During this month of Elul which leads up to the High Holidays, we know that congregational rabbis are busy writing sermons and working with synagogue lay leadership to prepare for meaningful and engaging services. What is less known is what our Jewish Community Chaplain, Rabbi Ralph Dalin, does to help assure that Rosh Hashanah can be observed even by Jews who find themselves in the hospital.
In addition to supporting unaffiliated Jewish families at times of acute spiritual need, our Jewish Community Chaplain serves as the Jewish community liaison to local hospitals to help them better meet the needs of any Jewish patient, affiliated or not. On behalf of Federation, he provides prayer books, Bibles, battery-operated Shabbat “candles,” and other ritual items. He advises hospital staff about how to meet particular Jewish ritual needs from kosher meals to after-death care. New mothers who identify themselves as Jewish to the hospital receive special welcome cards from Rabbi Dalin with information about planning a bris or baby naming and how to receive PJ Library books or connect with Shalom Baby.
Before significant Jewish holidays, Rabbi Dalin reaches out to the hospital spiritual staff with suggestions about how they can help bring some commemoration of the festival for those Jews who are in the hospital rather than celebrating the holiday with family and community. An example is the letter below recently sent in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah. In addition, Rabbi Dalin has offered copies of the High Holiday mahzor so hospital can have them on hand should a patient request one and has provided spiritual care staff with calendars for the new Jewish year so they can be aware of days of potential special significance for patients.
All of this is part of Federation’s commitment to Jewish caring.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is one of the most significant holy days for Jews.
It is observed both with festive meals in the home and with meaningful services in the synagogue. As a result, it is a particularly difficult time for Jewish patients to be hospitalized.
There is a simple thing that hospitals can do to bring a smile to the faces of Jewish patients on Rosh Hashanah. Unless counter-indicated for medical reasons, their eve-of-Rosh Hashanah dinner should include slices of apple and honey into which the apple can be dipped. This symbolizes the hopes that the new year should be a good and sweet one.
This year, the eve of Rosh Hashanah will be Sunday evening, September 9th. Therefore, the dinner served that evening would be appropriate to serve the apples and honey.
Since many Jews observe two days of Rosh Hashanah, it would be nice to serve the apples and honey also for dinner also on Monday evening, September 10th; however, this is not as essential.
If you want to add even more to the Jewish patient’s Rosh Hashanah dinner, serve gefilte fish as an appetizer. It is available in jars (and sometimes in cans) in every supermarket and should be available from most of your food suppliers.
I would appreciate it if you could discuss this with the supervisor of dietary services and then let me know whether your hospital would be able to provide this service.
Please feel free to call me or email me if I can answer any questions.
Feel free to share my phone number and email address to supervisor of dietary services.
Thank you in advance for your assistance in helping to make this a meaningful new year for your Jewish patients.
Rabbi Ralph Dalin