Debt of gratitude

Debt of gratitude

Many of us have benefited from the wisdom of our warm, insightful, and compassionate congregational social worker, Ann Hicks. What few of us know, however, is that Ann’s role at Temple B’nai Abraham is made possible by a momentous decision made in Newark over 100 years ago.

In 1901, concerned that Jewish patients have a supportive and kosher hospital setting in which to be treated and that Jewish doctors have unfettered access to a first-rate medical center for their practice, the Jewish community established Newark Beth Israel Hospital. Since then, “the Beth” has been one of the most important medical centers in the state, renowned for education, patient care, and pioneering research.

To take advantage of economies of scale during those economically challenging medical times, NBI became part of the St. Barnabas Healthcare System in the 1990s. Though retaining its independent Jewish character, “the Beth” was effectively sold to St. Barnabas, and with the proceeds of the sale, NBI leadership established what is today the Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

True to the spirit of Newark Beth Israel, the foundation engages in numerous worthy efforts to promote better health for all in greater Newark, especially within the Jewish community. And there is probably no more effective single program it has engaged in than to place social workers, through Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, in local congregations. In this way, the Healthcare Foundation and JFS hoped to reach many people, previously unserved, who would benefit from such services.

To say this goal was met is an understatement, as a recent study shows, it has had amazing impact. As a group, the social workers have engaged with over 4,000 different individuals. Nearly 90 percent among 700 survey responses noted they were “very satisfied” with contacts they had had with one of the social workers. Over 95 percent consider the social worker a good and important addition to the synagogue staff, and the same amount would refer a fellow congregant.

Like her colleagues, Ann engages in a variety of important activities. She provides short-term counseling to individuals and families, leads workshops for groups ranging from new mothers to first-time mothers-in-law, and is a wonderful resource to the rest of our synagogue staff on how we can maximize effectiveness in our own positions. Ann comes to us through the Jewish Family Service of MetroWest, mainly paid for by the Healthcare Foundation, and Temple B’nai Abraham is the lucky, lucky recipient of this largesse.

The congregation owes a debt of gratitude to Jewish Family Service for overseeing this wonderful program, and especially to the Healthcare Foundation for initiating it and contributing a large portion of its funding. This is one of the best examples I know of the impact that can result when multiple institutions join hands, allowing each to do what it does best.

In particular, I want to thank those temple members in the Healthcare Foundation’s leadership—vice chair Beth Levithan, treasurer Ellen Wagenberg, and board members Lionel Levey and Marvin Wertheimer—for their involvementin this.

Rabbi Clifford Kulwin
Temple B’nai Abraham


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