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Dallas Jewish Week

Chicken soup from their souls

Bikur Cholim Society
puts will where there is ill


by Deborah Silverthorn

Special to DJW

"Overwhelmed" is often the adjective that describes both patient and family members when illness takes its toll. The Bikur Cholim Society of Greater Dallas, under the auspices of the Ohr Hadash Jewish Healing Center, was designed to help relieve all parties of some of the stress and strain that is common.

"Bikur Cholim," Hebrew for "visiting the sick," is considered to be one of the supreme acts of kindness in the Jewish religion and as such, the Bikur Cholim Society follows a strict ethical code of confidentiality and operates within the confines of Jewish law. "We are a beacon of hope and an icon of strength for families in our community and to those who come to our city for the hope of treatment and recovery," said Rosie Cohen, founder and director.

"Bikur Cholim," Hebrew for "visiting the sick," is considered to be one of the supreme acts of kindness in the Jewish religion and as such, the Bikur Cholim Society follows a strict ethical code of confidentiality and operates within the confines of Jewish law. "We are a beacon of hope and an icon of strength for families in our community and to those who come to our city for the hope of treatment and recovery," said Rosie Cohen, founder and director.

The Bikur Cholim Society offers personal visits and telephone calls to people in the hospital, nursing home or to those convalescing at home. Volunteers cook Kosher meals for those homebound, and their family members, they make referrals for counseling, doctor's services, medical treatments or financial aid for medical expenses. Medical equipment for those in need along with accommodations for out-of-town patients and immediate family members is also available. The Bikur Cholim also has a team of Rabbis available to provide religious support and guidance.

Rebbetzin Cohen, wife of Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen of Congregation Tiferet Israel, began the local Bikur Cholim in 1998, when she realized the need was great. The society helps support the physical and many emotional needs of those who are ill as well as those of surrounding family members.

"I would come home from visiting patients who were members of our shul at various hospitals, and I would constantly see people who were unaffiliated who didn't have a rabbi to visit and they could wait a long time for visitors," said Rabbi Cohen. "In most large cities, it is not uncommon to have one or more Bikur Cholim Societies having blood drives, food drives and helping the community. It is really a 'gimilut chasidim' society which means 'performing acts of lovingkindness.' Visiting someone when they are saddened, unhealthy or dealing with this in their families, is one of the greatest mitzvahs that can be done. In Dallas it was time, and thank G-d Rosie took the project and with many volunteers has done an incredible thing."

In most cases, when a family member is taken ill or hospitalized, much of the energy from other family members is devoted to that person. The Bikur Cholim volunteers make sure that needs, some physical and many emotional, of the surrounding family are met as well.

"The caregivers and family members need as much help as the patients," said Rabbi Cohen. "Making sure there are kosher meals when needed and that the homebound and nursing homes are visited on a regular basis so that people feel and know that indeed there are people who are cared for and about."

Until 2002, the Bikur Cholim was run out of a small office in the Cohen home. Due to a gift from a family wanting to show their appreciation for all the Bikur Cholim had done for them, the Bikur Cholim now has a home-turned-headquarters complete with kitchen and plenty of office space. The families who are helped are incessantly appreciative of the assistance given by Rosie Cohen and the entire Bikur Cholim society.

When Barbara Cramer needed support in helping her grandmother who was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, Bikur Cholim volunteers rode in like knights on white horses. After looking around the city and making many calls, a family who had also received their help connected Cramer to the group. "Rosie visited my grandmother the day I spoke to her," said Cramer. "She matched my grandmother up with a volunteer that she thought would work well with her. Rosie and the volunteers always brought something special like treats during Passover, and other Jewish foods that were familiar to my grandmother.

"Rosie also called me often to see how I was doing and always encouraged me to remember that care givers also need to care for themselves by letting people help them so they can have a much needed break. She is a very good listener and has an enormous amount of knowledge in this area, and compassion for people who are sick and need support."

A nonprofit organization, the Bikur Cholim is run entirely by a team of about 34 volunteers who offer their time and their positive spirit. Volunteers have gone through extensive training workshops provided by The Ohr Hadash Jewish Healing Center and are prepared to assure those in need of help or healing that they will receive the guidance and support so greatly needed at times of illness.

The hospitals and health centers that the volunteers of the Bikur Cholim serve are indeed grateful for their overwhelming assistance. "Rosie Cohen and the Bikur Cholim has been a great asset and resource for our Jewish patients," said Chaplain Nancy Siekierka, Manager of Spiritual Health at Zale Lipshy University Hospital at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. "Since our patients often come from far away, having a local resource to provide emotional and religious support makes a tremendous impact.

"Rosie is a resource not only for patients, but their families as well," continued Chaplain Siekierka. "In addition to the time she spends with Bikur Cholim, she also donates her time as a Spiritual Health Volunteer, providing prayer and support to patients of all faith backgrounds."


This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, June 6, 2002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Copyright 2001, Dallas Jewish Week