Baha'i News -- Spiritual Needs Tended; Medical Centers Given Jewish Books On Illness, Dying

Spiritual Needs Tended; Medical Centers Given Jewish Books On Illness, Dying

NORTHRIDGE - The Rev. Jan Seymour's mission as chaplain at Northridge Hospital Medical Center will get a spiritual shot in the arm next week when a set of Jewish books dealing with illness and dying is donated by the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance.

"The books will enable our staff to deepen their understanding of the spiritual needs of Jewish patients," said Seymour, the hospital's chaplain for four years. "What we're trying to do is make this a safe place for people to practice their faith. When folks do that they are able to feel better."

The library in the pastoral care department includes Seymour's personal library of Christian books and donated books from the Buddhist, Bahai and Islamic communities.

The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance estimates that more than 70 percent of the estimated 250,000 Jews in the San Fernando, Conejo, Simi, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys are not affiliated with a synagogue. There are no "in-house" rabbis serving as chaplains at the hospitals that will receive the books.

Kaiser Permanente and the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills, Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center, Columbia West Hills Hospital, Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, and the Jewish Community Center in West Hills will also receive sets of the books.

"Judaism is replete with stories, prayers and teachings which can bring courage and strength to those facing the difficult days of an illness," said Rabbi Paul Kipnes, co-chairman of the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force and of Congregation Or Ami. "With these books we're making sure a treasury of healing is available to people in their time of need. Hopefully, the books will be used by all involved in the healing process.

"Clearly there is more of a sense of comfort if you are a member of a congregation. But for the people who are not affiliated, when your world is falling apart, when your body is in turmoil, when you're struggling emotionally and spiritually, you feel that you are much more alone.

"These books are an attempt to pull people back into the Jewish community and solace."

Rabbi Janet Offel, recently named "community rabbi" by the West Valley Rabbinic Task Force and the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, learned from Seymour that there was a need for Jewish resources as she performed outreach work at Northridge and other local hospitals

Daniel Young, a fourth-year rabbinic student and Offel's summer intern, researched Jewish books that dealt with coping with illness, how to discuss death with children, medical ethics and mourning. The list was distilled by Young and Offel to about 20 volumes.

"One of the questions I get asked a lot is on the issue of cremation. As cremation is more and more widespread in our society the question is, why is it Judaism doesn't allow it?" Offel said. "How can I find comfort or why did God do this to me are other questions I get. The book "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" and prayers and short readings can serve as a comfort to people with those questions."

The books, costing about $325 a set, were funded by a grant from the David L. Klein Jr. Foundation and the Jewish Federation Valley Alliance.

The books include "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Rabbi Harold Kushner, "What Happens When I Die?: Jewish Views of Life After Death," by Rifat Sonsino and Daniel Syme, and "Illness and Health in the Jewish Tradition" by David Freeman, M.D., and Rabbi Judith Abrams.

For book donations from other faiths, call the Rev. Jan Seymour at (818) 885-5351. For donations of Jewish books to other hospitals or Jewish board and care facilities, call Rabbi Janet Offel at the JFVA, (818) 464-3248. The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance is at 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills.

©Copyright 2002, Los Angeles Daily News

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