Spiritual Support For All Faiths
Hebrew SeniorLife’s commitment to redefining the experience of aging is rooted in a heritage of honoring and respecting our elders. Our organization began in 1903, as a response to the unique needs of Jewish seniors in Boston that had not only suffered from the struggles of immigration and the traumas of war, but were being excluded from the traditional health and senior care services of the time.
This determination to meet the needs of Boston’s Jewish seniors, who together form a varied tapestry of Jewish observance and identity, remains steady today. Equally steady is our commitment to serve the spiritual needs of all seniors in our care, regardless of faith, race, ethnic background, gender expression, or sexual orientation. It is because of our Jewish identity, not despite it, that we work to ensure a supportive spiritual environment for all residents, patients, and their families.
Towards this end, every chaplain at Hebrew SeniorLife is either board-certified in interfaith chaplaincy or studying to become so. While communal opportunities for religious life vary among our locations based on the needs of each community, our commitment to inclusion never wavers. We continually strive to connect each resident, patient, and family member with the spiritual resources that resonate most for them.
What Do Hebrew SeniorLife Chaplains Do?
Our spiritual care team serves patients, residents, staff, and family members of all traditions and backgrounds. In Hebrew SeniorLife’s chronic care hospitals, senior living communities, and through our in-home care services, chaplains work as members of an interdisciplinary team to provide spiritual care and to facilitate reflection and spiritual growth. Hebrew SeniorLife chaplains have particular expertise in helping people find meaning and deepen their spiritual lives as they encounter the challenges and opportunities of aging, and in some cases struggle and live with dementia, and approach the end of life.
Our chaplains are engaged every day in caring for seniors –during difficult times, celebrating the happy moments, and then often again at the end of life. We are proud to help provide for spiritual well-being alongside our colleagues who work to ensure physical and mental health. We also support staff when they need someone to listen. Together, we work as one team to deliver on Hebrew SeniorLife’s mission: to transform the experience of aging.
The Hebrew SeniorLife Chaplaincy Institute, accredited by ACPE: The Standard for Spiritual Care & Education, provides geriatric-focused spiritual care training for seminary students of many faiths, future clergy seeking spiritual care skills, and aspiring or current health care chaplains. This is the only ACPE-accredited Jewish geriatric chaplaincy training program in the country, and it attracts students from across North America and as far as Israel. Students leave the program as chaplains trained to support seniors and families through the joys and challenges of aging, loss, and end of life and with expertise in Jewish spiritual care. They also provide 5,000 hours of care to our patients each year as part of their training.
A natural extension of Hebrew SeniorLife’s chaplaincy and rapidly expanding in-home care offerings, Hebrew SeniorLife's Community Chaplaincy Initiative provides a listening presence and Jewish programming to Boston-area older adults in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and senior housing communities. It provides renewed meaning and hope to those coping with illness, loneliness, disability, end-of-life issues, and other life struggles. We offer skilled spiritual care services to Jews and other individuals, along with Shabbat and Jewish holiday programming, text study sessions, and staff and family support. Chaplaincy services are available in-person, virtually, or by telephone.
The Community Chaplaincy Initiative is led by Rabbi Judy Kummer, formerly director of the Jewish Chaplaincy Council of Massachusetts, who brought this initiative to Hebrew SeniorLife with support from Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
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