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Bikur cholim, "visiting the sick", in Hebrew, is a term encompassing a number of activities performed by an individual or a group to provide comfort and support to people who are ill, homebound, or feel isolated. Bikur cholim can include such activities as: visiting patients in a hospital, rehabilitation center or nursing home; visiting people who are restricted and homebound because of physical impairment or social isolation; people who are ill or impaired on errands or field trips; providing telephone contact and reassurance to those who are ill or homebound.

For Shomrei Torah's Bikur Cholim committee, reaching members of the congregation who are in need of help is our top priority. One of our challenges, is getting people to call on us,  to let bikur cholim become a real part of our congregation's life. That way we can become a caring community for each other. While it is critical to make contact with people who are isolated and chronically ill, there is a whole range of people in the congregation who can use help for different reasons. A young mother has the flu, needs to get her son to soccer practice. Someone who has broken a leg and is feeling alone. We are trying to take away the "sense of stigma" about asking for help. Many of people understand and know that in order to perform the mitzvah we need those who are in need to allow themselves to be helped.

Why is bikur cholim important?
Because people need to feel connected to the community especially when they are ill or homebound;
Because bringing the community to the bedside lifts the spirit of someone who may feel forgotten;
Because studies have shown that social contact and support are such important influences to those needing and receiving comfort; and
Because visiting and caring activities help build community and character.

We have a really nice cross section of volunteers, some retired, some younger people with families. Among all of us, someone is always available. We have benefited from the training we received from Jeff Lampl, Executive Director of Jewish Family Service in Bergen. Many of us have also met with Howard Hinman Pastor from Chilton Memorial Hospital to review procedures on visiting congregants in the hospital. We are designing a special card which we will send out to all synagogue members who are ill and bring to the people we visit at the hospital.  Our committee's obligation is to make it easier for people who need help to do the asking. One way we can do that is by emphazing the reciprocal nature of the mitzvah. We are all excited about what we are doing and how well it is proceeding!

"Our generation, as those before us and after us, will be judged by how we listen and attend to those who are sick and vulnerable and to those who care for them. In the end, there is actually no them. There is only us"
- Rabbi Simkha Weintraub

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Wayne Conservative Jewish Congregation
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