A Quarterly Newsletter of NAJC        Vol. 31 No. 4 ~ Sivan 5779
4200 Biscayne Blvd.   Miami, FL  33137
Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC
Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber, BCC
Certification Chair
Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC
President Elect
Rabbi Lev Herrnson, BCC
Conference Chair
Rabbi Dr. Rena Arshinoff, BCC
Vice President
Rabbi Lynn Liberman, BCC
St. Paul, MN
Membership Chair
Rabbi Dr. Joe Ozarowski, BCC
Rabbi Dr. Moe Kaprow, BCC
Immediate Past President
Rabbi Dr. Mark Goldfarb
Allison Atterberry
Newsletter Editors
Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein, BCC
Executive Director

In This Issue:

Town Hall Meetings, Strategic Planning, & Member Benefits

An Attitude of Gratitude

Building the Ark of a Spiritual Care Encounter

Roots & Branches: A Multi-Faith Pilgrimage to Israel

When Circumstances Demand That We Grow

Lashon Ha-ra, #MeToo, and the NAJC: An Incomplete Agenda

Scenes From Los Angeles, A Week After The Shooting In Poway

Ask Not For Whom The בת קל Giggles…

Caring For NAJC Members: Chesed Committee

Upcoming Events! Save These Dates

Call For Proposals For Joint Conference 2020!

Ties That Bind

Poems: Into Dark Places & The Linded Tree

Reflections On Father James MacNew And the Efficacy Of Prayer

Vanessa M. With A Kiss

A Jewish Chaplain in Livingston County Michigan

Book Review: Words At The Threshold

With Our Members

New חברים

NAJC Officers, Board, & Committees

חג שבועות שמח תשע״ט
Happy Shavuot 5779!
June 9-10, 2019

Town Hall Meetings, Strategic Planning, and Member Benefits

Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC

From the President’s laptop – Report for business meeting

  1. As of 12/10/2018, President reached out to all 599 members
  2. Strategic planning update
    a. We continue to follow up on work done at retreat
    b. President and board member looking at by-laws regarding NAJC structure
  3. Strategic partners update
    a. Presidents and executive directors have begun initiative following Memorandum of Understanding
    b. SK contributes at monthly meetings of presidents and executive directors
    i. SK asserts that spiritual health is a “movement”
    ii. SK advocates for high standards to create trust with the
    vulnerable populations we serve
    c. SK worked with presidents of Strategic Partner organizations to prepare session proposal for American Conference on Physician Health 2019 0919-0921
    d. ACPH conference notification to occur by 0516
    e. Next in-person meeting to occur at APC conference in Orlando, FL June 23rd.
  4. President’s schedule of conference visits
    a. CCAR 0331-0403 Cincinnati, OH
    i. Facilitated session on chaplaincy
    ii. Staffed NAJC booth
    iii. Awareness is growing
    b. CASC/ACSS 0429-0502 Fredericton, NB, Canada (attending a subset of conference)
    c. NAJC 0505-0508 Cherry Hill, NJ
    d. ACPE 0509-0510 Phoenix, AZ (schedule conflict / subset of conference)
    e. APC 0620-0623 Orlando, FL
    f. ACPH Physician Health 0919-0921 Charlotte, NC
  5. President has made presentations on behalf of NAJC
    a. Chicago, IL 2018 1016
    b. Los Angeles, CA 2019 0410
  6. I am glad to talk with you; please call if you’d like to talk

On the experience of working with our Strategic Partners

Dor holech v’dor bah…” Generations come and go (Ecclesiastes 1:4).

NAJC has a long history of collaborative efforts with our Strategic Partner organizations. We have joined

  1. the Council on Collaboration;
  2. the Spiritual Care Collaborative;
  3. the 2003 Joint Conference;
  4. the 2004 meeting in Portland, OR to ratify shared standards;
  5. the 2009 Joint Conference;
  6. the White Paper;
  7. a new interactive document on “The Impact of Spiritual Care” (http://jewishchaplain.net/my-front-page/the-impact-of-professional-spiritual-care/);
  8. and probably much more.

The current efforts to work collaboratively with our Strategic Partners will go farther than these previous connections. The connections will run deeper, and have more impact – inside and outside our organizations. Thus, it is logical that NAJC members wonder about autonomy and identity.

In previous iterations, our erstwhile partners expressed impulses that caused NAJC members to feel suspicious. Certainly, as Jews, we confront the existential, Jungian annihilation fear that undergirds much suspicion of people outside our “tribe.” We have good reasons to worry. History has taught us well.

In one of the meetings with Strategic Partners presidents and Executive Directors, I elucidated the level of our concerns, and the vitality of our interest in maintaining core identity. Those of us in the negotiations are bound by something that looks like patient confidentiality, so some of what we are doing remains in the group. When I can be transparent, I have been and this will continue. Members have access to the Memorandum of Understanding and the latest Progress Report.

People who talk with me notice my enthusiasm for this project. I grew up in Tulsa, OK. I know the “dangers” of working with people who want to “love” me to death. So I am trusting my gut, my experience, and my heart.

I want our field to soar. I want our standards to protect the vulnerable people we serve. I want our shared love for our field to give us multiple connection points.

Yes, our fear is real. And so is the possibility for transformative work together.

Strategic Partner group members value their relationships with those who are different from themselves because they know that they have work to do in embracing difference. They are encouraging us to bring our authentic selves to the table, and I have felt courageous to talk about concerns our group has. My colleagues have met my concerns with compassion and caring. They understand that they – and all of us – are better when we are all our most true selves. These meetings feel very true to Jewish values like:

  1. leadership as service (v’ha-ish Moshe anav m’od),
  2. balancing of aspects of justice and compassion (midat ha-din and midat ha-rachamim),
  3. teaching and learning (lilmod ul’lamed),
  4. and repairing the world (tikkun olam).

I have begun to advocate for spiritual health work as a “movement.” We who do this work live on the cutting edge of a way to be in the world as its demography changes. Our work demands self-awareness and integration. We can demonstrate how to care for people of any faith or no faith. We model what it looks like to have firm roots in our own traditions while opening ourselves to authentic relationship with others. Our skills in non-anxious presence during difficult conversations can bring healing to individuals, families, and communities.

I invite all who worry about the future of NAJC to redouble their efforts to bring their best to our shared endeavors. I am grateful for this moment in which we can dream really big.

A note about Mark Goldfarb

He is too humble to share this, so I will. We in NAJC have known many blessings in our connection with Mark. He has saved us thousands of dollars as he has helped us with our technology questions. He has worked in a number of ways to advance the organization, most recently as our Secretary on the executive board. And I appreciate how he has reflected the values of NAJC in his own “fearless moral inventory” that resulted in his decision to step down. It took courage to look at his life so honestly. What he wanted – work that many of us take for granted – never came to him. What did come to him, though, has been another way to serve the Holy One and our People in a congregation. Please take a moment to reach out if you have had a chance to connect with Mark. We are all better for the work we have done together. Thank you, Mark!

Respectfully submitted,

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An Attitude of Gratitude

Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein, BCC

Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav said “The antidote for depression is gratitude.” I am very grateful.

I am grateful to have worked with an amazingly holy Conference Committee, leading up to one of the largest and most successful NAJC conferences ever! Thank you to Rabbanit Alissa Thomas Newborn, BCC,  incredible chair of the committee, who managed to be very much a part of the conference when she could not be physically present. Everyone on the committee took special roles, but I need to thank Rabbi Ruth Smith, BCC for helping organize all the MC’s at meals, and creating the system for welcoming and incorporating new participants with Rabbi Michelle Stern, BCC, and Cantor Rebecca Carl, BCC (mazal tov on becoming a BCC!) for all the major local schlepping (Torahs, siddurim, pretzels, IV  pole, a gazillion other local details). Rabbi Michelle Stern, BCC and Rabbi Rebecca Kamil, BCC, and Rabbi Lev Hernnson, BCC and Cantor Rabbi Rob Jury, BCC and Bob Tabak, BCC, and Devora Telushkin did so much to help with planning and making sure the conference went well in so many ways. And now I am in trouble, because other members of the Holy Committee who helped with their time, efforts and consideration (and I am afraid I will have offended or missed someone!): Rabbi Dovid Gold, Rabbi Andrea Gouze, BCC, Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC, Rabbi Nina King-Madlam, BCC, Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC, Rabbi Jonathan Malamy, Rabbi Claire Metzger, BCC, Rabbi Paulette Posner, BCC. We had volunteers who served as conveners for sessions, buddies for first time conference attendees, helpers with other parts of the behind-the-scenes work. Thank you al for the amazing work you did (and continue to do) for NAJC!

