Mental Health and Chaplaincy

The dedicated chaplains at JCFS Chicago are committed to uplifting community members. “We listen,” Rabbi Joseph S. Ozarowski said. “It’s all about relationships.” In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, these success stories illustrate those relationships and the journey of mental health.

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Chaplaincy in Challenging Times

Keeping with the principle of pikuach nefesh (preservation of life and health), JCFS Chicago chaplains continue to provide support by phone or online. We speak with people who live at home, in senior communities or in other residential facilities, often bringing a sense of spirituality and connection to the Jewish community in challenging times.


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Creating Community Through Chaplaincy

Although it’s a snowy winter Friday afternoon in Chicago, inside Bella Terra, a senior living community in Morton Grove, warm Shabbat melodies envelop Jewish residents. Twice a month they come together to welcome Shabbat with services led by conservative Cantor Fortunee Belilos and volunteer Rabbi Milt Wakschlag. 

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Rise of Professional Jewish Community Chaplaincy

Jewish chaplaincy is rooted in sacred texts; it builds on older traditions of bikur cholim, the Talmudic commandment to visit the sick. Jewish chaplains haven’t been around for long, however. The first Jewish chaplains can be traced to the American Civil War but greatly expanded in World War II, when about three hundred rabbis served in the U.S. military. After the war, chaplaincy programs started to appear around the country.

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A Passover Reflection

“Next year, may we be free.”  - Passover Haggadah

The holiday of Passover, “the season of our liberation,” celebrates the departure of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. This is a central theme of the Passover Seder, a festive meal replete with symbolism and song.

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