May 20, 2024
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Bikur Cholim Rockland County Dedicates, Builds New Shabbos Rooms

Founded in 1981 by Rabbi Simon Lauber to support and assist families dealing with illness, Bikur Cholim Rockland County has a long-standing tradition of serving patients and families throughout Rockland, Westchester and Bergen Counties. Bikur Cholim Rockland County also reaches hospitals and individuals throughout the greater New York City area, nationally and internationally, fielding phone calls from individuals seeking advice and medical referrals. The nonprofit organization is also the only provider in Rockland and Orange counties federally designated as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Center (CCBHC).

Located in Monsey, New York, Bikur Cholim Rockland County’s services include a 24-hour emergency hotline, a multimedia library containing hundreds of DVDs and CDs in Yiddish and English, available on loan to hospitalized or homebound patients, as well as craft projects for children, a donor blood program, hospital transportation, hospital visitations by volunteers who spend one-on-one time with patients, Shabbos accommodations, kosher meals, senior citizen services, a medical equipment gemach, medical referrals, a women’s health care project, cancer patient support and the services of the Achieve Behavioral Health center.

Bikur Cholim Rockland County also offers the H.E.A.R.T. program, consisting of a caring team of professionals and trained volunteers, dedicated to addressing the physical, psychological, financial and social needs of Holocaust survivors and their families in Rockland County. Social services for Jewish Nazi victims are supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. Funds are designated to support survivors with the respect and dignity they deserve in their older years.

Additionally, sensitivity training is provided. The Jewish Patient Sensitivity Video and the accompanying handbook, “The Jewish Laws and Customs” handbook were produced for the purpose of educating medical personnel and caregivers as to the needs of their Orthodox Jewish patients.

“We serve Rockland, Westchester and Bergen county. We have 13 Bikur Cholim rooms, located in all different hospitals,” said Shie Lefkowitz, director of operations, Bikur Cholim Rockland County. “All rooms are fully stocked daily with fresh food and always fully stocked with non-perishable food, drinks, meals, books and magazines and [more]. We send lunch and Shabbos packages for all patients in need. We have hundreds of volunteers that all do different things for Bikur Cholim, from coming into our kitchen every day to cook fresh food, to packing 100s of meals, and then volunteers who actually drive and deliver daily meals to all the hospitals. We also have a special team of medical liaisons that they go around to see the patients and help them with referrals.”

And now, by request, Bikur Cholim will soon be opening a new Shabbos room at Hackensack Meridian Pascack Valley Medical Center. It will be the 14th Bikur Cholim room in a chain of such rooms. “We were given an empty room and we will put in a kitchen, counters, cabinets, furniture, tables, chairs, refrigerator and a warmer for Shabbos,” Lefkowitz said. “Everything that is needed. And then we will fully stock the room and add it to our daily project of Bikur Cholim food distribution.”

Bikur Cholim Rockland County is also rebuilding a Shabbos room at New York Presbyterian Hospital, White Plains Division. “Here we will take out the old kitchen and furniture and build a new kitchen, table, chairs, and put in everything brand new,” Lefkowitz explained.

Just how much Bikur Cholim Rockland County helps and supports Jewish patients is expressed by Rabbi Aron Jacobsohn, board certified chaplain (BCC), staff chaplain for Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital and Behavioral Health Center.

“It is the pleasure of all of us at WMCHealth to collaborate with the Reb Shie Lefkowitz and the volunteers at Bikur Cholim of Rockland County,” said Rabbi Jacobsohn. “With the help of Bikur Cholim our patients and their caregivers benefit from well-stocked kosher pantries, the delivery of fresh kosher meals that complement our existing kosher menu and the Shabbos apartments. These and other resources offered by WMCHealth through the generosity of Bikur Cholim support Jewish patients and their families while they receive care at our WMC Health hospitals.’’

Volunteers also find Bikur Cholim meaningful to patients and their families, themselves and in creating a volunteer tradition with their own families.

Andrea (Chanie) Zimerman, a Bikur Cholim kitchen volunteer since 1990, said, “I have had the privilege of volunteering with Bikur Cholim of Rockland literally since I was a child! I remember helping the office label envelopes or put logo stickers on the famous thermoses used to deliver hot chicken soup on Friday afternoon to the hospitals. For the past 10 years, I run the kitchen on Friday mornings, together with our incredible volunteer kitchen coordinator Shie Lefkowitz and two special ladies, Lauren G. and Gitty Preiserowicz. We put together packages for patients in all different hospitals, including behavioral and rehabilitation facilities.

“We try to make sure that no matter where they are, a patient should know that they are loved and supported by the Jewish community and have traditional Shabbos food to celebrate that with. I go into Shabbos every week feeling that no matter how the rest of the week went, I have accomplished something meaningful. I am also happy to pass on the tradition. I’m so proud of my children who have helped in many ways, from giving me a hand in the kitchen to stocking hospitals, putting up a sukkah or anything else when we are in need of volunteers at the last minute.”

Wendy Nachum is a Bikur Cholim Rockland County volunteer involved with the partnered Chesed Projects at the Moriah School of Englewood where she teaches, and at Temple Emanu-El of Closter Hebrew School where she also teaches. “Whether you are a volunteer or recipient of Bikur Cholim’s outstanding, kind and heartwarming services, you feel the dedication and uniqueness this organization provides to so many people. Thank you Bikur Cholim of Rockland County for your continuous love and kindness,” said Nachum.

Bikur Cholim of Rockland County currently serves Good Samaritan Hospital, Nyack Hospital, Westchester Medical Center, Main, Children’s Behavior building. New York Presbyterian (White Plains), Four Winds Hospital, Hackensack Medical Center, Holy Name Hospital, Rockland Psychiatric Center, Helen Hayes Hospital, Burke Rehabilitation Center, Blythedale Children’s Hospital, St. Vincent Hospital, St. Joseph Bronxville Hospital, Jewish Home at Rockleigh, New York Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital, White Plains Hospital, United Hospice, Phelps Memorial Hospital, Kessler Rehabilitation Center West Orange, Kessler Rehabilitation Center Saddle Brook and Bon Secours Community Hospital Port Jervis.

For more information, to take part of a sponsorship in the new Bikur Cholim room, or to help raise funds for Bikur Cholim Rockland County, please contact Shie Lefkowitz at 845-425-7877, Ext. 1180, [email protected]


 Susan R. Eisenstein is a longtime Jewish educator, passionate about creating special, innovative activities for her students. She is also passionate about writing about Jewish topics and about Israel. She has two master’s degrees and a doctorate in education from Columbia University.

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