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A Chain of Caring

By Connie Gruber | Issue Date: September 2011

Helping hands.

After major cervical spine surgery, I was nearly incapacitated. Doctor’s orders were to take a walk every day… but with little balance or strength, I couldn’t do it alone. I needed help! Gratefully, I knew where to find it.

BJ’s Bikkur Holim volunteers responded to my need. Several people took me out for walks that lasted about 45 minutes. They held my hand, walked slowly and patiently, and offered encouragement. These walks were also a chance to enjoy their company. Some even brought tasty treats like home-cooked inventive veggie dishes, stews, and sweets. I progressed to where I could walk alone. These walks were so helpful, on both a physical and emotional level, to my recovery, and I was (and am) so appreciative.

My experience is just one of many. BJ’s Bikkur Holim Committee does an amazing job fulfilling the mitzvah of providing comfort to those who are ill, whether they suffer the pains of the body or spirit. We like to say that we are “a chain of caring” or “community helping community,” and we respond swiftly when our members are in need, our core function.

We want BJ members to know about the services we provide and to call on us if the need arises.

What We Do
For those undergoing or recovering from illness or incapacity as well as for the frail elderly, people with chronic, long-term illness, and those with special needs, we offer compassionate person-to-person assistance with patient needs such as: home visits, bringing food, errands, transportation to and from doctors, weekly Shabbat phone calls, and more. Often a Bikkur Holim member who had a similar illness can share his or her own experience and feelings.

For family members and caregivers who have added a name to the Mi Sheberakh list, we make a personal phone call to let them know that BJ is praying for them and also to provide information and support

How We Do It
All committee members participate in education and training to assure that they are able to provide meaningful and compassionate assistance in a strictly confidential manner. Only the volunteer and the recruiter know anything about the situation, and they are committed to maintaining users’ privacy.

Asking for Help
It’s easy to let embarrassment, fear, or pride get in the way of asking for help, but we encourage members to reach out to Bikkur Holim if you are in need. We’ll work with you and find a way to help that works for you. Of course, you can always say “No, thank you”
if it doesn’t work out.

Volunteering to Help
Many people who have helped others say how rewarding the experience was for them. Likewise, many of our congregants who have received help, often later ask us ”How can I give back?”

Glad you asked. Bikkur Holim is always looking for wonderful, energetic new volunteers!

I joined Bikkur Holim when I was a new BJ member seven years ago and was impressed by the commitment of members of the group to helping our fellow congregants. Through Bikkur Holim I met and became friends with really terrific people. I’ve also had the chance to get to know the many people I have personally helped. It has been a wonderful way of getting integrated into the BJ community.

To get involved with the person-to-person volunteer roles mentioned here contact one of the following teams; the Visiting Team led by Connie Gruber and Barbara Schwimmer; the Shabbat Connections Team, led by Amy Korn and Bernice Todres; the Mi Sheberakh Team, led by Amy Korn and Nancy Greenblatt, or write directly to or according to your interest. In addition to the various person-to-person roles described in this article we also need people with good organizational skills to coordinate support teams, outreach, and event planning.

Be aware that direct assistance to BJ members is only one of the things that Bikkur Holim does. Read about our other efforts in a future KH.

Connie Gruber has been a BJ member for seven years and a member of Panim’s Environmental Hevra and Bikkur Holim. She has recently begun participating in the new Aging in NYC Exploratory Team.