"We all need Chessed" (Natan Zach)

In our day-to-day lives and at different times, we can sometimes feel distressed and lonely at various levels – physical, social, psychological and even spiritual. Distress and loneliness grow during times of crisis, sickness and loss. Many patients and their families feel a sense of spiritual loneliness, either when an illness is diagnosed, or during medical treatment, hospitalization, or treatment for chronic or terminal disease.
We need a way to get in touch with ourselves, with our internal spiritual resources and to the spiritual roots around us that can help us find meaning, comfort, a way to express our feelings and end our loneliness.
Studies show that spiritual support can improve patients’ and their families’ quality of life and their ability to cope with the difficult times they’re going through.
As of today, the Israeli health system does not have a sufficient response to these spiritual needs and we are striving to create a base of sensitive spiritual support for the sick, their families and for the staff members who are treating them.
To this end, we opened the “In Spirit” program in 2004, as part of the Palliative Care Unit under the leadership of Dr. Natan Churney of Shaare Zedek’s Oncology Unit, and with the help of the JDC – New York Federation.
Shaare Zedek Medical Center was the first hospital in Israel to recruit spiritual support professionals as part of the team and to facilitate a training course which includes practical training in our departments.
The role of the person providing spiritual support is to create a personal spiritual space, open and secure, for the patients, their families and friends and for the medical staff working with them.
First and foremost, our goal is to ensure a reality in which no one will ever feel spiritual loneliness again, whether during the treatment process for an ongoing disease or even when approaching death.
The field of spiritual support deals with “connections,” ie, we look for different ways to connect with the people close to us (patients, family, staff) and help them to connect to the appropriate spiritual resources for the stage they’re at.
Shaare Zedek’s “In Spirit” program includes:

  1. Spiritual accompaniment for patients, families and staff. In most cases, family and friends visit the patient and give him or her significant support. In addition to this support, there is room for a professional response that will allow space for conversation and a coping mechanism for the spiritual elements of the disease and the suffering. It also offers an opportunity to find the right spiritual resources that can help during these complex times.

Shaare Zedek’s spiritual support team works regularly in the Hematology-Oncology Department, in the Oncology and Hematology Day Hospitalization departments, as well as answering special calls from other departments at the hospital.
Our team works with all groups of the Israeli population – veteran Israelis and new immigrants, religious and secular, Jews and Arabs, Muslims and Christians, and accompanies them on their journey to finding the best spiritual tools appropriate for their individual situations. Special emphasis is placed on the patient’s own culture and traditions and different techniques are used – study, prayer, song, reading, etc., to develop the right program for each patient.

  1. Training spiritual support staff. “In Spirit” runs a training course for spiritual support. It’s the first of its kind in a hospital in Israel and includes practical training in the departments. Participants study one morning a week and specialize one day a week in spiritual support work.

Medical staff, other treatment professionals or interested parties are welcome to book a lecture or workshop on the subject of spiritual support.