Brightening a Holiday Hospital Stay

Now that the holidays are over, we want to share a true story of one community member’s holiday experience.  We share her name and story with her explicit permission.

Diana was looking forward to Rosh Hashanah. Like most Jews, she would not be in a synagogue this year due to COVID19 closures, but she anticipated welcoming in the holiday at home with her family.  

Nevertheless, on Friday September 18, erev Rosh Hashanah, Diana was a patient at Sharp Memorial Hospital.  Though her husband had brought her a mahzor from home, she was very saddened -- she certainly did not want to usher in the new year in this setting.  

Yet when her dinner tray arrived, it brought a big smile to her face. It included a package of apple slices and a container of honey, with the label “Shana Tova from Food & Nutrition and Spiritual Care.” There was also a container of grape juice for use (in lieu of wine) for Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah kiddush. Diana was delightfully surprised.  

One person who was not surprised was Rabbi Ralph Dalin, Federation’s Jewish Community Chaplain. Every year, a month before Rosh Hashanah, he emails the heads of spiritual care at each county hospital to let them know about the upcoming holidays. He asks if, in coordination with their dietary services department, they could arrange for apples and honey to be delivered with Rosh Hashanah dinner to patients who self-identify as Jews (unless medically counter-indicated).  

Rabbi Dalin provides hospital spiritual care staff with various ritual items that a patient might request, such as prayer books and Bibles. This includes boxes of hospital-safe Shabbat “candles” – a set of two special battery-operated tealights with the words לכבוד שבת קודש “in honor of the holy Shabbat” printed in Hebrew.  Diana received a set of these special candles and was thus able to enjoy the glow of Shabbat/YomTov lights in her hospital room.

In addition to providing acute spiritual care to unaffiliated Jews in San Diego County, Rabbi Dalin serves as our Jewish community’s liaison to local hospitals to assist them in helping to meet the spiritual needs of Jewish patients in their hospital.  Diana’s experience at Sharp Memorial is one example of this meaningful relationship.

To learn more about our Jewish Chaplaincy Services program, click here.


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