By Carol Brumer Gliksman, Former JCFS Chaplaincy Coordinator
Did you know that our JCFS chaplains work with more than 16 senior communities in the greater Chicago area, with diversity and inclusion communities, and with more than 40 individual clients at a time?
Our Rabbis and Cantor, professionally trained in chaplaincy, offer comfort and hope to people struggling with illness, loss, loneliness, end-of-life, and other challenges. They provide easily accessible Jewish spiritual care to the Chicago Jewish community.
Our chaplains represent major streams of Judaism: Orthodox (including Chabad), Conservative, and Reform and Rabbi Joseph Ozarowski, JCFS Rabbinic Counselor and Chaplain has been leading the program since 2015. In addition, he is currently the President of Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains. Along with Rabbi Ozarowski, Cantor Fortunee Belilos, Rabbi Suzanne Griffel, Rabbi Eliezer Hershkovich and Rabbi Paul Saiger comprise our chaplaincy team. All of our chaplains serve clients from all backgrounds, and we provide chaplaincy services in English, Russian and Hebrew.
Chaplaincy clients come to us in many ways. Referrals come from hospitals and health care agencies, Jewish organizations, our synagogue partnership program, and funeral homes. Individuals or their families also directly reach out to JCFS. We see some clients just a few times, others for several months, or even years, depending on the client’s needs. While most of our clients are Jewish and age 55 and above, occasionally we receive referrals for younger clients and those of other religious backgrounds. During the pandemic, (especially during the surges) in lieu of getting together in person, we “met” with clients by phone or by zoom.
Our chaplains also provide support to Jewish residents in independent and assisted living facilities, nursing homes and residential programs for adults with disabilities through Shabbat, holiday and educational programming followed by individual check-ins with residents. When we couldn’t be in person earlier in the pandemic, our chaplains created a DVD series for the High Holidays, Hanukkah, Passover and Shabbat so that residents could be connected to us while having a taste of these important times in the Jewish calendar.
Our chaplains currently provide programming and services for residents at Arbor Terrace Glenview, Arbor Terrace Highland Park, Bella Terra of Morton Grove, Brookdale Hoffman Estates, The Carrington, Chestnut Square at the Glen, EZRA Multi Service Center, Sedgebrook, The Springs of Vernon Hills, and Libenu. We also offer Russian language programming at CJE SeniorLife, Warren Barr Lieberman, Deerfield Crossing, and EZRA. In addition, for several years we’ve maintained connections with Atria Senior Living, Artis Senior Living Lakeview, Chicago Methodist Senior Services (CMSS), Shirley Ryan Ability Lab and more. We are pleased to note that several new places have expressed interest from Vernon Hills to Oak Park.
We often do not know the effects of our spiritual care encounters until much later, if at all. For example, late last Fall, Rabbi Joe received the following phone message from a former client:
“Hi Rabbi. I don’t know if you remember me but when I came to you several years ago, you helped me through my addiction, helped me get clean and sober, helped me with my Jewish journey and pretty much saved my life. Do you have a few minutes to talk?”
Of course Rabbi Joe remembered her, and he was delighted to provide further support at this time.
If you would like to refer someone for individual pastoral care or know of a senior or other residential community that would welcome one of our chaplains, contact Leah ShefskyLeahShefsky@JCFS.org, JCFS Chaplaincy Coordinator at 847.745.5404.