By Dr. Einat Ramon
New Outlook is pleased to present a new ongoing guest article from leaders and innovators within the Conservative/Masorti movement on what they do to ensure a bright Jewish future, and how it impacts the community and the world at large. Dr. Ramon is a Senior Lecturer in Jewish Thought at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, where she also serves as Director of the Marpei CPE program. Special Thanks to Rabbi David Golinkin, President of the Schechter Institutes for assisting with this piece.
I am blessed to serve as the director of and a lecturer in the Marpei Spiritual Care training program that I founded in 2006, in collaboration with Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains (NAJC) and later, in 2012, when we became an independent academic program. Our students, who are being trained to become spiritual caregivers, belong to various sectors within Israeli society: secular, Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and ultra-Orthodox; they work various professions – teachers, nurses, doctors, therapists; and come from all over the State of Israel – from the Galilee to the Negev. We serve patients who come from all walks of Israeli life: Jews and Arabs, Druze and Bedouins, Christians and Moslems, patients at hospitals, residents at old age homes, youth and their parents at various educational settings: formal and informal, religious and secular, as well as special education.
Our students follow a curriculum based on the philosophy of spiritual care set forth in the The Tanakh (mostly, in the books of Genesis, Deuteronomy and Ecclesiastics) and Rabbinic Midrashim, as well as in modern Jewish philosophical thinking from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We have also published a book entitled Truth and Lovingkindness that fully encapsulates our educational philosophy. From the very beginning, we integrated Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE), which trains hospital and medical facility professionals to provide chaplaincy care to their patients, as the model for training our students. Then, we made the necessary changes so that our trainees (who are mostly M.A. students at the Schechter Institute), in addition to their practicum, receive ethical, practical, and theological tools. Thus, in addition to our “core courses” in CPE, we offer courses on Jewish ethics, pluralism, and more.
As we developed this revisionist model of training spiritual caregivers, we joined hands with allies at NAJC, key among them, Cecille Allman Asekoff, the current Director of the Joint Chaplaincy Committee at Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey and Director of Global Initiatives for Life’s Door, a non-profit in Israel, as well as the former CEO of NAJC. In thirteen years, Marpei has blossomed into an opportunity for professional collaboration between Jewish and Christian supervisors from the American umbrella institutions of CPE: ACPE and CPSP (College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy). We are grateful for the opportunity to “be there” for Israel’s most vulnerable people: the elderly, the sick and their loved ones, youth at risk, special education children and their families, Holocaust survivors, homeless people, foreign workers, and others. May God help us continue the work of spiritual care in Israel, so that each person will pray, however he/she understands prayer, for himself/herself (see Genesis Rabbah, 53:14).
The Truth and Lovingkindness sourcebook can be ordered at http://www.schocken-jts.org.il/hebrew/bookstore/prodview.asp?idproduct=412
Editor’s note: Cecille Allman Asekoff recently led a Women’s League Personal Conversation on Creating a Caring Community – CCCP, a global interfaith initiative she developed with the Joint Chaplaincy Committee at MetroWest. Learn more about how you can start a CCCP program in your community and download additional materials at http://wlcj.org/programs/personal-conversations/.