The prophet Ezekiel (11:16) states that wherever the Jewish people shall go, they are commanded to make a “mikdash me’at” – a small sanctuary, with an eternal light, so that they would remember that which is eternal in the midst of a world that was always changing. Throughout our exile, the Jewish people have turned to the synagogue as a place to find hope, and to reconnect with the wisdom of the generations who have come before them.
Jewish Hospital’s chapel is a place where employees, patients and family members, for decades, have been able to do the same thing. Dedicated to Joseph H. Greenstein, the husband of Sara Greenstein, first female president of the board of trustees (1962-1965), this chapel has helped generations of individuals, struggling to find meaning amid illness and grief.
Unfortunately, this chapel was built in an earlier era and is not wheelchair accessible. I am grateful to the Jewish Hospital and St. Mary’s Foundation for their work with Sara Greenstein’s daughter, Janet Lynch, to fund a renovation of this chapel and make it accessible to all.
Indeed, this accessibility was at the core of Sara Greenstein’s mission and values. During her tenure as board president, Greenstein led efforts to add three more stories to the north wing of the hospital, establish the pension program for employees, establish the open heart surgery team and program, develop the relationship with the rehab hospital that would later become Frazier Rehab Institute, open the first cardiac intensive care unit in Kentucky, establish the first full-time director of teaching services at Jewish Hospital, and perhaps most historically: desegregate patient rooms and medical staff, leading us to be the first hospital in Louisville to be racially integrated.
Many of the reasons that we are so proud of Jewish Hospital can be traced back to her. This commitment to inclusivity for all people, at the heart of our core values of reverence and integrity, is the reason why Jewish Hospital was founded.
First named Jewish Free Hospital in 1903, this hospital was created to provide care for poor refugee and immigrant Jews, and to provide a hospital where Jewish physicians could practice in an era where neither were possible in surrounding hospitals.
This commitment to tikkun olam (repairing the world) was deepened by Sara Greenstein’s insistence that the hospital and medical staff be desegregated, and is proudly continued by Jewish Hospital to this day, as we continue to care for the underserved and advocate for refugees and immigrants of all faith traditions and backgrounds. We are all created in the divine image.
While a hospital that provides free medical care is not possible in today’s world, we continue to try to find ways to care for all who are underserved, and to ensure that we do not turn away anyone who needs care, however challenging that may be. This mission has at times been counter-cultural, and as such, we are grateful for the support of the Jewish community and benefactors throughout Louisville, who believe in this mission, and are willing to step up and help Jewish Hospital to continue this sacred and ever-increasingly important mission. Lynch’s generosity and financial support is one such example, and will enable us to ensure that our chapel will be accessible to all people, by enabling us to renovate it and make it wheelchair accessible.
In a time when the only constant is change, it is comforting to know that we are continuing to fulfill the prophet Ezekiel’s call to build a mikdash me’at – a small sanctuary where one can enter to find a sense of peace and hope. May our chapel continue to bring Light and comfort to all who enter it.
(Rabbi Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission for KentuckyOne Health.)