Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mrs. Miriam Lubling Hospitality-Bikur Cholim Room

Recently, a friend of mine took me on a tour of the Mrs. Miriam Lubling Hospitality-Bikur Cholim Room at the NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. The room itself is located in Rusk, part of a hallway lined with tinsel, cheerful snowmen and happy Kwanzaa signs. I'm a fan of multiculturalism when it means that there's a plethora of colorful things involved.

Bikkur Cholim literally means visiting the sick. This room is set up so that Orthodox relatives of someone who is in the hospital do not have to fend for themselves in an effort to find food or a place to sit, lie down or eat a meal. There's a large table covered with a heavy-duty plastic tablecloth, a sofa, chairs, Jewish magazines and other forms of reading material. The fridge is fully stocked with all manner of items directly provided by the Satmar Bikkur Cholim (read an article about a day in the lives of these women here). There are cheese danishes, containers of pasta with meat sauces, various apple sauces, drinks, cakes and cookies...and that was on a day when they were entirely snowed out and thus not able to get to the hospital to restock the shelves. Ordinarily, my friend informed me, the shelves are bursting with all sorts of food products. Everything is provided completely for free.

In addition, this is a space where Orthodox patients can keep their food; all they have to do is label it with their name and room number and no one will touch it. The fridge is filled with those sorts of packages.

There are cabinets boasting kiddush and havdalah sets, a Sefer Torah locked up in a cupboard that is taken out during Shabbos, utensils, sinks and both dairy and meat microwaves- in short, everything a visitor or a patient might need during their stay at NYU. The amazing part is that at least three different organizations are involved in various aspects of Bikkur Cholim here at NYU. First, there's Satmar, who provides all the food free of charge in portion-sized tupperware containers. Then, there's a certain Rabbi Ridnick (Rudnick? Someone in Boro Park who knows, please correct me) who is a rabbi of a congregation in Boro Park who specifically provides delicious food for Shabbos. And then there are special people who provide apartments two blocks away (and imagine how expensive apartments are in the middle of Midtown Manhattan!) for men and women to stay at. There's a Ladies Apartment and a Men's Apartment so that family members have a place to sleep the night and especially over Shabbos and still be able to spend time with their loved ones.

A rabbi who knows my friend said something that to me resonated powerfully. I don't remember if he was quoting someone or if this was his original thought; he stated that, "All hashkafos make peace at the door of a hospital." And it's true. No matter the background- whether it's Satmar or a Modern Orthodox organization- everyone is able to work together when it comes to stocking Bikkur Cholim rooms or helping out people going through a difficult time. I think that's one of the most beautiful things about us as a people and I just wish we could get to a place where the kindness we express to one another during times of tragedy could become a norm during times of peace as well.

8 comments:

Yaelle said...

I like the quote in your final paragraph. Interestingly, the first ever legally recognized (and paid) Jewish chaplain in the U.S. military was a hospital chaplain who served hospitalized Jewish soldiers during the Civil War.

Unknown said...

Bikkur Cholim also has a nice setup in Mt. Sinai on the Upper East Side, also funded completely by Satmar. Not only were they incredibly convenient when we ended up on the UES for Shabbos after Elianna was born, but a Satmar guy who was there for Shabbos was incredibly helpful in guiding me to anything I might need.

Anonymous said...

This was beautiful. Thank you.

Dana said...

Beautiful post Chana- they also have a bikkur choleem room at the Children's Hospital at Columbia. The code to the room is written simply on the door in 3 Hebrew letters so that any Jew walking by can simply pop into the room :)

Shades of Grey said...

New York Presbyterian has one too. I went there a few times when I volunteered in the pediatric ER there. The BK room is rather far away, so I got the staff to start bringing in some of the pareve snacks, since most of the regular kosher snacks they had were dairy and thus a problem for chassidish/yeshivish families who kept cholov yisrael.

The Cousin said...

Just to add, my mother was recently telling me that there is a similar arrangement at University Hospitals in Cleveland--which is sponsored by the local Jewish community. A similar set up to what you describe at NYU Med Ctr.

I also know that on the UES here, the local Chabad has a Bikkur Cholim program, where they visit individuals in the many local hospitals on Shabbos and other times as well.

It also sounds like a really nice thing that there are people willing to provide Kosher meals and snacks for patients...as I'm sure anyone who has had to eat a Kosher hospital meal can tell you...it leaves a lot to be desired.

Anonymous said...

The Rabbi involved is Rabbi Halberstam from boro park, who has rudnick shul on 45th street and 16th Ave. He is a tzadik!

Anonymous said...

Just to give credit where credit is due, most of the food in the NYU Bikur Cholim room (as well as other items, such as paper goods)is sponsored by the Klein family of Boro Park in memory of their parents, Rabbi and Reb Rubin of LA. A plaque on the wall memorializes this on-going dedication. The Satmar Bikur Cholim primarily distributes food to patients in the hospital and anything left over is put in the refrigerator of the Bikur Cholim room. Rabbi Halberstam arranged for the Shabbos minyanin, including the Sefer Torah that was paid for by Rabbi Friedman of Boro Park. All of the Bikur Cholim programs at NYU, including the hospitality room, the two apartments nearby for patients' families, Chanuka and Purim parties for the patients, etc., are all organized and sponsored by the Rivka Laufer Bikur Cholim under the leadership of the tireless Mrs Miriam Lubling.