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Bikur Cholim in Bergen County: An Introduction to Services

In Genesis, God visits Abraham following his circumcision, demonstrating the importance of visiting the sick. The morning prayers describe the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick, as one for which people can enjoy the fruits of their labor in this world and for which they will also be acknowledged in the World to Come. In Bergen County this mitzvah is taken very seriously. From visiting people in the hospital to preparing for the needs of the patients’ family members to or­ganizing hospital hospitality rooms, the local Bi­kur Cholim associations try to take care of eve­rything. What follows is a brief introduction to some of the bikur cholim services at the three lo­cal hospitals.

Bikur Cholim of Teaneck

“The mission of the Bikur Cholim of Te­aneck is to visit the patients of Holy Name Medical Center,” says Arlene Eis. “We’re a volunteer organization of about 60 very dedicated, very generous, men and women from all over Bergen County. Our group is not shul or town based, it is simply made up of people who want to perform the mitzvah of Bikur Cholim.”

The volunteers visit Sunday through Thursday and local synagogue members visit on Friday and on Shabbos. Visitors need to be 18 or older to visit through Bi­kur Cholim of Teaneck. Once accepted, all new visitors go through a training and ori­entation. To volunteer, contact Arlene Eis at 201-836-4950.

The hospital has a kosher kitchen/lounge that is fully stocked with kosher food for pa­tients and visitors. Elie Y. Katz, former mayor of Teaneck, current Deputy Mayor, and owner of Chopstix, worked with the hospital to have the room built and even met with the hospi­tal designer to discuss the room’s layout. He also donated the appliances to help defray the costs. The room has a couch, kitchen, and sefa­rim. There is a committee that makes sure the lounge is stocked and prepared for Shabbos and Yom Tov as well as cleaned out regularly. They even make sure the hot water urn is work­ing. Food is supplied by Bikur Cholim of Rock­land County/ Partners in Health. Over the years food has also been supplied by Maadan, Chop­stix, and Glatt Express. Additionally, there is a room with two beds in the hospital that fami­lies can use on Shabbos or Yom Tov by making arrangements with the floor nurse.

Teaneck is home to CareOne at Te­aneck, which also welcomes visitors. There is no age minimum to visit there and it’s not unusual to see whole families coming by to visit the residents. Those in­terested should contact CareOne direct­ly at 201-862-3300 for details. Members of Congregation Arzei Darom visit residents on Shabbos.

Bikur Cholim in Englewood

Englewood Hospital and Medical Cent­er has a group of visitors who visit Jewish pa­tients during the week organized by Debo­rah Berger, chair of the Ahavath Torah Bikur Cholim Committee, in conjunction with Rab­bi Charles Friedman, the hospital rabbi. On Wednesdays Rabbi Mordechai Shain from the Lubavitch on the Palisades visits patients and on Shabbos and Yom Tov members of Con­gregation Kesher Synagogue visit. To join the rotation, contact Deborah Berger at 917-903- 7538. The hospital also has a room with sleep­ing accommodations for family members that must be arranged for in advance by contact­ing Letitia Corrigan in the Pastoral Care office at 201-894-3228.

The Kosher Pantry is overseen by An­nette Schabes who took over from her mother, Diane Katzenstein, last year. Schabes has a committee of 14 women from the Sisterhood of Ahavath Torah who rotate the upkeep of the room. They fill the urn Friday morning, plug in the hot plate, and return after Shabbos to unplug every­thing and make a list of what’s needed for the following week. According to Schabes, the bikur cholim initiative was begun by Rebbetzen Swift, z”l. Food is provided by Menagerie Caterers by owner Martin May­er, in memory of his parents who were Holocaust survivors. Chesed 24/7 also sup­plements the food as does East Hill Syna­gogue. According to Schabes, “Everything is there to make someone not necessarily in an ideal situation still have a semblance of Shabbos or Yom Tov.”

Bikur Cholim of Bergen County

Hackensack University Medical Cent­er has its own volunteer program; how­ever, if the need arises, Bikur Cholim of Bergen County, under the coordination of Eva Stern and Chani Schmutter, will make arrangements for visitors.

The hospital has four kosher pantries throughout the hospital. Chesed 24/7 and Bi­kur Cholim of Rockland County/Partners in Health provide the food. There are also two Shabbos rooms in an adjacent hospital fa­cility that family members can use for Shab­bos or Yom Tov. One room is for women and one for men. Arrangements can be made through Stern, Schmutter, or a soon-to-be-announced Bikur Cholim hotline.

According to Stern, “Bikur Cholim of Bergen County has been an umbrella or­ganization serving the needs of the vari­ous shuls, providing funds when needed, a medical equipment gemach, transporta­tion, home visitation, and general over­all needs that extend beyond individu­al Shul services.” Bergenfield residents Meredith Yager and Batsheva Preil are working to enhance the services offered by Bikur Cholim of Bergen County start­ing with the launching of a new website, www.bikurcholimbergencounty.org. The site will go live at the end of the summer and will be a “one-stop shopping” web­site for community members as well as those who need to be in Bergen County for medical care. The site will include in­formation on bikur cholim services at the three local hospitals as well as other in­itiatives such as volunteer services that community members can join.

By Sara Kosowsky Gross

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