Jewish Family & Children’s Service had long wanted to expand its hospital chaplaincy program to the West Valley, but the funds simply weren’t there — until now.
Thanks to a gift from the Molly Blank Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, JFCS has finally been able to add a third rabbi to serve patients in the West Valley.
Rabbi Tracee Rosen of Emeth Congregation in Sun City West has just started her chaplaincy work at Abrazo Arrowhead and Banner Thunderbird in Glendale, Banner Boswell in Sun City, and Banner Del Webb in Sun City West. Overall, the program covers 26 hospitals across the Valley.
“This program is mostly for unaffiliated Jewish people who are in the hospital,” said Ellie Schwartzberg, vice president of Older Adults and Jewish Community Services for JFCS. “We know that there is just such a Jewish population in the West Valley.”
Rosen believes that one of the most important parts of her chaplaincy is reaching out to the unaffiliated who may not be aware of the number of Jewish services available to them in the Valley.
“Out in the West Valley, where many people are either snowbirds or have retired here, they are not originally from the Valley and they may not have ties to the Jewish community here,” Rosen said.
If unaffiliated Jews find themselves hospitalized in facilities covered by JFCS’ chaplaincy program, they can be sure that a rabbi will be available to comfort them or just listen.
“My main objective is just to provide service and comfort and help to those people who need that at a time when they’re feeling most vulnerable,” Rosen said. Rosen also will take after-hours calls from hospitals for end-of-life issues.
She joins Rabbi Michael Dubitsky and Rabbi Robert Kravitz in providing chaplaincy services. Dubitsky, who is also a teacher at Shearim Torah High School for Girls, covers 11 hospitals, from downtown to north Phoenix. Kravitz, the senior chaplain for the Scottsdale Police Department, covers 11 hospitals, from Scottsdale to the southeast Valley out to Gilbert. He also responds to emergency after-hours calls from hospitals in the central and southeast parts of the Valley. Kravitz said that in 2018, he and Dubitsky saw 4,200 people
Kravitz has spent 11 years in JFCS’ chaplaincy program. He said in the past a rabbi could go into a hospital and wander around to try to find Jewish patients to serve. But following passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) of 1996, that was no longer allowed.
“When I came on board, the first thing I had to do was go through a volunteer program at every one of the hospitals that I served,” he said. “We receive from the hospital or the chaplain’s office a list of all the Jewish patients in those hospitals who have identified as being Jewish.”
Kravtiz emphasized that “if folks don’t say they’re Jewish when they go into the hospital, we will never know they are there.”
Dubitsky was the second rabbi to join the program. Over the years, he has seen the need for his services grow.
“I was getting calls from hospitals all over the Valley, and I was just saying, ‘I’m sorry. I can only cover the hospitals we’re overseeing,’” he said. “The fact that the need is expanding shows that the Jewish community is both growing and has those needs for spiritual counseling.”
While the JFCS chaplains’ mandate is to serve Jewish patients, they will provide comfort to people of other faiths if in-house chaplains are not available.
“There was one hospital where there was someone of another faith whose child was about to have massive brain surgery and they couldn’t get a hospital chaplain from the family’s faith,” Dubitsky said. “Hospital staff asked me to speak with the family and I did. That is my training.”
Kravitz and Dubitsky eagerly welcomed Rosen to their small staff. They have no doubts that she will succeed in her mission.
“We’re delighted to have Rabbi Tracy Rosen onboard with us because she has the qualities of interpersonal relationships, a spiritual and religious background, and she’s a genuinely a nice person,” Kravitz said. JN