I am grateful for all of the workshop presenters who went through the application process, prepared their workshops and presented so incredibly well. Reviews are coming in and they are all so positive! And I am grateful for the Keynote speakers – Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, Rabbi Dr. Richard Address, Rabbi Nina Cardin. Each spoke well, taught incredible lessons, and touched my spirit deeply, and I hope the spirits of all who attended their sessions. I am grateful for the work of Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber, BCC and Rabbi Andrea Gouze, BCC who made sure that 9 certification panels happened, so we could bring more of our members to affirming the highest level of professional qualification as spiritual health specialists. I am grateful that our honorees, Rabbis Dayle Friedman, Sandi Berliner and Joseph Telushkin were so easy to honor! Each has been a role model for all of us!

On a more personal level, I am grateful to the NAJC Executive Committee and Board who have been completely supportive and caring since life changed for me on March 13. I know I should have expected caring support from chaplains, but these particular chaplains have exemplified the best that we can offer one another when illness happens. I am grateful for the support and leadership of Rabbi Ziona Zelazo, who has been so terrific with the Chesed Committee, personally for me and so many others. I am grateful for the many members and friends who have expressed their good wishes, added me to their mi shebayrach lists, and put up with my kvetching. I am grateful for my siblings and their families, who have been so present with me through all of these challenges.

I am grateful for the Holy One’s presence in my life, as I try to sort through the things over which I have control, and focus on them, and as I try to let go of the things over which I have no control.

A gazillion years ago, before I became a rabbi officially, I was at the home of one of my congregants. She had a needlepoint on a table which read “When I count my blessings, I count you twice.” I always remembered that message, and now understand it much better.  I am counting each and every one of you twice!

~ Rafael

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Building the Ark of a Spiritual Care Encounter

Rabbi Jason Mann MD, MPH

I was reading about Noah’s Ark in the Torah and it became clear to me that there were many ways that one could see the building of Noah’s Ark as a metaphor for a spiritual care encounter.

עֲשֵׂ֤ה לְךָ֙ תֵּבַ֣ת עֲצֵי־גֹ֔פֶר קִנִּ֖ים תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֶת־הַתֵּבָ֑ה וְכָֽפַרְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֛הּ מִבַּ֥יִת וּמִח֖וּץ בַּכֹּֽפֶר׃

Make yourself an Ark of gopher wood; make it an Ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch.

וְזֶ֕ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֖ה אֹתָ֑הּ שְׁלֹ֧שׁ מֵא֣וֹת אַמָּ֗ה אֹ֚רֶךְ הַתֵּבָ֔ה חֲמִשִּׁ֤ים אַמָּה֙ רָחְבָּ֔הּ וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֥ים אַמָּ֖ה קוֹמָתָֽהּ׃

This is how you shall make it: the length of the Ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.

צֹ֣הַר תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה לַתֵּבָ֗ה וְאֶל־אַמָּה֙ תְּכַלֶ֣נָּה מִלְמַ֔עְלָה וּפֶ֥תַח הַתֵּבָ֖ה בְּצִדָּ֣הּ תָּשִׂ֑ים תַּחְתִּיִּ֛ם שְׁנִיִּ֥ם וּשְׁלִשִׁ֖ים תַּֽעֲשֶֽׂהָ׃

Make an opening for daylight in the Ark, and terminate it within a cubit of the top. Put the entrance to the Ark in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks. (Genesis 6:14-16)

Let’s unpack these verses and see what they have to teach us.

“Make yourself an Ark”

In entering a room to start a visit, the spiritual care provider tries to create a metaphorical “Ark” of sacred place that can shield a patient from being overwhelmed by his thoughts and feelings. The spiritual care provider’s goal is to create an empathic space that can be used to help the patient examine the fear, guilt, anger, and other issues that may have arisen during a hospitalization. The time spent with the spiritual care provider in this sacred empathic space is used to try and clarify issues that trouble the patient so that the patient can try and find healing and peace in the midst of turmoil and the stormy seas that can sometimes accompany illness.

“make it an Ark with compartments”

During the visit the spiritual care provider helps the clients by guiding the dialogue in a number of ways. I like to see this guidance as taking the client through a number of compartments in the Ark that is built for the visit.  Each compartment or room of this metaphorical “Ark” contains a different way to help the patient cope with issues that have arisen during the hospitalization.

When beginning the encounter, the spiritual care provider should never assume that they know which room needs to be explored. It is wise for the spiritual care provider to open the door to many metaphorical rooms and to provide safe guidance when exploring each of these rooms.

At times it makes sense to do a life review, helping the client see the present difficulties in the context of their whole life. At other times the spiritual care provider discusses the resources available to help support the client after the hospitalization. The doors to each of the rooms in this Ark of spiritual care are opened by asking non-judgmental open-ended questions infused with a desire to really listen to the patient, irrespective of the rooms that they choose to enter.

you shall cover it with pitch within and without

The “pitch within”

I have come to understand the pitch within as the self-awareness the spiritual care provider brings to their visits.  The spiritual care provider must keep their emotions and spiritual issues contained within their soul by coating their heart and mind with the pitch within.  The spiritual care provider’s issues can never be allowed to spill into the client’s sacred space.  Much of a spiritual care provider’s training involves the development of an understanding of the issues that they themselves bring from previous life traumas and experiences. This training helps them understand the personal issues that need to be contained by the pitch within. If these issues are not contained, the spiritual care provider cannot effectively minister to a patient’s needs.

The “pitch without”

I view the pitch without as the empathic presence the spiritual care provider brings to the visit. Empathy and compassionate presence can shield the patient so that they feel safe in exploring issues that are troubling. The pitch without creates a safe container for the painful emotions that may accompany the illness. The chaplain’s presence, steering and guiding an exploration of these issues, can lead to deep and painful places which would be unexplored in the absence of this safe container. In the absence of the Ark and the pitch without, the client’s thoughts may be swept away by the complexities of the medical issues and not be addressed or dealt with.  When spiritual distress is not dealt with, its effects interfere with complete healing of body, mind, and spirit.

“the length of the Ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.”

The mystical message embedded in this place in the text can best be discerned through the power of gematria and a bit of juggling of the order of the measurements.

3OO=ש for שמע   Listen. This is the prime directive of all spiritual care visits, to listen with compassionate presence to the narrative of the client. The power of listening can unlock many hidden and painful places that need to be explored.

30=ל for לתת  To Give. The spiritual care provider gives their full attention and intention to the client.  By engaging in this act of giving, the spiritual care provider inevitably receives a great deal of truth and wisdom from their clients.

50=נ for נחמה   Comfort. This is the goal of the encounter. Whenever it is at all possible, the task of the spiritual provider is to help the client find a new place of comfort during a stormy time in their lives.

“make it with bottom, second, and third decks

One of the real wonders and beauty of chaplaincy is that all the clients are unique. They all have different ways of processing the world, and all have different needs during the visit. One approach cannot work in serving all of the clients. When the Ark of the chaplain visit is built, it is wise to make at least three metaphorical decks. These decks represent the types of work that will need to be done by the chaplain during the visit.

Some patients need the dialogue to be very straightforward, with little discussion of spirituality or deeper meaning. The issues the patients need to discuss are concrete questions of how to live and support themselves after discharge in the context of a new illness or disability.

Other patients need to do work on a different deck. The deck they need to visit is one in which feelings of loss or guilt reside.  The vulnerability that accompanies illness frequently awakens past painful emotions that have been hidden or not dealt with, and have become admixed with the present worries and pain. The dialogue of this visit (deck) can be deep and painful, but necessary to facilitate the healing process.

The third deck is the deck of spirituality. On this deck the patients want to discuss their spiritual beliefs. These patients appreciate prayer and discussion of theology.   They see the chaplain as a representative of divinity. The chaplain becomes a channel or access point to divinity, and they utilize the chaplain to make a connection to their spiritual lives as a means of finding hope and comfort.

Final thoughts

A hospitalization can be a stormy time.  Having a vision of placing the client in a divinely constructed “Ark” of care is one way of focusing our minds and hearts on this great opportunity we have been given, to comfort and care for the sick.

~ Jason

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Roots and Branches: A Multi-faith Chaplain’s Pilgrimage to Israel

Rabbi Dayle A. Friedman, BCC

NAJC and our strategic partner organizations, ACPE, APC, NACC and CASC, are co-sponsoring a study tour to Israel February 3-10, 2020. Co-led by Rabbi Dayle Friedman, BCC and Chaplain Mary T. O’Neill, former president of NACC, this journey will foster deep personal reflection, profound dialogue with colleagues across faith traditions, and allow for fruitful exchange with spiritual care colleagues in Israel. Participants will encounter Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy sites, leaders in cutting-edge initiatives, and find grounding in our own spiritual roots.

