In this season of graduations, I was privileged to attend the ceremony honoring Boston-based Hebrew SeniorLife’s Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Program’s class of 2015. I was moved by the depth of compassion and humility expressed by the graduates as they shared reflections on their experiences as CPE students. Their stories poignantly illustrated what it means to be part of a faith-based organization.
HSL’s CPE program is for rabbinical students and others interested in learning about Jewish pastoral care in a geriatric setting. The program is currently the only Jewish geriatric CPE program accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, Inc. in the country. Although the curriculum focuses on pastoral care in Jewish modalities it draws students from diverse religious backgrounds.
As director of Marketing Communications, I often get the question; do you need to be Jewish to live in one of HSL’s Massachusetts senior living communities or access its health services? The answer is a resounding “no.” At the same time, tenets from Jewish tradition drive HSL’s mission and are embedded in its DNA.
It can be argued that Jewish values are universally held throughout our geriatric services, resonating with individuals from all faiths, as well as secular backgrounds. For many, spirituality in the broadest sense is a key component of being human and an important part of maintaining a sense of wellbeing. It often becomes even more important when an individual faces a life-limiting illness.
Case in point, CPE student Judith Sullivan shared the following reflection at the commencement ceremony, “We learned songs from one another’s traditions, shared wisdom across clinical sites, and we non-Jews attended the Passover Seder dinner and Shabbat services where we read the Hebrew transliteration and learned to sing along.
We worked toward finding the path to heal the spirit along with the body. Our steps toward discovering these paths of healing reassured me that we could not only minister to those here at HSL with debilitating conditions, but also to provide this care for others in our future communities.”
The theme of commonality was echoed by Cantor Lisa Kipen-Hershenson, “Each of us had our own, unique experience that helped us to better understand this work and grow into it. What we found to be universal among our diverse experiences was the caring we had for our patients and their loved ones.”
In many ways Jo Ann Share, summed up the experiences of not only herself, but her colleagues as well when she eloquently stated, “My CPE experience has been an amazing time of learning. What can I offer my residents? What can I find within myself? Deep humility, compassion, listening; a prayer, a song, some humor.”
Older patients and their families that these graduates will tend to as they continue their work will clearly be in good hands.