Chaplaincy in Challenging Times

Chaplaincy in Challenging Times

By Rabbi Suzanne Griffel

Rabbi Suzanne Griffel has been a Rabbi for 30 years and a Chaplain for nearly 20. She has been a member of the JCFS chaplaincy staff since 2019. She describes compassionate listening as her “superpower.”

JCFS Chicago's chaplaincy services are available to members of the community year-round and especially in these challenging and difficult times. Myself and my colleagues Rabbi Joe Ozarowski, JCFS Chaplain and Rabbinic Counselor, Rabbi Paul Saiger, Cantor Fortunee Belilos and Rabbi Eliezer Dimarsky speak with individuals at all stages of life and in different situations. We connect in times of grief and loss, and when there are concerns and needs for spiritual support in a Jewish context. 

In anguish, our clients ask, why is this happening to me? Why did my husband/wife/child die? How will I manage without my loved one? How can I live without being able to do the things I used to do before this illness/injury/surgery? And in response, we actively listen, provide solace, and empower clients by helping them to see what’s happened from a different perspective. We explore a client’s suffering and assist them in finding meaning and glimmers of hope.

While we would ordinarily meet with clients in person, in keeping with the principle of pikuach nefesh (preservation of life and health), we are currently meeting by phone or online.  We speak with clients who live at home, in senior communities or in other residential facilities, often bringing a sense of spirituality and connection to the Jewish community. Connecting with a JCFS chaplain can also open doors to supplemental JCFS services that a client may need, such as counseling or career assistance. 

During this time of COVID-19, we deal with feelings that arise from the quarantine- loneliness, frustration, anger, sadness and the ambivalence of mixed emotions. I have had the honor and privilege of providing support to two people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, and helping them work through issues such as how to schedule and manage virtual shiva and trying to envision what a long-delayed in-person memorial service might look like. In both cases, the care and support I have provided have been a supplement to the clients’ synagogue involvement, not a substitute for it.

While there are several Jewish community chaplaincy programs around the country, from Florida to Minneapolis, JCFS Chicago is seen as a leader in this growing field that others turn to for advice and best practices. Our chaplains have the capacity to be where Jewish seniors and younger community members need us most.  We welcome referrals from social workers, clergy, physicians and individuals interested in meeting with one of our chaplains and/or from family members or friends, as well as connections to additional senior living and hospice communities.

Please visit our Jewish chaplaincy services webpage for more information. To request a call from a chaplain for yourself or for a loved one, please contact Carol Brumer Gliksman, Chaplaincy Coordinator, at 847.745.5404.