Mary T. and Dayle will meet with interested colleagues by Zoom at Virtual Open Houses on Thursday, June 27 and Monday, August 19 at 7:30 EDT. For connection information, please contact Dayle: daylefriedman@gmail.com. For details about the trip, please see Web page: https://daattravel.com/Package/41270

When Circumstances Demand That We Grow

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Like any hospital chaplain, when I worked at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, I often sat in on family meetings to be a support to the family and to help hold the space, to be the non-anxious presence that might make the experience just a little bit more bearable for the family. I was there to walk beside the family without judgement, without trying to fix anything or to impact the outcome. I was there to open my own heart, offer unconditional support, and let go of any judgement or desire to control.

On many days, my role in the hospital, like that of the other chaplains, was simply to be present. And that presence could make all the difference.

As someone who has struggled with anxiety much of my life, chaplaincy somehow chose me – helping me learn to manage and handle my own anxiety in order that I might be less anxious when others needed my calm. It is a journey that has continued to deepen over time.

I remember a night on call at the hospital when I was paged to the Emergency Department. A young woman had been in a car accident; she died soon after arriving. Her boyfriend and his father were on their way, but it took time for them to arrive. Once they did, I sat with them. They didn’t say much. They didn’t want a prayer. But somehow it seemed like I needed to stay with him. Their pain filled the room, and their silence. The young man wanted to see his beloved’s body. I arranged the viewing and accompanied them to the viewing room. Their silence and their pain continued to fill every bit of the space around them. My role was minimal. Periodically during the hour or two that I was with them, I wondered if they wanted me there, if I should stay, if I was needed. But I stayed. And when it came time for them to leave, they thanked me profusely for my presence. Though I had done little, my presence had been critical.

Another time, a patient with a large extended family died unexpectedly. Siblings and cousins and nieces and nephews filled the large family room and spilled out into the hallway, wailing and weeping. Grief overflowed. One family member fainted. More family members showed up. Another chaplain arrived. We spoke with one family member or small groups. We held the space. In the midst of overwhelming grief, our presence mattered.

Presence is so much of what chaplains provide. We represent so much more than our own individual selves, and by providing a channel to that which is beyond ourselves, we are able to be a support in ways that at times can be difficult to comprehend.

In March, the Jewish Climate Action Network – MA held a conference, The Second Jewish Climate Change Conference: The Time Is Short, the Task Is Great (the first was in 2015). For a period of about four months, the planning team worked hard together to bring the conference into being. Creating a conference is an exercise in letting go: so many things desired that can’t be included, so many issues that arise and must be dealt with as best they can, so many people with intense view points and feelings to be managed. Each time something new came up, it was a matter of opening our hearts, delving into the matter, deciding how to move forward, and letting go.

All of this with a backdrop of – as now-famous Swedish teenage climate-activist Greta Thornberg said – “our house on fire.” All of this with a backdrop of the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change telling the world that the climate crisis is worse than previously described, that we have just 12 years to turn around our carbon emissions in order to maintain a livable planet. Twelve years.

The stakes are high, unbelievably high.

Which meant that the stakes for our conference were also high; the need for success went beyond our individual concerns about our organization’s reputation. The stakes were high enough to whole other dimension of anxiety and tension during the preparation and implementation of the conference. And yet, for the most part, we stayed calm and focused.

Letting go is something I haven’t always been good at. I tend to be a bit of a bulldog. But the preparation for this conference demanded it of me – together with many other factors in my life and in the world around me, which have also in recent months and years been demanding of me to let go. And so, with each issue that arose, I had no choice but to delve into it, work with others to make a decision, and then let it go and continue to move forward.

As the weeks of preparation went by and the date of the conference approached, I found myself realizing, with some level of surprise, that my usual anxiety about creating an important program was missing. I wasn’t worried, or afraid the conference wouldn’t go well. Most of the time, I was not anxious. I was in the moment. I was present.

As the programming took shape, I made the decision not to lead any workshops or make any big speeches. As president pro-tem of the organization, I would provide a welcome and a brief d’var at the opening plenary and I would provide thanks at the dinner plenary at the end of the conference. My public presence would minimal. I understood that my offering was, as a chaplain, to help make the event happen and then to step back and let other players offer their gifts.

I have always considered the work I do with JCAN, all the environmental and climate work I do, to be chaplaincy work. The day of the conference, I realized again how true that is, as I did what chaplains do in so many settings. I held the space. I checked in on workshops. I put out small fires. I welcomed presenters. I spoke with participants wandering the hallways. I talked with the vendors to see how they were faring. I dropped by the kitchen to appreciate the volunteers making our dinner. I was a non-anxious presence. I was a chaplain. It was like being at a day-long family meeting on steriods.

On some level, it was an easy job. It was easy because for the most part, people were so glad to be together with others who understood how they feel, that they didn’t have to explain anything, that so many ideas for engagement were provided in an upbeat, positive, we-can-do-something-even-if-it-is-just-coming-together-to-care-and-to-get-reinvigorated atmosphere.

As a result of the conference, many wonderful gifts have emerged for JCAN-MA that will enrich and deepen our work into the future. But for me, personally, I am reminded of a visit with a Catholic patient during my first unit of CPE. We talked. At a pause in the conversation, I asked if he’d like prayer. He declined. We talked some more, and the visit drew to an end. As I was leaving, I asked again if he would like a prayer, and he responded, “Our conversation was a prayer.”

I have never forgotten that long-ago visit, but I have repeatedly understood that there are times when prayer takes a different form, as Abraham Joshua Heschel famously noted after the Selma march, “Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” On the day of the Second Jewish Climate Change Conference, my prayer was my presence. My prayer was my connection to all the amazing volunteers and partners who helped the conference come into being and be a success. My prayer was in my conversations, my check-ins with people and workshops, my sense of holding everything that was happening in every room in my heart, even when I couldn’t sit and listen.

One key factor distinguishes those of us who identify as “eco-chaplains” from other chaplains. It is possible to go home from the hospital, from the prison, from the nursing home. It is not possible to go home from the planet. It is our home, and our own houses are on fire. We cannot leave behind the situation we are holding. We live with it day and night – just as everyone who is even mildly aware of the implications of the climate crisis does. Eco-despair is spreading. In order to be able to hold others, we must find a way to hold ourselves.

I went home from the conference, but, like all of us, I went from one part of our house afire to another. In the weeks since, I have found myself gradually re-equilibrating into a new state of being. On the day of the conference, my heart broke open wider, and since then, my ability to be a non-anxious presence and to hold painful space have expanded. I continue to hold within me our time together, and I find myself challenged to hold the reality of our burning planet within me at a deeper level without succumbing to despair, challenged to more calmly walk beside others, offer unconditional support, and accept that despite all I may do, I cannot control the future.

May we all go from strength to strength.


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לשון הרע Lashon Ha-ra, #MeToo, and the NAJC: An Incomplete Agenda

by Rabbi Robert Tabak

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How the Words that You Choose Shape Your Destiny. He was kind enough to provide copies for conference attendees. Rabbi Telushkin opened his talk with a discussion of לשון הרע lashon ha-ra, [literally “evil speech’] a central concept in Judaism. He defined lashon ha-ra, in line with most traditional sources, as speech about someone that is true (as opposed to malicious lies) but that causes them pain or harm.

But the great weight given to this value in liberal as well as traditional branches of Judaism has begun to weigh on me. Needless repetition of petty foibles or mistakes can be harmful. But there are serious critiques of this over-burdened value. One significant critique has been made by feminists, who have pointed out that many parts of what (male) rabbis defined as
לשון הרע lashon ha-ra or gossip were what in women’s conversation were forms of networking, sharing communal news, and building support.

A second major critique is one that I shared in the question period at the conference. Hasn’t an emphasis on לשון הרע lashon ha-ra been used, especially by male Jewish leaders, to silence reports of harassment, misconduct, and abuse? Hasn’t this value, covered with an added layer of the alleged danger of revelations being a “shonde” [Yiddish, a “shame”—i.e. in the eyes of non-Jews] been used by too many Jewish organizations, their funders, or leaders to block action against abusers and abusive systems?

Rabbi Telushkin himself in his book devotes a chapter to the question, “When, If Ever, Is it Appropriate to Reveal Information That Will Humiliate or Harm Another?” This chapter begins with a header citing, “Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed,” (Lev.19:16), a potential counterweight to this value. Rabbi Telushkin’s chapter is disappointing. It does mention sexual harassment as an example when revealing disparaging information is justified (pp.159-60). However, even this chapter’s title fails to recognize the vulnerabilities and pain of victims – mostly, though not always, women and children in our society—and focuses instead on potential “harm or humiliation” to an alleged perpetrator.

The related mitzvah in the next biblical verse of tokhecha –rebuking someone for misconduct–(Lev.19:17) also offers a potential balance to the idea of לשון הרע lashon ha-ra. However, as classically interpreted this is usually restricted to private one-on-one communication, presumably with a peer. (See for example Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hil. Deot, 6:7. I am grateful to Rabbi Rachel Zerin of Providence RI for teaching on and sharing a source sheet on tokhecha.)

