In my role as Community Chaplain, I frequently receive calls from staff members at area care facilities (hospitals, assistant living, rehab etc) asking how they can better serve the spiritual needs of the Jewish patients and residents in their care.
Predictably, I’ll get a surge of calls just prior to the major Jewish holidays. In some instances, a brief phone call is all that’s needed, while at other times a formal Jewish Sensitivity Training session is appropriate.
Conducting these training sessions has become one of my favorite tasks. The goal is always the same: to empower folks with enough information about Jewish holidays beliefs and practices, in order that they can better provide for the Jewish people under their care. The attendees are often people who are knowledgeable about and devoted to their own faith, so we immediately have a common language.
Topics have included Jewish Denominations (aka All Jews Are Not The Same), Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas, and Yes, Women can be rabbis. The conversations are always lively, and folks ask lots of questions.
While transmission of information is the overt reason for the session, so much more takes place. Boundaries and walls come down as we learn that what we share is greater than that which divides us. Myths and stereotypes are disavowed. Increased knowledge and understanding inclines us towards greater respect of difference. Good will prevails.
One of the greatest rabbis of the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva once said: “Study is great, for it leads to practice.” As people of the book, we Jews live by this adage. Learning the sacred texts of our tradition enables us to live as Jews and transmit this heritage to our children. Teaching others about Judaism and learning about other faiths enables all of us to live fully in our wider world.
Learning empowers us to do. Knowledge enables action. It is an honor to teach others, so that they too may share in those deeds which highlight the shared task of caring for one another.
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