a Holy Place stands
face-to-face with the Sacred and asks so many questions? Amber got it. It’s okay to question. Part of
experiencing God’s Presence in our lives is asking questions and being unsure, and perhaps even a
Knowing nothing about her crime, and cutting her off when she began to tell me, I said: “Amber,
your legal case is for your lawyer. I’m here for you.” I realized that I had spent almost an hour with
Amber. I provided presence, a visit between two human beings where each acknowledges and
witnesses the humanity of the other. Oh, and yes, there was that part when one Jewish Chaplain
visited the LA County jail and sat with another Jew to study a little Torah.