Citing (correctly or not) these mitzvot, “leaders” often silence people (in particular women, but also other would-be advocates) with the explicit or implicit message that publicizing or reporting serious misconduct is something only a “bad Jew” would do. The victim, or the witness, by revealing misconduct, becomes the guilty party in this version.

Chaplains are potentially among those who cause harassment or abuse (the situation addressed most directly in the NAJC ethics code); chaplains may be victims themselves of harassment, abuse, or discrimination; and chaplains may be witnesses to such actions (recent or long ago) in either their pastoral encounters or in their roles as staff members of agencies, hospitals, and other entities.

Shouldn’t NAJC—which requires an annual ethics statement from its own members–be part of emerging Jewish coalitions to change the Jewish community? Shouldn’t our commitment to meeting people where they are (ba’asher hu sham—Gen. 21:17) lead us to respect victims and bystanders, whatever their age or gender or sexual orientation, more than those who have caused them harm?

We at the NAJC need to develop more complex discussion of lashon ha-ra and other critical issues. We need to bring in speakers and resources from a variety of Jewish movements and perspectives, including those who challenge a patriarchal version of Jewish values that tends to silence or diminish women and their concerns.

Resources toward our incomplete agenda

Following the activism of the “MeToo/Gam Ani” movements, numerous Jewish resources have been created. I wanted to share a few of them. Many of these web sites open to multiple articles with perspectives by writers from a variety of backgrounds. These are only a starting point.

  1. The SafetyRespectEquity coalition works to ensure safe, respectful and equitable Jewish workplaces and communal spaces by addressing sexual harassment, sexism and gender discrimination. Dozens of individuals and major Jewish foundations support this effort, and many Jewish organizations have adopted its principles as goals. An extensive resource section is: https://safetyrespectequity.org/resources/
  2. Creating Sacred Spaces: Preventing Institutional Abuse in Jewish Communities https://www.jewishsacredspaces.org is another coalition effort with numerous resources.
  3. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College’s Center on Ethics has put together a probing series of questions and posted many articles by people from various perspectives on these topics. For example, “Too often, Jewish values around ethics of speech have constrained victims and bystanders from speaking out. How do we balance the value of an alleged abuser’s good name with the ethical imperatives to seek justice and prevent harm?” https://www.reconstructingjudaism.org/center-jewish-ethics/jewish-ethics-and-metoo
  4. Hadar offers: https://www.hadar.org/torah-resource/rabbinic-voices-sexual-assault
  5. Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance: https://www.jofa.org/jofa-blog-reading-group
  6. Litith Magazine: https://www.lilith.org/blog/tag/metoo/
  7. The Central Conference of American Rabbis: https://www.ccarnet.org/sermons-and-text-study/
  8. Jewish Women International: https://www.jwi.org/metoo-consulting-training

~ Bob

Rabbi Robert Tabak, PhD, BCC is the author of the amendment to the NAJC By-Laws that outlined the basis for a code of professional ethics (1994). He was lead author of the first NAJC ethics code in the late 1990s. He served on the NAJC ethics committee, and co-chaired the Council on Collaboration’s sub-committee that drafted common standards for ethics procedures for six pastoral care organizations (ca. 1994-95). He was a commentator for the “Ethics of Speech” section of A Guide to Jewish Practice: Volume 1-Everyday Living by David A. Teutsch (Reconstructionist Rabbinical College Press, 2011.)

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Scenes From Los Angeles, A Week After The Shooting In Poway.

Paula Van Gelder, BCC

It is Sunday afternoon, May 5, a bright sunny day in L.A. I live in the heavily Jewish Pico-Robertson area, where there are shuls, kosher restaurants and Jewish-owned businesses on almost every block. About 1 ½ miles south of here is the home of Randi Grossman, who just got up from sitting shiva for her sister, Lori Gilbert-Kaye, z”l, killed last week in the terrorist attack at Chabad of Poway.

The news from Israel is not good. Some 700 rockets have been launched against Israel so far. There are reports of deaths and injuries.
Locally, many Angelenos are celebrating Cinco de Mayo, a joyful day for many Mexicans and non-Mexicans alike.

Today is the first day of Rosh Chodesh Iyyar. Earlier this afternoon, I heard some melodious Jewish music that seemed to be coming closer and closer. And it was. As I went up the block to the corner of my street, I saw a procession passing by, at the center of which was a majestically silver-clad Torah under a velvety red chuppah. On the flatbed of a truck in front of it stood a young man who was singing, accompanied by someone on keyboard. I followed the procession several blocks to a small storefront shul on Pico Boulevard that I had not been aware of before. It is called Shuvah Israel Torah Center. As I later learned, its membership comprises people from many different Sephardic traditions, including Syrians, Persians, and Moroccans.

The people escorting the Torah were young and old, men and women, religious and secular, and some men who looked Hassidic. The event was protected by the Los Angeles Police Department, private uniformed security guards, members of the local Shmira neighborhood watch group and undercover guys carrying walkie-talkies.

This had all the hallmarks of a Chabad public celebration, even though it wasn’t Chabad. It was inclusive, welcoming and joyful. Passersby were drawn into the event and were caught up in the dancing, taking selfies, and calling their friends to let them know what was going on. Right next to the shul, a play area had been set up, including an inflatable Spiderman bouncy castle. A clown made balloon animals for anyone who asked. The joy and the music were infectiously uplifting. leading to lots of spontaneous dancing. It was like Simchas Torah on steroids. One song spoke of “Kulanu be-simcha,” and another was an upbeat rendition of the Shema.

I learned from people next to me that the shul has occupied this storefront location for about the past three years. I recognized the property as the site of a former barbershop, where my brother and his friends used to go for haircuts. The proprietor was a Jew from the former Soviet Union who decided to relocate to a less Jewish area. Who can blame him? He found that his business dwindled every Shabbat, during Sefira, and of course, during the Three Weeks preceding Tisha B’Av.

Many businesses have come and gone along Pico Boulevard over the years. I did notice that across the side street from Shuvah Israel a new kosher restaurant has just opened. I wish them well. Along the wall of a nearby school, there is a brightly painted message in Hebrew — “Am Yisrael Chai.”

While being drawn into and participating in this day’s celebration, I realized that it had been planned long in advance and couldn’t possibly be a response to the events in Poway. Yet, to me that is what it felt like. A woman standing next to me shared that there is actually another Torah-welcoming ceremony scheduled for later this afternoon — at a small Yemenite congregation just a bit further east on Pico Boulevard.


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Ask Not For Whom The בת קל Giggles

by Rabbi Dr. Mark Goldfarb

When I began my chaplaincy career in 2003, I felt like I finally arrived home in my professional life. My duties as the Community Chaplain for Columbus, Ohio were challenging, growth-inspiring, and deeply spiritual. I networked with two state prisons, 6 senior care centers, 3 hospitals, and with Cary Kozberg, helped found a Jewish Community hospice organization. I spent my days driving my car in circles in and around Franklin County, Ohio — I even named my car Choni!

For the first time in my Rabbinic career, I had Friday evenings off! I would drive home after my rounds for that day, a visit to the Women’s Prison and three or four Kabbalat Shabbat services at senior care centers, physically exhausted, yet spiritually charged. Welcoming Shabbat in my home, with my family, delicious food (including home baked challah), became habit forming for me. I thought, yes, I could do this for the rest of my career! I thought I heard a בת קל, God’s heavenly voice, giggling.

A professional opportunity for my wife to become the Executive Director of the Jewish Federation in Long Beach, California, brought our family to a new setting and me in search of a new position. No problem, I thought. My earlier calls to southern California explaining my career hopes were met with great enthusiasm and a spoken wealth of opportunities. Again, a בת קל, God’s heavenly voice, giggled. When I arrived in southern California, much to my chagrin, the wealth of opportunities turned out to be 2-3 hours away. Perhaps, a normal commute for those living in SoCal — but not for this mid-west transplant!

No problem, I thought. I needed to complete my CPE training at a nearby hospital and took a bimonthly Rabbi gig at a small congregation. Things were going to work out.

Once I completed my CPE training at St. Joseph Hospital, I was offered a part-time position as a chaplain there! A position that, in 6-9 months, would hopefully become full-time! Excellent, I thought, for it is very difficult living in SoCal on a part-time income. Looking back, I realized I should’ve heard a בת קל, God’s heavenly voice, giggling.

St. Joseph was acquired by a medical group and the full-time position was put on hold… indefinitely. No problem. A Rabbi recently retired from a nearby, small, congregation and I applied and was accepted as its Rabbi in 2008, a position I hold to this day. Though now working solely in a congregation, I nevertheless felt that chaplaincy would be a part of my future career. The congregation was small and in a Jewishly isolated geographic area. At that time, I foresaw the possibility that in 7-10 years, the congregation would not be able to afford a full-time Rabbi and I would need to supplement with a part-time chaplaincy position. I thought this would be an ideal situation combining my two loves and passions, serving as a congregational Rabbi and as a chaplain in a healthcare setting. Was that a בת קל giggling I just heard?

