Every two weeks, I get to speak to our new hires about our mission and heritage as part of their orientation. All the employees come together on day one, but day two allows them to learn about the specific legacies of their respective hospitals.
I love welcoming new employees, sharing with them our excitement about our future. There is a lot that we still don’t know, but we remain hopeful about our capacity for growth and service to the community.
Many of our employees are neither Jewish nor Catholic, yet they join an organization that is proudly rooted in both faith traditions. I educate them about both religions, reinforcing our inclusive values.
I share the visionary calling of the sisters who started our Catholic hospitals, their commitment to justice and compassion for the underserved. Working in health care is not just a job, but a life-changing, soulful and sacred experience.
Whether they are doctors, nurses, technicians, food service or environmental service workers, all our employees are part of the care team. The compassion and care they show our guests and patients actualizes divine love in this world.
Our founders recognized that the healing miracles and compassionate care that are made possible in our hospitals can leave a profound and lasting impact, religious identity notwithstanding.
I am always moved by the opportunity to provide education about both our Catholic and Jewish legacies and am touched by the reactions I receive. People frequently tell me that I am the first rabbi they have met.
I have come to realize that most people do not know much about Judaism in general, nor the history that led to the founding of Jewish hospitals across the country.
Jewish hospitals met a need. Jewish doctors could practice there when other hospitals denied them privileges, and poor Jewish refugees and immigrants found affordable medical care and respect for their religion and traditions.
Founded as Jewish Free Hospital, Jewish Hospital’s inclusive mission expanded to become the first racially integrated medical center in Louisville. That inclusiveness continues to this day; the Kentucky Refugee Ministries, which seeks to find work for newcomers from other countries, recently named Jewish an “Employer Champion.”
The ability to transform negative experiences into positive outcomes defines our facilities. It’s one reason we consolidated our resources, preserving our mission to care for the underserved in an era of health care transition.
Frazier Rehab Institute was founded with this same philosophy: Amelia Brown Frazier’s accident, almost a century ago, led her to need to travel to New York City for years. Wondering why she couldn’t get world-class rehabilitation care in her hometown, she and her family created one of our country’s leading rehabilitation centers. It affiliated with Jewish in 1984, enabling it to care for even more profoundly acute patients.
Understanding our founding stories helps our employees revere our mission. It ignites enthusiasm for our commitment to transform negatives into positives. Learning more about Catholicism and Judaism can even increase an appreciation for religious diversity within the broader population.
This connects to my own story. As the child of a Holocaust survivor, I appreciate the opportunity to provide education about Judaism to our employees. I know our patients will come to associate the word “Jewish” with the compassionate healing they get at Jewish Hospital. To me, our mission has become one of education and prevention – a way to ensure “Never Again.”
Every week, I send to every employee in the Jewish Hospital family a reflection on the weekly Torah portion, along with some insights from rabbinic commentary, adapted to a non-Jewish health care setting. I try to show how these insights align with the Catholic tradition or other faiths. After all, we are more alike than different.
I am profoundly moved by the responses I receive. Employees share their surprise that these reflections are so meaningful to them, given that they are not Jewish. They appreciate the unique perspectives of Jewish tradition while recognizing the value of religious diversity.
In a world where religion is often used as a weapon to divide, I am proud of the ways KentuckyOne Health builds a culture of reverence and respect for all religions. May we continue to be a beacon of welcoming light to all.
(Rabbi Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission at KentuckyOne Health.)