In the Jewish Journal:
For Rabbi Jason Weiner, his one-year chaplaincy internship at Beth Israel Medical Center New York’s Lower East Side was a not-so-pleasant requirement while he was a rabbinic student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah.
“I didn’t feel like I had any impact. I didn’t feel like I could really help people,” said Weiner, who is now senior rabbi and manager of spiritual care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
The feeling changed in 2007, when Weiner, who was serving as assistant rabbi at Young Israel of Century City, was asked to fill in part time at Cedars-Sinai because the hospital’s longtime chaplain, Rabbi Levi Meier, had fallen ill.
“I quickly began to build confidence in the impact a chaplain could have in people’s lives. I began to realize how appreciative people were, and how fulfilling it was, and how much I was learning and growing. I felt like I was on the front lines of life and death. The intensity of that really drew me in,” he said.
Weiner now heads a team of 11 chaplains of different faiths who together serve more than 1,000 patients each month — a huge jump from the three chaplains who covered the hospital when Weiner was hired in 2009.
Like Weiner, many of the Cedars’ chaplains have found deep meaning in spiritual care in hospitals only after serving in other clerical settings or other professions altogether. One of his chaplains was a Sunday school teacher who went looking for more meaningful work after 9/11. Two are Orthodox women in second careers who have found in chaplaincy work one of the only ministering outlets available to them. Several had worked in congregational settings and found it superficial…