So, I kept one foot active in the chaplaincy world. I had been editing the NAJC Newsletter for a couple of years already then, and would continue to do so. I became the convener of the St. Joseph CPE Professional Advisory Group, and did didactics on the “care of your Jewish patient” with the CPE students, as well as responding to calls for a Rabbi to visit with patients.

I was invited to serve on the NAJC Board and thought this would likewise continue to build my chaplaincy connection in the future. I continued to edit the NAJC Newsletter and enjoyed the work on the NAJC Board the חברות with the Board members and our Executive Directors, Cecille and Rafael. Yep, I thought, this is going to work out great. To help cement my future, I applied for Certification with NAJC in 2017.

We mortals make plans, the saying goes, and God laughs. Though I met almost all of the competencies, the committee had concerns in three areas and I was denied certification. Initially, I was deeply hurt and frustrated. However, within days, I began making plans to address those remaining competencies. But then I heard the בת קל giggling — and this time, paused before continuing with my plans.

I set out on a trajectory in 2003 that life was calling me to chaplaincy and the more I tried to force that, the more life took me in another direction! As I did חשבון הנפש, taking a personal account of my soul and passions, as well as חשבון מקצוע, an exploration of my professional goals, I realized I hadn’t updated those goals with what was happening in my life.

Today, my congregation is doing well. We keep adding a few households each year and my duties and responsibilities have continued to grow as our congregation has grown. My perceived need that a position as a chaplain must be part of my professional future, is no longer the case. As my attention, focus, and energies continue to be more and more consumed by my congregation, I realize I have less time to devote to chaplaincy as a profession and the NAJC as an organization. Though trying to be helpful, I realized that I was doing more of a disservice to an organization I’ve been intimately involved with for over 14 years.

So, I say, להיתראות to NAJC and thank you! I am grateful to the past support of Cecille Asekoff with whom I worked closely on the Newsletter and as a Board member. I am grateful to our President, Sandra Katz, and the past Presidents with whom I’ve worked. I am especially grateful to Rafael and his exquisite leadership of NAJC. I keep him in my thoughts and prayers for continued healing and strength to lead our organization. I look forward to working with Allison as she takes on more of the web page management and Newsletter editing. To all the members of NAJC I say בהצלך here’s to your success in providing spiritual care to those in need!

Did you just hear something? Was that a בת קל giggling?


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NAJC Cares: Chesed Committee

Chesed Committee

The NAJC Chesed Committee has been a tremendous success and has provided support for NAJC members living with illness, in economic crisis, or experiencing loss.

  • Let us know if you are sick, if a loved one is sick, or if you are grieving a significant loss, and we will follow up with you.
  • We will post your name in Hebrew and/or English, in the Weekly Updates for  Mi Shebeirachs, and work with you on how we can best support you through your tsuris.
  • Your privacy will be maintained. Your well-being is our well-being.

To contact the Chesed Committee, click here.

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Upcoming Events! Save These Dates:

June 26, 2019: Palliative Care Webinar
The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine , in collaboration with the National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care and RAND Health are pleased to officially announce a free public webinar to educate health care providers and the public about a Palliative Care Quality Measures Project that is currently underway through a cooperative agreement with CMS.

Register Here!

Thursday, June 6, 2019, 12 PM EDT: Case Studies Forum!
With Rabbi Zahara Davidowitz-Farkas, BCC.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019, 10:30 AM EDT: Certification Forum!
facilitated by Rabbi Andrea Gouze, BCC
For people thinking about certification, in the process of applying and people who have recently experienced the process to share, discuss, and enhance the experience. Last Tuesday of every month at 10:30 AM EDT

Thursday, June 27, 2019, 1:30 PM: Healing Text Study Forum
with Rabbi Jason Weiner, BCC. Held every last Thursday of the month at 1:30 PM EDT.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019, 12 PM EDT: Hospital Chaplains Forum
With Barry Pitegoff every last Wednesday of the month at 12 PM EDT

Wednesday, June 12, 2019, 12 PM EDT: Long Term Care Forum
With Rabbi Beverly Magidson every second Wednesday of the month at 12 PM EDT

The above forums are all on Zoom – you can join any seminar from anywhere in the world using a computer, tablet or cell phone, and see, be seen, talk, be heard, just like you are in the same room with all the other participants! You can or even use an old fashioned phone (but you won’t see or be seen)! Free of charge!!! Sign into Member 365 to register!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2019, 9:30 AM EDT: Spirituality Near The End Of Life

Click here for more information & registration!

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May 2020: Strategic Partners in Spiritual Care Leadership  Conference (ACPE, APC, NAJC, CASC) will be held in Cleveland, OH

Call For Proposals For Professional Development Intensives (Pre/Post Conference Intensives)

The 2020 Joint Conference Theme is 20/20 Vision: The Future of Spiritual Care which invites you to share your expertise, inspire colleagues, stimulate thoughtful discussion, and educate others on important issues within institutional chaplaincy/spiritual care and psycho spiritual therapy.

On behalf of the Partners for Professional Excellence in Spiritual Care (Partners), we invite submission of proposals for Professional Development Intensives (also called Pre/Post Conference workshops) which are eight- and four-hour sessions and 90 Minute Workshops for our 2020 Joint Conference, May 11-14 in Cleveland, Ohio. Intensives will begin on May 10.

Our goals at the 2020 Conference will be:

  • Share leading practices in research, professional development, and credentialing
  • Strengthen professional relations
  • Focus our time, talents and resources on those most vulnerable
  • Grow our practical and professional skills

We also want proposals that recognize, engage, and expand the diversity within our field, for example: international or intercultural collaborations; military, prison, outpatient, or workplace chaplains; care for pediatric, geriatric, rural, newly immigrated, or indigenous populations; chaplains/spiritual care providers familiar with misunderstood spiritual/religious constituencies; chaplaincy care with LGBTQ sensibilities; how race, gender, sexuality, or disability relate to spiritual care; one-person departments; retirement; etc.

Please follow this link to the call for proposal information and proposal application forms located on the Partners for Professional Excellence in Spiritual Care 2020 Conference website: http://www.professionalspiritualcare.org.

The deadline date for receiving proposals is July 1, 2019.

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Ties That Bind

by David Balto

I was a chaplain student at the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington. One of my residents was a Rabbi from a synagogue in working class Dorchester Massachusetts (inner city Boston). He was well recognized spiritual leader who led his community through difficult times as the Jewish community moved to the suburbs in the 1960s. He was a Rabbi for over 70 years as a leader of his community and I had a particular fondness for him. As a child my best friend was able to attend his synagogue Hebrew School even though his family lacked the money for any education. He let him attend and only asked for a quarter once a month.

Those were trying times for the Jews in Dorchester. There was tremendous strife in the community as banks tried to break Jewish neighborhoods, there was racial division and riots. The Rabbi was a leader in trying to bridge those differences. He marched with Dr. King from Selma to Montgomery. He invited major Black leaders to a highly publicized seder in the mid 1960s and worked hard to develop avenues of dialogue. He was instrumental in the creation of interfaith advocacy for fair housing. He was one of the first major Rabbis in Massachusetts to oppose the war in Viet-Nam.

Now he was in his 90s, a kind and gentle man who always tried to smile for those around him. He was suffering from dementia and other ailments. He was wheelchair bound. He might not remember a person from one day to another. He enjoyed coming to services, but simply was not physically capable of putting on tefillin.

So I would bring him to services and help him put on tefillin.

I would take out his tefillin from his well worn tefillin bag and wonder about their history. How many times had these tefillin been taken out and worn? How had they aged as the Rabbi aged? How many times had they been repaired and checked. I was quite sure the texts were perfect, like the נשמה neshama (soul) that Hashem had restored for the Rabbi each day.

I looked at his frail but faithful eyes. Did he remember me from day to day? I held his hand and looked him in the eyes. I reminded him who I was and that we were going to put on tefillin. He seemed reassured, hopeful.

And then I thought about his looking into the eyes of young boys, 12 year olds, preparing for their Bar Mitzvah. Those eyes of uncertainty and hope, those eyes reflecting the awe of meeting with the Rabbi, those eyes which were windows to the anxious souls preparing for their special day of becoming a part of the Jewish people.

And I imagined the Rabbi’s eyes and his touch in meeting those thousands of students. How he would take the young boys by the hands, take out the tefillin and show them the wonder of putting them on. How he would patiently teach them about every aspect of the tefillin, the boxes, the vital teachings on parchment inside.

He would look at the students and hold them in a way to tell them what was in his heart “you are ready to become Bar Mitzvah, you will make everyone proud, and by binding yourself with these tefillin you will connect with all of the Jews around you and with the people in your family who have done this for generations.”

