Tag Archives: NCJW

Expanding my Spiritual Care Volunteer Work

8 Apr

Over the last six months, I realized that I needed to expand the work I do as a spiritual care volunteer (SCV) for Jewish Family Services. For the past four years, I have been working with the senior population at one elder care facility. To be honest, it is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions I have ever held. I believe I am really helping people and making life a bit more pleasant. It gladdens my heart.

But six months ago, we had a family event that changed me. My daughter lost a pregnancy at five months as their much wanted fetus was not viable. Making a choice to end a pregnancy is not an easy decision. It hurts the heart. I traveled to be with my daughter and son in law. I realize during the time that I was with them, that my spiritual care training was helpful as we walked and talked and dealt with this unhappy time.

When I returned home, I saw that the Bikur Cholim, an organization that provided programming for chaplains and SCV, was offering a three-week summit entitled, “Perinatal Loss Summit” with a group called “I Was Supposed to Have A Baby.”  I thought that would help us as we dealt with our loss, so I signed up.

The Mission of “I Was Supposed to Have A Baby” is “is to utilize social platforms (Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) to support all Jewish individuals and families struggling to have a child by providing a warm and nurturing space for those going through infertility, pregnancy loss, infant loss, surrogacy and adoption, and by making connections to resources in the Jewish community at large.”

I found this three-part programming informative, helpful, and thought provoking as I learned about Jewish rituals, or rather lack of, for women who suffered pregnancy loss, infertility and death of an infant. I was excited to learn that women were developing their own rituals. I read the book that was discussed, “Tears of Sorrow, Seeds of Hope,” by Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin. Its subtitle is “A Jewish Spiritual Companion for Infertility and Pregnancy Loss.” It provides ideas for both rituals and prayers. I found it extremely helpful.

The third meeting impacted my SCV/NCJW volunteer mind. It included representatives of a National Council of Jewish Women section in New York who provided individual peer support and group support for women going experiencing pregnancy issue: infertility and loss. They would pair a woman who had a similar problem 20 or more years ago with a women going through it now for peer counseling.

As someone who also suffered through infertility, ending with both biological and adopted children, and this more recent family loss, I thought this might be something I could do. I spoke to the JFS Rabbi who is my supervisor for SCV to see this was possible. He said that spiritual care volunteers could help wherever they were needed.

I also spoke to the woman who runs a program in our area called Priya, which is focused on helping couples who are having infertility, trying to adopt, and other birth related issues. I asked if they had a peer support program or anything like that. She said they had tried, but people felt uncomfortable talking to others and revealing their feelings afraid that the information would get into the public. But as I am HIPPA compliant as a spiritual care volunteer that is not an issue. I do not talk about who and what I learn.

They both agreed that this is something that might be useful in our community. With that encouragement. I am continuing on my quest to help. Recently Jewish Family Services paid for me to attend a one-day workshop on “The Mental Health of Women in the Reproductive Years.” Of the 30 participants, I was the only one not in the medical field…most were social workers who worked with or planned to work with pregnant women dealing with postpartum depression, as well as pregnancy loss. Centimano Counseling, which is focused on Perinatal Mental Health, held the workshop. I learned more than I expected and was glad I had the opportunity to attend.

My belief is that if I even help one person or one couple, then it is more than worth all these extra trainings. I remember the black hole of despair I had when I could not get pregnant and all around me my family and friends were having babies. I understand how difficult it is to speak to someone who has no idea what heartache was happening within me. I knew how it was easier to speak to someone who was going through the same problems as me than even my own mother, who had no idea what infertility was like.

So I am hoping that as a compassionate, HIIPA compliant, friendly sounding board, I can help those in need get a little bit of hope and joy back in their lives.




Honey for Rosh Hashannah and a Sweet, Wonderful Year!

11 Sep

Honey, apples, serving dishes, flowers and my kitten make the holiday sweet and happy.

Honey, apples, serving dishes, flowers and my kitten make the holiday sweet and happy.

We must have honey for Rosh Hashannah: honey for our apples, honey for our challah, honey in our cakes. Honey brings the knowledge that the year will be sweet. And even in times of sorrow, we must think of the happy sweetness of honey.

For over ten years my local section of National Council of Jewish Women has been selling honey for Rosh Hashannah. A dedicated group of women organize this fund raising mitzvah. We enjoy the camaraderie of packing the honey and signing cards. Each year we send out almost 1000 boxes of honey throughout the USA to family and friends.

I enjoy helping with this fundraiser both as a volunteer and as a contributor. It is one good deed, one act of Tzedakah, that I truly enjoy. Each year it seems that I send out more and more honey to my family and friends. Most of the honey I send out goes to people who live far from me. It is a way for me to be part of their holiday experience.

It is a joy to know that these people/families will have honey for the holidays. And they will know that my husband and I are thinking of them.

