St. E's Opens Boston's First and Only Bikur Cholim Room

Thursday, July 05, 2012

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BRIGHTON—St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in June opens Boston’s first Bikur Cholim room, a dedicated space for observant and Orthodox Jewish families. The room is designed to accommodate Jewish customs, including kosher dietary laws and Shabbat.

 From left, the Bostoner Rebbe Grand Rabbi Naftali Horowitz, ROFEH International program director Mike Hirsh, Vice Chair of Radiology Rebecca Schwartz, MD, and President John Polanowicz, both of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, and Jon Gould, vice president of Wingate HealthCare, joined for the ribbon cutting for the first and only Bikur Cholim Room in a Boston hospital.

The St. Elizabeth’s Bikur Cholim room, located within the Greater Boston Eruv, opens thanks to a partnership with ROFEH International, a Brookline-based non-profit organization that facilitates Jews from around the world in securing specialty care, and the generosity of Wingate Healthcare, a Needham-based company that operates 19 skilled nursing and post acute care centers in Massachusetts and New York, including Wingate at Brighton located at 100 North Beacon St.

“St. Elizabeth’s is grateful to partner with ROFEH International and Wingate Healthcare to provide the Jewish patients and families in our community with dedicated space and special accommodations so they can to observe their faith,” said John Polanowicz, president of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center. “With deep roots as a religious institution, our mission is to care for our patients’ well being physically, mentally and spiritually, and the Bikur Cholim room helps us achieve that for our Jewish patients and families.”

Rebecca Schwartz, MD, vice chairman of Radiology at St. Elizabeth’s, started this effort because the many observant and Orthodox Jewish families of Allston-Brighton, Newton and Brookline do not have access to a Bikur Cholim room in any Boston hospital. “This is an example of St. Elizabeth’s partnering with the community to provide culturally competent care to our own neighbors and community members,” she said. “At a time when you and your family need expert medical care, compassion and comfort, you should not have to struggle to keep Shabbat.”

The leadership of ROFEH International contributed greatly to planning and developing this effort, and Wingate Healthcare donated the furniture and appliances for this project. The Bikur Cholim room will be fully furnished with couches, table and chairs and a kosher microwave and refrigerator. The room will be stocked with kosher food, supplied by Brookline’s The Butcherie, and maintained under the auspices of ROFEH International. It will have Siddurim, Chumashim and other religious items.

“As an organization dedicated to helping the sick from all walks of life as well as supporting patients and families from around the world and throughout the United States as they leave their homes to seek emergency treatment in Boston, ROFEH understands how vitally important it is for Jews to feel comfortable when receiving medical care,” said Mike Hirsh, program director for ROFEH International. “We find tremendous comfort in our faith, and being able to observe it is crucial to the healing process.”

With thousands of patients and residents having short-term post acute care and long-term care needs, Wingate Healthcare understands the need for patients to be cared for physically, mentally and spiritually, said Jon Gould, senior vice president of network integration of Wingate. “We’re proud of all our facilities in Massachusetts and New York, as we have a commitment to ensure an environment of healing and caring. We are proud to partner with St. Elizabeth’s and ROFEH to achieve what will be Boston’s first Bikur Cholim room,” Gould said.

In addition to the Bikur Cholim room, St. Elizabeth’s has made accommodations to ensure Jewish families can observe Shabbat and Yom tov. The Bikur Cholim room has a mechanical lock to facilitate use and is easily accessible by stairs or elevator from the Emergency Department and main entrance of the hospital. Maps that identify stairways and doors that do not use electricity are available.


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