And when he would wrap the tefillin around the boy’s arms he would explain that we wrap around our arms to feel Gd’s love for us, and we wrap around our middle fingers to show the threefold bond between us and Gd, that we will love Gd with all our heart, and soul and might. We wind the tefillin as if we wind a wedding ring around our finger.

And I would support his very thin arm and cradle it. I said to myself this arm held and supported many young men, with this arm he would embrace the students to give them confidence, to guide them. And I would wrap the tefillin around his arms as he did countless times before.

And I would take the Rosh tefillin and place it on his head. His head is smaller, the tefillin are loose. But I envision the tefillin as a crown, reminding us of the wisdom he possesses how he guided so many of his brethren for decades.

And I wrap the tefillin around his fingers

And I recite Hosea (2:21)
“I will betrothe you to me forever” ( and I say “Gd’s love for the Rabbi is eternal”)
“I will betrothe you to me in righteousness” (Gd blesses him with the vision of and the ability to call for righteousness”)
“in justice” (he knows what is just and seeks justice)
“in kindness” (his heart is guided by kindness in reaching out to those in need)
“and in mercy” (his acts of kindness help others feel Gd’s mercy)
“and I will betroth you to me in faithfulness and you shall know Hashem.”

And as I finish I realize although he is silent and looks anxious, deep inside is a vibrant abiding faith, far stronger than his outward frail body. A faith that has been vital throughout his life.

The Zohar says “When a man wears tefillin a voice proclaims to all the angels of the Chariot who watch over prayer. “Give honor to the image of the King, the man who is wearing the tefillin.” The Torah says of this man “Gd created man in His image.” For this man is wearing the same tefillin as the Master of the world.”

And by wrapping tefillin on the Rabbi, by helping the Rabbi be bounded closer to Gd, I feel myself being bound, feel my own heart being opened and feeling closer to Gd. I see the words of Hosea clearer, a guide to becoming and feeling the power of Gd’s love.


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Into Dark Places


The Linden Tree

by Rabbinic Pastor/Cantor Lisa Levine

Into Dark Places

Fractionated light shines through the clouds

Casting a glimmer over the rain drenched trees

Red and orange yellow and brown

as the seasons turn from light to darkness

The warmth of the suns rays 

penetrate the eerie sky 

bring a sense of hope

And peace to my heart

So many memories of love and friendship

So many moments of strife and disappointment

Through the devastation of my life

People who shine like rays of light

Bring me back to what really matters 

What is it that really motivates me?

What is it that I truly need?

In order to feel whole and fulfilled

Sometimes the Devil really is in the details

Sometimes its impossible 

To separate  myself from the task at hand

Just like the leaves falling from the trees 

And the rain falling from the sky

All part of the regeneration of life

So too 

I must continually say goodbyes 

in order for that rebirth

To happen

And though it’s painful 

And there is much grief involved

There is also much promise

There are no regrets 

Maybe tinged with sadness there are things

I would have done differently

But at my core I have not changed

 I am still the feisty opinionated strong gutsy

And loving person I have always been.

That seed was planted in death

And the grief of death from my beloved ones

Has grown into a strong sapling 

Ready to become a mighty oak.

And so our lives

are a series of growths from strength to strength

From death to life 

From hellos and goodbyes

To love and hate 

From laughter and tears

To dancing and mourning

From triumphs and disappointments

To deep learning 

deep gratitude 

unfathomable intentional being. 

The Linden Tree 

The linden tree is starting to bloom

It dies off each year 

And loses its leaves 

Baring the beautiful branches 

To the cold winter and yet

With the first sign of spring 

Gives me a little temptation 

It pops again and is reborn

Soon it will be covered 

With full green, lush foliage 

Providing shade and shelter

Home to the lost

So too that spirit 

Which has left its body

Escaping the earth and leaving behind 

Pained and hurting the living 

I am bereft 

At the loss of my loves

My soul branches bare and raw to the cold

My heart laid open to the ravages of loss

And yet…

When a light of memory 

Shines in to warm my grieving 

My flame is reborn 

The leaves of love 

Are the foliage 

The lush remembrances of words

The warm feeling of embraces

I am sheltered 

I am shaded

I am certain

That everything 

Returns to the Source.

Tree and branch 

Wind and leaf 

Fir and frond 

Arms and eyes and lips and hearts. 

Soul memory 

Intertwined with my branches 

Love is never lost. 


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Reflections On Father James MacNew And the Efficacy Of Prayer

by Rabbi Dr. Sanford H. Shudnow

I’m fond of telling the story about the efficacy of prayer and specifically a story about when I was stationed with the United States Navy at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, located just on the border of Washington, DC. It is also known as the President’s Hospital. In the last few years, the hospital was expanded and been renamed Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Catholic priest, Father James MacNew and I worked closely together on staff of the Pastoral Care Services and became very fond of each other. We were very close. He asked me one day if I would go to visit his mother, who he referred to as ‘Mom.’ She was in the hospital, at our medical center as an inpatient. He said that he would like me to pay her a visit. So the two of us went up to her room in Building Ten.

He asked me if I would pray for his mother. I asked him, “How would you like me to pray? Would you like me to pray as I always pray, in Hebrew?” He answered, “Yes, please. Just pray as you always pray and in Hebrew.” So I asked him his mother’s name. Actually, I knew her. Father and Mom lived in an apartment in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. I had on a few occasions visited the two of them there for chaplain social gatherings.

Preparing to pray for Mom, I asked for Mom’s mother’s name, because in our Jewish tradition we pray for the health of a person on their mother’s name. I believe that her mother’s name was Catherine. I prayed the usual Rabbinic prayer for healing and welfare of the ill and then I translated the prayer, as I often do, into English. After a very regular pastoral visit, eventually I left and went about my usual rounds.

A few days later Father MacNew came up to me and said, “Rabbi, you are a holy man, and I want you to know that you and your prayers have saved my mother.” I really didn’t know why he was saying that. So I asked, “What do you mean?” Father MacNew said, “Mom was in the hospital for tests for cancer and they really did not ever expect her to leave the hospital because of what they believed she had. Well, Mom was released from the hospital and to their surprise all the tests proved negative. They found no evidence whatsoever of cancer. This is all because of your prayers. Rabbi, you saved my mother!” Father MacNew then gave me a big hug.
Father MacNew, a truly prayerful and pious person, clearly believed that through my prayers, his mother was healed from any cancer whatsoever.

Let me explain my take on this. Well, frankly speaking, I don’t consider my prayers as mine, but rather I think of them in terms of my mother, Rose Herman Shudnow, may she rest in peace, and her spirituality and her holiness. In a real sense I am channeling my prayers on behalf of others through my truly believing and faithful mother.

Speaking of my mother Rose and her prayer is in a sense like Tevye in Broadway’s sensational musical, ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ My mother like Tevye, was a person who was completely in contact with God in all moments of her life. I especially remember the prayers that my mother would pray when lighting the Sabbath candles — Erev Shabbat — each Friday evening, before Shabbat, at the onset of sunset. She would cover her hair with what she called a ‘babushka.’

As a child growing up in Chicago, I would always watch my mother as she would take some coins and drop them into what she called ‘the pushkah’ — the charity box or tzedakah box, and then she would light the candles. After lighting the candles, she would close her eyes quietly reciting a berakhah — a blessing and with her hands upraised she would waive the flames up to heaven, all the while praying to G-d from the heart in a language which she didn’t quite know, because she never actually studied Hebrew. Mother did as she had been taught by her mom, Sarah, having listened to her mother and how she prayed and prayed over the candles for the care and keeping of the family; expressing her unfailing love of everyone. And with her hands still covering her eyes and her eyes closed, she would cry with tears welling up dripping down her cheeks.

I experienced this heartfelt phenomenon every Erev Shabbat, every Sabbath and Holy Day eve. As can be imagined, this made a profound impression upon me. My mother taught me true prayer, to be in direct contact with G-d. Every evening as a child I would pray with my mother, not so much Jewish prayers or Hebrew prayers, but standard prayers such as , “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” I know this sound odd, since for so many years, my prayers are in Hebrew, but the standard English prayers did the job of connecting with G-d and held me in good stead with those in need of prayer throughout my Naval Chaplaincy career.

I believed then, as I do today that God is always listening to our prayers.

