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The UJA-Federation of New York has launched a pioneering project to advance "Jewish spiritual care" of all types for the aged, seriously and terminally ill and victims of terror and other traumatic events in Israel. The chaplaincy initiative will encompass programs by a variety of non-profit organizations here and entail an investment of more than $1 million over three years.
The launch was officially announced in Jerusalem last week by heads of the UJA-Federation of New York's "Caring Commission." The federation is the world's largest local philanthropy, helping 1.4 million persons in New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island, as well as three million people in Israel and 60 other countries.
Funds raised by UJA-Federation sustain the activities of more than 100 health, social service, educational, and community agencies. In Israel, UJA-Federation works with its partners, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee and dozens of non-profit organizations to improve the quality of life of Israelis.
Tina Price, former chairman of the Spiritual Care Taskforce, who has shaped and supported the development of the innovative project, said at the launchign that "this initiative represents a pioneering effort for Israel, where Jewish spiritual support and chaplaincy are not yet readily available." She added that there had been some doubts at first, because spiritual counselling in Israel has so far usually been Orthodox, to the exclusion of non-Orthodox movements, and given mostly to religious Jews rather than to secular ones.
Many of the chaplains giving spiritual support in the federation would not be rabbis but non-denominational professionals with experience in psychology and other helping professions.
The UJA-Federation is "seeking to enhance its contribution to the field by making available the knowledge and experience gathered in this field in the US, so that they can be adapted to suit the Israeli experience." Price stressed that in addition to funding, the organizations would receive training and professional support, and would be encouraged to work together to explore collaboration opportunities.
Among the programs that have already received approval for the funding for chaplaincy program: Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center (for the B'Ruach Chaplaincy Program); the International Cultural Center for Youth (for the community garden for the elderly; the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies of the Mesorati (Conservative) Movement (for pastoral care and crisis counseling); the Koby Mandell Foundation (for spiritual and psychological care for parents, widows and widowers); Ma'agan, the Jerusalem support center for cancer patients (for spiritual support groups); Beyahad for its "To Listen with All Your Heart and Avi Hayishuv Community Rabbinics (its pastoral care track for rabbis and their wives); and Beit Natan (for national home hospice volunteer visitation).
Others due to be included are Herzog Memorial Hospital and the Retorno organization that rehabilitates young addicts.
The federation decided to launch the spiritual care initiative as an outgrowth of its work in Israel with end-of-life care and trauma; it previously supported the development of hospice services for the terminally ill and was the initiator of the Israel Trauma Coalition, which brings together over 40 organizations that care for victims of psychological trauma.