One of the many blessings I have in my role as vice president of mission with KentuckyOne Health is the opportunity to work with amazing people.
I am awed by the incredible staff at our hospitals: nurses, doctors, personal care assistants, transporters, volunteers, social workers, chaplains. In Hebrew, the word for holiness is kedushah, which is related to the word for dedication. Indeed, from their loving dedication, I am inspired.
I am also blessed to work with incredibly brilliant and dedicated leaders, who balance the complexity of health care with the needs of the most underserved in our communities. They ensure that we provide cutting edge care to the most medically acute patients in our state.
As if these blessings were not enough, I have been moved by the gratitude of the non-Jews whom I lead as their rabbi and mission leader. Weekly, I write a reflection on the Torah portion and send it out to almost 10,000 employees. I am humbled by their responses, sharing with me the ways in which my commentaries help them to cope with challenges in their own lives.
I have also been touched by the enthusiastic support I have received from my fellow Mission colleagues who are part of Catholic Health Initiatives and the Catholic Health Association, particularly Dr. Carl Middleton. They share my reflections on the Torah portion or the Jewish holidays with Catholic Health Initiatives facilities across the country. I am so grateful for their generosity and support. Even in this time of transition and transformation for Jewish Hospital, I know that the relationships and learning that have been forged will continue.
Judaism teaches an important principle: keruv (bringing people closer), which speaks to the ways we can participate in tikkun olam (healing the world). Helping people appreciate the wisdom Judaism can bring, for people who perhaps have never studied Judaism, is a powerful way I can help to reduce anti-Semitism and intolerance.
I seek to do the same with Catholicism, which has so much to teach and whose values of compassion and justice are so closely aligned with our own. As such, I would like to share an excerpt of a reflection from my colleague, Jay Gilchrist, of Memorial Health in Texas:
“Many of us will give of ourselves this week and this season by helping with community food drives, family sponsorships, clothing and toy drives and the like. These things and the things we do all year long to serve the poor are the best ways to show thankfulness – through service of those most in need.
Our two-step approach to healing ministry is to emphasize human dignity and social justice as we create healthier communities. The first step, reverence for the dignity of every person we serve, is the way we treat those who come to us – without harm, with healing help and with compassionate courtesy.
The second step, work for justice in our communities, is demonstrated by the many things we do to help people get and stay healthy and out of the hospital. Our list of second/social justice steps is extensive…. We host so many educational events all year long, like health fairs, classes, support groups, and the like. We devote ourselves to free screenings and exams, involvement in community partnerships, the education of future health providers, and leaders and donations of our cash, space, time and talent to groups that improve people’s quality of life.
This Sunday, after Thanksgiving, is the first World Day of the Poor, in which Pope Francis is calling people of good will everywhere to look this day on all those who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity. They are our brothers and sisters, created and loved by the one Heavenly Father.
World Day of the Poor is a call to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter. I thank God for you, and for the myriad opportunities we have, to heal and to help people. Please pray in thanks with me:
Loving God, we thank you for richly blessing our families and our team.
Open our eyes to see you in the face of the poor who come to us for healing and help.
Open our hearts to find ways to increase access and opportunities for health.
Open our hands to embrace the poor with no ifs, buts, or maybes.
Praise you for the privilege of doing your work with your beloved “least.”
(Rabbi Nadia Siritsky is vice president of mission at KentuckyOne Health.)