Returning to our story of Chaplain Father MacNew, after a period of time passed, he was promoted to the rank of Commander from Lieutenant Commander. He invited people for the so-called wetting down ceremony. No drinks were involved at the daytime ceremony held in the Admiral’s Suite on the fifth deck of Building One in the famous Naval Tower at the Medical Center, designed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

We went through the shoulder board ceremony, where he received his additional full stripe. Father then invited me along with everyone else present, to eat pizzas that he had provided. I wasn’t eating, so he asked me why I was not eating. Hesitatingly, I said because I can’t eat non-kosher food. He said that he knew that I wouldn’t eat, so he decided to go to the Kosher pizza shop in Silver Spring, which is known as The Nut House. He said that he ordered and purchased Kosher pizzas for the ceremony. I looked at him and he then looked back at me and he said, “You know, when I ordered the pizzas, the owner of the shop looked at me and seeing the cross on my uniform collar, the owner asked me, ‘Why are you ordering these Kosher pizzas?’ I said, ‘Well, there’s a rabbi, a Jewish Chaplain in Bethesda at the Navy and he will not eat anything unless it’s Kosher, and I want him to feel comfortable and be able to eat the Kosher pizzas.'” So Father MacNew then said to me, “You know what the reaction of the owner was? He cried!”

There were many other instances I would like to tell you at another time about Father MacNew and me. Let me end with a story about when Father retired from the United States Navy. He sent me an invitation from where he then had been stationed in New Jersey and while I was already retired from the Navy after my 22 years of naval service. The invitation was to his retirement ceremony to be held at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He chose Annapolis since at one time he was stationed there as an Academy staff chaplain.

I decided to accept the invitation and drove out to Annapolis. An admiral that he had served under conducted the ceremony. The ceremony was impressive with beautiful words and prayers expressed. He received a well deserved career medal. Following the ceremony and as he always did, Father MacNew came up to me and he said, “Holy Rabbi.” He then said to me, “Rabbi, you’ll come to the luncheon in the Officers Club” So I replied something to the effect, “No, no, you know … I’m not … can’t … I’m sorry.” He said, “You come, don’t worry, I have two Kosher catered lunches for you and I’d like you to come.”

Well, that was Father James MacNew and his specialness.

I’ll end with one thing that he said at an earlier date. He looked me in the eye and said, “You know, everyone comes to the table with gifts, but your greatest gifts go unappreciated, because they’re not understood. Rabbi, you’re a holy man.”

We’ll have more to say about my relationship with Father, the efficacy of prayer, and the relationship between a Catholic priest and a rabbi.


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Vanessa M. With A Kiss

by Dvorah Telushkin

When I passed Vanessa M. last Shabbat while carrying the Torah, she lifted her arm and softly brushed the royal blue velvet cover. I wondered why she did not bring her fingers to her lips as she had always done. And why had she gotten so thin? For four years she had been coming regularly to our services – where I am a chaplain intern — at The New Jewish Home; an African American nurse from South Carolina, with a distinctly erect posture, she allowed her hand to sweep downward but not to fall. I had to keep moving toward Ruthie and Rachel and Faye whose hands were already lifted to kiss the Torah.

Ruthie and Rachel knew the words “Baal HaChalomot” from the portion of Genesis being discussed. In this Torah portion, Joseph is bragging to his brothers about his dreams that describe how eleven stars, the sun and the moon, will one day bow down to him. In turn, the brothers say of him mockingly, “Here comes the master of dreams.” Ruthie and Rachel also understood the word Balaboos; the Master of the House, and the similar root, Baal T’filah, the Master of Prayer.

Following Rabbi Malamy’s tradition of dedicating the service to the memory of a resident who had just died, the service was being dedicated to Barry Gershenhorn, עליו השלום alav Hashalom (may his soul rest in peace), who had passed away the night before. His children were upstairs in his room, cleaning out his belongings. The Torah cover, in honor of his wife, had been his gift to the New Jewish Home. The glittering silver embroidery reads ‘In Memory of Rhoda Gershenhorn.’ Barry’s son had asked us to sing one of Barry’s favorite songs, “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands,” during the service. One nurse spoke during our Parsha discussion, saying she had only once in her life had a vivid dream: when she immigrated from Russia, her late mother had appeared to her. Upon awakening, her mother’s scent was palpable and all around her. Another man, Harold, who had just lost his mother at The Home was visiting, and said, “Only now do I understand what you guys do. Only now, after I lost my Mom, can I fully appreciate it .” And I felt comforted by Harold’s words. In a metaphysical sense, I knew he had joined us. He had arrived at a “place” — a place that cannot be fully described in words. The Talmud says the ideal process of dying, as it had been for Harold’s Mom, is a very peaceful and spiritual death. It can be as “painless as taking a hair out of milk.” (Berakhot 8a) And Harold has just now begun to enter that place of understanding. Everyone in the room sat briefly, together, in that place.

The Challah and wine and grape juice were being passed out and they passed by Vanessa M, thinking she was sleeping. We had just finished reciting the Kaddish and, in honor of Barry, had completed our rendition of, “He’s got the Whole World in His Hands.” After the standard verses — “He’s got you and me brother,” and “He’s got the mountains and the rivers,” a few spontaneous lyrics were called out, “He’s got Irving and Russel, in His Hands,” and “He’s got the birds and the turtles…”

And then transporters began taking the residents home to their rooms when one woman came running back crying, “She’s dead!!”

Vanessa M. had died in our service.

The transporter had taken her upstairs and left her with the head nurse on her floor.

We all gathered in a circle; the volunteers, the transporters, and Patty, the musician consultant, was with us as well. We realized Vanessa must have died while we were singing to Barry. Everyone was stunned and alternatively in awe. Again, we all sat, briefly, in that “place.”

We tried to imagine the heavenly kiss that was granted by the angel of death. What a blessing to be taken, surrounded by singing and prayers. Patty said she must have trusted our space enough to allow herself – to allow her soul — to be released and transported here in this spot. And I feel honored and in reverence that the last thing Vanessa M. did in her life was to touch and caress our Torah.

(Dvorah Telushkin is the author of Master of Dreams, a memoir of her fourteen years as translator and assistant to I.B. Singer. She is presently a chaplaincy intern at The New Jewish Home, and is preparing to receive her board certification with the National Association of Jewish Chaplains in May. She is also completing a MA in Sacred Music at the Jewish Theological Seminary College of Jewish Music.)


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A Jewish Chaplain in Livingston County Michigan

by Nehama Stampfer Glogower

I didn’t seek a job in hospice, but that’s the job I was offered: half time spiritual care coordinator in Livingston County. There were a lot of good reasons to not pursue this position: How would I feel about working with people had no chance of recovery? Could a Jewish chaplain be accepted in one of the least diverse counties in the area? But a chance for steady income trumped everything else, so I said yes.

During my training at St. Joe’s Hospital I was used to seeing people just once or, at most, a few times. I was a spiritual medic. Now I would become something more along the lines of a death doula, helping people make that final journey.

A big question was whether or when to reveal that I am Jewish. I have an unusual name, and that is usually the big tip off … or the opportunity, depending on how you look at it. Typically they will say “Ne-ha-ma, is that an ethnic name?” And I say, “Yes, it’s Hebrew. I am a Jewish chaplain.” I continue, “ I am proof that God has a sense of humor, because he sent this Jewish chaplain to work for a Catholic agency in Livingston County, where there are no Jews.” They laugh; it is always convenient to blame God. But then I go on, “But here’s the cool thing. I am named for my grandmother, and I would be named Nehama if I were an accountant or a cashier. But the word itself means ‘consolation,’ so I guess I am doing what I am supposed to be doing.” That usually seals the deal.

People often have trouble with my name. There was one patient I always saved for the end of the day because she was a smoker, and the cigarette smell would cling to me. I figure that one of the perks of being on hospice is that you can ingest whatever you want. Fortunately she was always very careful to turn off her oxygen when she smoked. I do have my limits.

She struggled with Nehama. For a while she called me Mahatma, which I thought was pretty cool. But then she settled on “Hot Mama,” which was the best. She was quite outspoken about many topics, and the fact that she let me visit every week was quite a compliment. When I received a note from her grandson thanking me for my visits it was addressed, “Dear Hot Mama.” That was a keeper.

When asked about my work and I say “I am a hospice chaplain,” it is usually a conversation stopper. But then there’s a pause followed by, “Isn’t that very depressing?” I tell them that, in all honesty, it is often very sad, but I don’t find it depressing. Every day I get to witness incredible kindness. “You have no idea how much good there is in the world,” I tell them.


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Book Review: Words At The Threshold: What We Say As We’re Nearing Death

by Karen B. Kaplan

With all of the years of chaplain experience that I have, rare is the book about dying that raises my awareness of how to do my job better. The author Lisa Smartt is a linguist and the essence of the whole book is that the talk of persons who are going to die relatively soon, from a few hours to a few weeks, reflects “consistent patterns that emerge in language at the end of life.” Her data consist of 1,500 English utterances gathered over a period of four years. Some of the patterns she found include paradoxical statements such as, “I understood everything everyone said, but not a word was spoken,” metaphors such as “Yellow bus… lots of angels are driving that bus,” or visions such as seeing ancestors or spiritual figures.

