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A Caring Presence, Bringing the gift of hope. Comfort, and Courage
What should you say? What should you do?
A Caring Presence, Bringing the gift of hope. Comfort, and Courage

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Guidelines for visiting hospital patients-the homebound elderly-shiva/bereaved families
Author: Simeon Schrieber
Publisher: Gefen Publishing House

Price: $16.95
Format: Paperback
ISBN 10: 9652295574
ISBN 13: 9789652295576
Catalog Number: 9789652295576
Number of Pages: 100

What should you say? What should you do?

Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, has translated his many years of experience into highly effective techniques for visiting hospital patients, the homebound elderly, and bereaved families. These principles, which he teaches in diverse seminars, are now available to you in this friendly, down-to-earth manual. A Caring Presence contains surprising suggestions on what to say and what not to say; what to do
and what not to do.
Throughout the book, Rabbi Schreiber helps you develop the sensitivity and expertise to be an adept caring presence when others need you most.
Comariative Review by Rabbi Jack Riemer:
MISHKAN R’FUAH: WHERE HEALING RESIDES, edited by Rabbi Eric Weiss, CCAR Press, N.Y. N.Y.107 pages.
A CARING PRESENCE by Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, Gefen Publishing Co. Jerusalem and New York, l09 pages.

I have adopted a new resolution this year, which is that since I am a Conservative rabbi, I will try to read as many books by Orthodox and Reform teachers as I can. The reason for this new resolution is that if I only read books that I already agree with, I will only strengthen my own position, but will not learn from those with whom I disagree, but if I reach out and learn from other those who have different perspectives, I will broaden my own understanding. So here are two books, one Reform and one Orthodox, from which I have learned. Both deal with how to help those that are ill, which is an area where no group has the monopoly on the truth. Mishkan R’fuah is a collection of prayers to be said by those who are ill, or by those who care for them. There are the traditional Jewish prayers—like the misheberach and the vidui-unfortunately only in English.

There is the Debbie Friedman Misheberach, which has become standard in all the liberal services. But what is most interesting about this collection are the prayers for situations that we seldom think about. There are prayers to be said before entering surgery, or for beginning chemotherapy, for awaiting a transplant, or for entering hospice, and for a family to recite when stopping all further treatment. I doubt if many booklets of prayers for the sick have thought to include prayers for these moments before. But what is even more surprising is that this booklet includes prayers to be said when receiving a diagnosis of dementia, for entering a long-term care facility, for those who are suffering from addiction to drugs or who are struggling with an eating disorder, for healing from mental illness, and even for entering prison. Whether you find each of these prayers equally strengthening and helpful may be a matter of your own taste or mood, but the idea of reckoning with these difficult moments in life, and trying to give a spiritual voice to those who are struggling with these moments is surely praiseworthy.

A Caring Presence is a guide on how to make a sick call and on how to make a shivah call. It is written by Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, who is the Senior Staff Chaplain at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami.

Rabbi Schreiber begins by abusing us of the idea that ‘bickur cholim’ means visiting the sick. To think of it that way is to perpetuate the idea that we are the generous ones and they are the helpless ones. A wiser way to look upon bickur cholim, he says, is as being of service to one's fellow human being. The distinction is that if we look at the sick call this way, it is not a favor that we do for the ill out of our goodness ,but an obligation that we do out of our status as commanded human beings. Bickur, Rabbi Shreiber points out, as Rabbi Norman Lamm did before him, is related to the word boker, which means morning. To visit the sick is to bring a measure of light into the life of someone who is living in darkness and depression. Many of us are uncomfortable when we have to make a sick call. I know that I have stood outside a patient's room more than once, mustering up my courage before I went in. And so, Rabbi Schreiber book will be a useful guide for all those who are concerned with how to make a sick call that will be helpful, and not hurtful. He guides us through the steps of a beneficial sick call slowly and carefully. He teaches us that our role is not to cure, and not to distract the patient, not to take away their illness, or to compare their lot with that of others whom we know, not to entertain them and not to instruct them. Our task is to listen, to empathize, and to help the person express his or her yearnings, his or her fears, and his or her prayers. Our task is not curing; our task is caring. Like a skilled teacher, Rabbi Schreiber gives the reader some case studies to study. He describes some sample sick calls, and then analyses with us what the visitor did right and what the visitor did wrong. For example, he suggests that one should always call before coming to visit, or at the very least, ask if this is a good time to visit before entering the patient's room. This may seem like a small thing, but he explains that doing this does much to preserve the patient’s dignity and sense of control over his or her life. When you are in the hospital, other people decide what you eat and when you eat, when you sleep, what you wear and what you drink, when you are treated, and when you are taken to therapy or treatments. When or whether you receive visitors is at least one thing that the patient should be allowed to feel a measure of control over. The book contains some very good practical advice on how to make a visit to a person who is homebound, and on how to make a shivah call as well. It offers such sensible suggestions as acknowledging and showing respect to the caretaker, sitting close to the person you are visiting instead of towering over them, and taking your direction from them as to whether they want to speak and whether they want to listen, and what it is that they want to speak about. A Reform Jew can learn much from this guide to how to make a sick call that has been written by an Orthodox rabbi, and an Orthodox Jew can learn much about how to pray with a person in distress from this collection of prayers that have been gathered by a Reform rabbi. And that is the way it should be!
Rabbi Jack Riemer is the editor of Jewish Reflections On Death and The World of the High Holy Days, and the co editor of So That Your Values Live On: A treasury of Jewish Ethical Wils.

This thoughtful work is full of great wisdom, and will be very useful to both the novice and seasoned professional alike. I was moved and touched by the author’s real compassion and sensitivity in dealing with a whole range of potentially complex situations. You will never perform these mitzvot the same way again after you read this book.
Rabbi Dr. Jacob J. Schacter
Senior Scholar, Center for the Jewish Future, Yeshiva University

Well worth reading.… The author captures the flavor and spirit of bikur cholim.… I highly recommend this well-thought-out description of how to be most effective in visiting people in various situations of need.
Rabbi Solomon Schiff
Executive Vice President Emeritus, Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami; Director of Chaplaincy Emeritus, Greater Miami Jewish Federation

Rabbi Schreiber teaches us how to bring spiritual healing to those who hurt so deeply.… I recommend A Caring Presence as a must-read for all of us who inevitably must face pain in our lives.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik
Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis

A wake-up call that gives meaning and substance to the mitzvah of bikur cholim.…
Rabbi Dr. Reuven P. Bulka
Author; rabbi of Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa

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