High Holidays in a Hospital?

Nobody likes to be a patient in a hospital, especially not during the Yomim Noraim – the High Holidays. But what happens if you are a patient? Will you hear the shofar blowing? Can you attend a beautiful service? Does the staff understand your needs and traditions? Will the rooms or hospital be friendly to the halachic rules for Yom Tovim or Shabbos?

These are just some of the questions that Hudson Regional Hospital management and staff have addressed in advance of the Yom Tovim. “Sometimes it’s as simple as a bell so a patient doesn’t have to push a buzzer, as observant patients will not use an electronic buzzer during holidays or Shabbos,” said George Matyjewicz, Ph.D., Director, Community Outreach and liaison for the frum community.

Sadly, Jewish hospitals are fading away. The 21-hospital network North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System was renamed Northwell Health with a rebranding and marketing campaign in 2016. Why? Jewish hospitals have been disappearing as a result of the economic pressures facing all community hospitals, the general acceptance of Jews in the American mainstream, and a loss of Jewish community philanthropy.

But Jewish hospitals cater to the needs of the Jewish faith, with kosher food, a rabbi, a shul or room for davening, a mezuzah on the door, Shabbos elevator, assurance patients would receive a Jewish burial if, chas v’shalom, they died and other such needs. So, what is an observant Jewish patient to do?

Hudson Regional Hospital recognized these issues and noted that the New York City Metropolitan area has the second largest Jewish population in the world (after Tel Aviv) and New Jersey has the 2nd largest Jewish population in the U.S. after New York. With the high home prices in Brooklyn forcing many religious Jews to seek other areas to live, Northern New Jersey communities are ideal for them.

With a Jewish owner, a growing staff of professionals and an excellent group of support organizations, it made sense for Hudson Regional Hospital to focus on the needs of the religious community.

“I was asked by Yan Moshe, owner of Hudson Regional Hospital to join his team and help coordinate outreach to the religious community,” said George Matyjewicz. “I was part of the frum company that managed Bergen Regional Medical Center, where I coordinated religious activities internally for staff and patients. It sounded like an excellent opportunity to reach out to our communities that they should be able to use HRH for their healthcare needs. In the Passaic/Clifton kehila I am the central communication point and had served as Executive Director of Hatzolah, so I understand what we need.”

HRH listened and has worked diligently to cater to the religious communities with some simple, but powerful changes:

– Met with Bikur Cholim to understand what is needed to be able to treat religious patients anywhere in the hospital. Mrs. Racquel Houpt, Executive Director of Bikur Cholim, took a tour of HRH and discussed what is needed.

– Implemented the recommendations including a Shabbos Room for visitors, glatt kosher food for patients and visitors, non-electronics in patient rooms for Shabbos and much more.

– Mr. Matyjewicz, with the help of Rabbanim, developed a training program for HRH staff and wrote a paper entitled “Serving the Frum Community” which defines the religious community and general patient information, Shabbos and Yom Tovim, Bikur Cholim and what is needed and education of staff.

– Met with Hatzolah of Union City to discuss with them the requirements that they have for the Emergency Room and patient admittance, and implemented those requirements, some of which were very simple, e.g., no signature on Shabbos, automatic lights turned off, etc.

– Met with David Rosenberg, Executive Director of NJJBA and implemented the guidelines defined in “The Professional’s Guide to Understanding Judaism.” The document was a project of Hatzolah of Union City and the New Jersey Chaplains Association’s Cultural Sensitivity Training Program. The guide is used for training of local law enforcement and their interaction with the religious communities.

– Engaged Rabbi Col (ret.) Ira Kronenberg as the Rabbi of HRH. Rabbi Kronenberg retired from the US Army after 36 years of service, which included tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also served as Executive Director of Daughters of Miriam in Clifton.

– Affixed mezuzahs on the doors of the hospital and patient rooms.

Also, HRH has been meeting with various groups to discuss the new HRH and their goals, practices, and services offered. These meetings have been well-received as attendees can learn more about services that affect them personally. And, HRH is available to meet with any group to discuss specific needs and how HRH addresses them.

HRH was asked to meet the Sequoia Senior program of Jewish Family Services of Passaic-Clifton to explain to the seniors some services that may affect them, especially the robotic surgeries. HRH also did free glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol screenings plus educational programs.

On September 5, HRH hosted the “Annual Law Enforcement Meeting in Preparation for the High Holidays,” which is organized by the NJJBA. Rabbi Kronenberg was the keynote speaker, where he discussed Yomim Tovim and explained the meaning of each holiday, our security needs on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkos and those buildings in our yards and other topics that affect Law Enforcement.

Hudson Regional Hospital will continue to cater to the religious communities and bring in quality physicians, professionals, and services that are important to the communities served. Patients can inquire about our services or schedule appointments by contacting the hospital directly, either via telephone, at 201-392-3100, or email, at info@hudsonregionalhospital.com.

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