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by Fredda Sacharow


Student volunteers from the Les Turchin Chabad House at Rutgers fan out to local hospitals and nursing homes every Friday afternoon before the sun sets, bearing flowers, cards and loaves of challah to help the ailing and the elderly observe the Sabbath.

The visits are an expression of Bikur Cholim – which means, literally, visiting the sick – a precept that maintains that it is a mitzvah (good deed) to bring comfort to those in need.

Now a unique partnership with S. Peter’s Healthcare System is allowing Chabad, a hub of activity of Jewish life on campus since 1978, to take the concept to another level.

At Chabad’s National Founders Chanukah Dinner, S. Peter’s president and CEO Ronald Rak announced that the medical system is underwriting a suite of rooms in the newly enlarged Chabad House. These will be used by obser vant families of patients at nearby S. Peter’s Hospital who are forbidden by Jewish law to drive on the Sabbath or Jewish holidays.

"Many times when people arrive in the hospital over Sabbath, while the patient was being taken care of the family members had no place to go. They had to stay on a couch or a chair in the hospital room," says Rabbi Yosef Carlebach, Rutgers Chabad executive director.

"We had a room one of our student lounges that could be converted at the last moment, but not on a permanent basis," he says, noting that about 100 families have taken advantage of the makeshift accommodations over the last 15 years.

The new lodgings for patients’ families will have their own entrance, both to ensure privacy and to prevent disturbances in dorm activity. The temporary residents will be invited to worship in the Chabad House’s synagogue and share in Sabbath meals.

"S. Peter’s sponsorship of a Bikur Cholim room at Chabad House is emblematic of our mission to respect, honor, and value people of every faith and persuasion," says Rak. "It is our distinct pleasure to offer accommodations of warmth and caring to visitors of the Orthodox Jewish faith … when ill family members are in the expert care of S. Peter’s."

But the friendship between the two institutions predates Rak’s announcement.

Carlebach notes that in addition to regularly sending student chaplains to the local medical center, Chabad has built a Sukkah, or temporary hut, on hospital grounds to help celebrate the Jewish fall harvest festival, and has helped train medical personnel on protocols to deal with Jewish patients and families.

Chabad, a worldwide movement whose name is an acronym for wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, maintains buildings and programs on university campuses nationwide; the facility at 170 College Avenue is on target to become the largest of its kind in the world.

When the privately funded $12 million expansion is completed later this year, its 55,000 square feet will encompass a dining hall large enough to seat 770 students; separate dormitory space for 72 men and 37 women; a state-of-the-art ritual bath open to the community; and exercise equipment on which students can work out while watching wide-screen televisions.

Speaking at the Founders Dinner, Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick noted that this year, Rutgers moved into third place among American universities in total number of Jewish students; only the universities of Maryland and Florida have more, he said.

"Our numbers are a reflection of the many opportunities that Chabad House and our other Jewish programs and organizations provide, which make Rutgers such a strong choice," McCormick said. "I am proud that Rutgers has enjoyed a cooperative and supportive relationship with Chabad over the years, and it has been to our mutual benefit."

To affirm the bond, McCormick presented Chabad with a portrait of Old Queens, the university’s most historic building.

Reprinted with permission of Rutgers Today



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