Volunteers—the heart and soul of chaplaincy

Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh received a B.A. from Skidmore College and was ordained as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. She is fortunate to be involved in so many facets of the community including serving as the chaplain for JF&CS and an instructor for CAJE. This will be her fifth year serving as the visiting Rabbi in Decatur, Ill. She has also served congregations in both Sydney and Perth, Australia. When not writing her weekly BLOGS, she can be found running marathons.

By Rabbi Elizabeth Hersh

The chaplaincy program has a cadre of amazing volunteers. Some have been visiting residents for over a half dozen years. Others started more recently. Some are seeing a second or third resident as their previous “friends” are no longer living. A few of our helpers see more than one resident. Some have volunteered to lead a small Shabbat service and teaching once or twice a month. And I discovered recently that when Jewish residents cannot go to the service, the volunteer goes to his or her room afterwards for a visit. They go to large print libraries and get special requests so the resident can enjoy reading again. They print recipe cards so the resident can share her heritage with a grandchild. They help with computer skills. They do so much for our residents and more than I am even aware of.

 Our volunteers are quiet. They do not seek recognition. They attend funerals and grieve. While we tell them they do not need to take presents, many insist on doing small and not so small gestures for the person they consider friend. Best of all, they are a caring presence. They remind people they are not forgotten. They remember the details of their lives and give them company and laughter and compassion.

Our volunteers never mind being told it is not a good day for a visit. They happily agree to return another day. No complaints. Their ability to empathize is remarkable. Their hearts grow with each visit. I am grateful for the gifts of humanity each one brings. They act in a truly unselfish way almost embarrassed by words of thanks.

Our volunteers are collectively one of the lamed vav neks – one of the 36 righteous of this world for whom this world stands. Wouldn’t you like to stand among them?

JSU Gala Advertisement