For many it has become a tradition. I get phone calls and emails asking me if the honey is still coming. Of course it is. I will continue to buy honey as long as NCJW has this fundraiser.

I love getting the thank you emails when the honey arrives. One friend even sent me a photo of her honey in her thanks. Another cousin in California told me that she would definitely be using her honey. From New York I heard “We got your honey! Thank you!” A friend in Massachusetts sent a note that just entitled “Sweetness,” because getting honey is that!

I know getting honey makes people happy, which makes me happy. The recipients know my family and I am sending them love as well as sweetness. We are helping to make their holiday and New Year as wonderful as can be. And sweetness from honey helps.

When my daughter was in college, I sent honey to her and her friends, some who were not even Jewish. They called it the ‘holy honey’ and used it not only for Rosh Hashannah, but also whenever they were feeling sick or blue. Tea and ‘holy honey’ cheered everyone up! What a way to make a year sweet and healthy!

On Rosh Hashannah I take out my special honey and apple set. I actually have several now. The one I used when the children were little looks like a bee hive. They loved it.   I also have the honey bowl my parents used for their holiday. Each year I use them as we dip our apples and challah into honey.

The holiday is soon. My raisin challah and honey cake are ordered. My NCJW honey is ready to be opened. My holiday meals are planned. Whenever I get ready for Rosh Hashannah, I remember celebrating the holidays with my family, with my maternal grandparents.  My grandfather was a baker and his special, round Rosh Hashannah challahs were delicious.  So sweet and so wonderful dipped in honey.

As we celebrate I try to think of all the joy and happiness that is in the world, and block out the sadness. Although we cannot forget what is happening, for this moment in time we celebrate and prepare for the time of forgiveness and repentance. But for now:

L’shana tova u metuka! May you all have a good and sweet year.

May Her Name Be a Blessings

3 Sep

I had a shock today. I think many of us did.

On the news yesterday I saw that three people were murdered in South Kansas City. In an area where many retired people live. I knew exactly the spot as someone I knew lived there.

And then today I found out that she was one of the people murdered. I am in shock. For me writing is a way to deal with emotions. So I need to write about her.


We only meet about five years ago.   She became active in National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Kansas City Section.   And we began working together on committees. She was very interested in two issues important to me, interfaith relations and the issue of ‘chained’ women, agunot, Jewish women who could not get a religious divorce. So we began working on these issues together.

When we met, we realized that our lives had touched once before we met.   I had replaced her as a speaker at an interfaith event when she was ill. She was supposed to speak about Judaism. Since I was at the event with my daughter, I was asked to fill in.

Later, when we met, it was this incident that gave us something in common. It was where we found our commonality. She also had a strong belief in interfaith communication and cooperation.

Besides our NCJW connection, I once interviewed her husband (for the Jewish Chronicle) when he received a wonderful award from the synagogue they belonged to. The three of us sat together in their dining room while I interviewed the two of them. He wanted her there. They were so close. He had prepared a small feast of Middle Eastern finger foods. It was hard to type, interview and eat. But that is what I had to do that day. Luckily they both loved the article when it was published.

This past March, I drove her to the National Council of Jewish Women Convention in St. Louis. We had spent five hours driving there and five hours driving home together, besides the four days at the convention. You learn a lot about someone when you spend so much time alone together.

In the car we talked about our families. She was very proud of her nephews. And spoke about them as I spoke about my children. We talked about interfaith, as we would soon be having, our interfaith event.   We had combined learning about different religions and the issue of divorce in these religions: Judaism, Catholicism and Islam. As these three religions had different and definite rules on divorce. It turned out to be a wonderful panel discussion. And she was one of the panalists.

We talked about her mother, who was ill. And I talked about the death of my parents. Her mother died just a month ago. I know it was hard for her.

I took her to her home and parked in the driveway. I pulled out her suitcase. And her husband came to get it. And I left them.

A few days later, they both showed up at my house. He had made Hamantaschen for Purim. And they wanted me to have some as a thank you and because the holiday was soon. It is tradition to bring snacks, ‘shaloch manot,” for Purim.

I last saw her last week. We met by chance in a women’s clothing store. I feeling blue about something. She was out shopping for the first time since her Mom had passed. I had been out of town when her Mom died, so had not been at the funeral or paid a visit.

We talked about NCJW and when she would get back to volunteering. I told her everyone understood.   It is difficult to lose your mother. When she was ready it was time enough.

We showed each other what we were trying on. She had on a long black skirt, with lace and tiers, very her, and a black and white top.   She asked my opinion. I said I liked both pieces, but not together. She told me I was wrong.  And that was okay because we are both opinionated and strong willed women.

I knew she was back to herself. I smiled and said, Okay. To each their own style.

And now I feel sad.  I do not think she ever wore the new outfit she had tried on.  I see her in my mind twirling the long black skirt for me.

She will never volunteer again.

I am shocked.

Baruck Dayan haEmet, May her Name be for a blessing.