After I read Smartt’s numerous categories and examples, I started to notice this special pre-death talk more often while doing my own hospice work. I then found myself responding to this special way of talking in a much more tuned-in manner than before, letting myself explore what the person was trying to convey. Just the other day a gentleman who only leaves his room in a recliner to relax in the sunroom informed me, “I have to go to a meeting.” I asked, “What is the meeting about?” (Other staff might have tried to “reorient” him by saying there was no meeting he had to attend.) He said, the meeting “is about everything.” I echoed, “Everything?” and then reflected, “That’s going to be a really really long meeting.” Chuckling, he agreed with that. I thought to myself, he might have been referring to what professionals call “life review,” i.e., the kind of run-through of our life story that some people do during the period of time before the very end as well as at other key moments of their lives.

Another characteristic this book includes is intensified language, or what I would call heightened sensitivity. I will never forget the time a patient said to me, hours before dying, that the water I gave her “was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted.”

If you find these examples engaging or touching, you will find anecdote after anecdote in Words At The Threshold, some of which are very poignant. One is about a woman who kept referring to five boxes she had to organize. Her daughter thought maybe the boxes stood for her and her four siblings, and at that her mother got agitated and exclaimed, “I need to find a place for them!” She did not calm down when her daughter mentioned where each one of them lived. Finally when the daughter said to her mother she could keep them in her heart, she became calm and relieved. A lesson here for all of us who may in our personal or professional lives be with someone talking near the end, is to not be too literal and instead get at deeper things such as love and other values.

Besides sensitizing me how to better connect with patients when they engage in “threshold talk,” this book also teaches me to recognize it as an indicator that patients may be nearing the end. So many times, as families struggle with uncertainty, they ask me how long their loved one has. Not even nurses always get this right, and we do not want to increase anyone’s distress by guessing wrong. Especially way wrong. But at least threshold talk can be a guide, and I can let families know that not a whole lot of time may be left. Another benefit of this book is that it shows us how to make the most of a loved one’s end-of-life talk, for example by keeping a journal of all of the utterances to look for patterns of meaning among them, and by thinking of conversing with them as if we were learning a new language in a new land.

My only caveat is that at times, Lisa Smartt thinks that threshold talk hints at an afterlife, partly because the language is like what people who have had near-death experiences use. She thinks of these people as having died and returned, and that the similar language they use is suggestive of consciousness after death. But one could reason the reverse: that since people use such language on other occasions that do not have to do with their actual final death, that this disproves anything about threshold talk pointing to the existence of an afterlife, as comforting and moving as that would be. The author is a poet as well as a linguist, and so I take her comments about consciousness after death in that spirit.


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With Our Members

מזל טוב

  • To the following who received Board Certification:
    Rabbi Deborah Schloss
    Rabbi Rebecca Kamil
    Rabbi Daniel Braune-Friedman
    Rabbi Adam Law
    Chaplain Ronnie Abrams
    Cantor Rebecca Carl
    Rabbi Melissa Crespy
    Chaplain Mark Daniels
    Chaplain Chasiah Haberman
    Cantor Donna Faye Marcus
    Chaplain Barry Pitegoff
  • Yehuda Blank on his appointment by the Rabbinical Alliance of America as Director of Chaplaincy Commission and External Affairs.
  • Julie Schwartz on birth of first grandchild, Irwin Eric Ballaban.
  • Joe Ozarowski on the birth of his granddaughter, Ayelet Rivka Ozarowski, daughter of Rabbi Eli and Zemira Ozarowski of Mitzpe Yericho, Israel.
  • Cecille Allman Asekoff on her upcoming retirement from MetroWest NJ.
  • Ziona Zelazo on receiving the Association of Rabbis and Cantors Alumna of the Year award.
  • Mazel Tov to the following NAJC Members who received their honorary Doctorate of Divinity degrees from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion:
    Rabbi Ruth Alpers, ACPE, BCC
    Rabbi Claire Metzger, BCC
    Rabbi Pamela Wax
    Rabbi Menorah Winston
  • Jason Weiner, BCC on the birth of his daughter!

רפואה שלימה

  • Rabbi Dr. Samuel B. Press, Ha’Rav Shalom ben Pessel
  • Avraham Rosenthal, Avraham Meyer ben Zelda Baila
  • Sol Agin, Shalom Ben Yitzchak v’shainah Deenah
  • Brenda Gladden Ulrich, best friend of Tamara Jaffe
  • Ece Kocak, Rabbi Sandra Berliner’s daughter-in-law
  • Bonita Taylor, suffering from traumatic brain injury
  • Natalie Robinson, Nechama Leah bat Elka, mother-in-law of Simcha Rafael
  • Rabbi Dr. H. Rafael Goldstein, Harav Rafael Zvi ben Yaacov v’Leah
  • Rabbi Chaim Eliezer a’Levi ben Leah
  • Robert Dinerstein, Reuven ben Miriam, brother of Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs, who is at stage 4 pancreatic cancer
  • Sarah bat Bayla Zlateh, mother of David Balto.
  • Rabbi Joan Sacks, Ha Rav Yael bat Shimeon v’Sarah, who continues to recover from on-going falls, resulted in concussions, multiple spine surgeries and broken bones.
  • Rabbi Louis Rieser, HaRav Rachmiel Aryeh Leib ben Ellen ve’Avraham. There is a  CaringBridge site for updates: https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/louisrieser
  • Stacey Fried, Shifra Chana bat Shulamit v’Moshe Ber, first cousin of Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips, in treatment for a rare cancer and related auto-immune disease. There is a  CaringBridge site for updates:https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/staceyfried.  
  • Noah Fox, Noach Ben Yehudit, son of Rabbi Valerie Joseph, who has finished half course of his chemotherapy for Hodgkins Lymphoma.
  • Nechama Tova bat Chana Yehudit Ora, three year old granddaughter of Rabbi Joe Ozarowski
  • Chaplain Marcia Miller
  • Noam Daniel Ben Gilah, Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber’s son
  • Dr. Helen Freer
  • Eli Sharon

המקום ינחם 

  • Nathan Goldberg on the death of his mother, Mrs. Evelyn Kelman Goldberg.
  • Rona Matlow on the death of her mother-in-law, Patricia Campbell.
  • Stephanie Dickstein on the death of her father-in-law, Dr. Ira Weinstein.
  • Joe Ozarowski on the death of his uncle, David Ozarowski.
  • Menorah Winston on the death of her sister, Aurora Elka.
  • Ben Samson on the death of his sisters, Minna Sebrow and Miriam Baharan.
  • Anna Beroll on the death of her aunt, Lenny Palmer.

ישר כוח

  • Rabbi Joseph Telushkin who received the Anita and Dr. Barry Kinzbrunner Distinguished Service Award from NAJC at the Convention.
  • Rabbi Sandi Berliner, BCC who was recognized by NAJC with the  award for Outstanding Service during the Convention.
  • Rabbi Dayle Friedman, BCC who was recognized by NAJC with the  award for Outstanding Service during the Convention.

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New חברים

Professional Member

  • Adam Ruditsky, Encino, CA
  • Brian Nelson, Cary, NC

Associate Professional Member

  • Rayna Grossman, Philadelphia, PA
  • Mimi Ferraro, Melrose Park, PA

Student Member

  • Julie Stein-Makowsky, Rhinebeck, NY
  • Dena Trugman, Brookline, MA
  • Neil Beresin, Philadelphia, PA

General Member

  • Abby Brockman, Seattle, WA.
  • Pamela Mann, Lexington, MA
  • Simcha Zevit, Philadelphia, PA
  • Fruma Feller, Lakewood, NJ
  • David Bauman, Skokie, IL

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2019-20 Officers, Board & Committees

Rabbi Dr. Sandra Katz, BCC
Rochester, NY
Rabbi Fredda Cohen, BCC
White Plains, NY
Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner, BCC
Highland Park, NJ
President Elect
Cantor Rabbi Rob Jury, BCC
Evanston, IL
Rabbi Dr. Rena Arshinoff, BCC
Toronto, Ont. Canada

Vice President
Rabbi Neal Loevinger, BCC
Poughkeepsie, NY
Rabbi Dr. Joe Ozarowski, BCC
Chicago, IL
Cantor Claire Metzger, BCC
Bow, NH
Rabbi Lev Herrnson, BCC
Rockville Center, NY
Conference Chair
Rabbi Rochelle Robins, BCC
Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Dr. Geoff Haber, BCC
Pittsfield, MA

Certification Chair 
Rabbi Jessica Shafrin, BCC
St. Louis, MO
Rabbi Lynn Liberman, BCC
St. Paul, MN
Membership Chair
Rabbi Michelle Stern, BCC
Evanston, IL
Rabbi Moe Kaprow, BCC
Winter Springs, FL

Immediate Past President
Rabbanit Alissa Thomas-Newborn, BCC
Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Dr. Rafael Goldstein, BCC
Miami, FL
Executive Director
Rabbi Jason Weiner, BCC
Los Angeles, CA
Rabbi Phil Weintraub, BCC
St. Petersburg, FL