June 18, 2024
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Preparing for Pesach 5781 at St. Mary’s General Hospital

(Courtesy of SMGH) Purim is over, and we immediately think of getting ready for Pesach. And this year it will be a challenge as it was last year with COVID-19 hovering over us. Still, the massive spring cleaning is underway, along with restricting what food items we buy, and planning where we will store all of our Pesach foods, bringing out the Pesach cooking and eating items and getting ready for those eight days.

“We have some of those same issues at St. Mary’s General Hospital,” said George Matyjewicz, PhD, community liaison. “Ours is not as intense as it is for our homes, however we still have to honor our frum patients and understand their needs—both physical and dietary.”

“At classroom education seminars1 that we have had, we learned about the dietary needs during Pesach,” said Elaine C. Ashe, MS, RDN, director of dietary services. “Our kosher food is ordered for patients either at our kosher food supplier, or at The Main Ingredient, in Passaic. Our kitchen staff knows that Jewish patients cannot eat any leavened products and will not be served bread, cakes or the like. We do have non-Jewish patients, so our kitchen will accommodate them. However, all of our kosher food is double wrapped and not opened by anybody but the patient. More importantly is that we do not take any chances: if in doubt, we contact George or Rabbi Levy or a member of our advisory board.”

Every morning the executives and directors at St. Mary’s General Hospital have a conference/TEAMS meeting to discuss the status of each department. At the meetings starting this week, George Matyjewicz brought up Pesach and what will be needed. At this morning’s meeting, Ed Condit, CEO, instructed all departments to get the physical and dietary facilities ready for Pesach. “Make sure the non-electronic doors are open, the Shabbat elevator is on, Pesach food is in the kitchen, candelabras are available in the patient rooms, the Shabbat room is stocked, and anything else” said Mr. Condit. “Get together with George Matyjewicz with any questions or to verify what you will need.”

“I will be writing a summary for dealing with frum patients during Pesach for those departments that need it,” said Matyjewicz. “Obviously patients are not coming to the hospital for elective procedures during Pesach, so we will need refresher information for the ER and floors where we may have patients.”

“This year we have a new twist for Pesach,” said Matyjewicz. “If chas v’shalom we do have a patient during the first days, how will the family be able to conduct the Seder? Last year, our kehillah had similar issues in that families were stuck at home with grandparents or children stuck elsewhere. Some families set up Zoom meetings before the first night and conducted the Seder for all to see. If anybody wants to do that with one of our patients, we will be honored to set up a tablet with Zoom for the patient.2 An added twist—now, instead of zissen Pesach (“sweet Passover” in Yiddish) we will have a zissen Zoom Pesach.”

Obviously, if we are to do a Zoom Seder, we will need to work closely with Bikur Cholim and the family to have what is needed on the Seder plate. And, we will have to substitute grape juice for the wine.”

“The question is asked on the first night: ‘Why is this night different from all other nights?’ This year, if you are a patient at St. Mary’s General Hospital, we are doing our best to make your stay different, yet the same as other years,” said Matyjewicz. “Our staff understands the importance of Pesach and will do everything possible to accommodate our frum patients. On behalf of all of us at St. Mary’s General Hospital we wish you a chag kasher v’sameach, zissen Pesach, gut Yontiff, moadim l’simcha and happy, kosher Passover!”

St. Mary’s General Hospital works with Bikur Cholim of Passaic-Clifton, Jewish Family Services, Hatzalah, Chevra Kadisha and others to accommodate the frum community. The hospital also has a frum advisory board to help with policies involving the Jewish community. Bikur Cholim sets up and maintains the Shabbat room where it can accommodate guests. Hatzalah brings patients to the ER where they are respected, especially on Shabbat or Yomim Tovim. And, if a patient should expire, staff know not to touch the body and immediately call Chevra Kadisha.

St. Mary’s General Hospital—nationally recognized, locally preferred—among the top hospitals in America for health, quality, and patient safety! A center of excellence for maternal-child, the hospital has over 550 physicians and 1,200 employees, with every staff member committed to providing respectful, personalized, high-quality care to satisfy patients’ needs and exceed their expectations. St. Mary’s General is a proud member of Prime Healthcare, which has more Patient Safety Excellence Award recipients for five consecutive years (2016-2020) than any other health system in the country including a “Top 15 Healthcare System” by Truven Health Analytics. To learn more about St. Mary’s General Hospital visit https://www.smh-nj.com/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/StMarysGeneral.

For more information, please contact George Matyjewicz, PhD, Community Liaison at [email protected]

1 “Understanding Judaism: The Professional’s Guide In A Hospital Environment” written and copyrighted by Matyjewicz and designed to educate staff in dealing with the Orthodox Jewish communities. 

2 NOTE:  This is not an Halachic opinion whether a Zoom Seder is kosher or not.  Please check with your LOR. and we will accommodate as needed.

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