LONGMEADOW, Mass. – Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare, has witnessed a great deal of suffering, stress and loss in the past six weeks, unleashed by the COVID-19 virus. She has been especially concerned with the stress she has seen shouldered by JGS Lifecare staff, who on a daily basis are fighting this silent virus that shows no mercy on our community’s most vulnerable and frail, our elderly. Staff are witnessing unprecedented losses of the people they cared for and loved, the pain of families unable to visit their loved ones, not to mention experiencing a hate crime perpetrated on our campus. In addition, they have their own private fears, for their own health and well-being, and that of their loved ones, as they report to work each day to provide comfort and care on the front lines of this pandemic.
“Devorah is a person of action,” commented Susan Kimball Halpern, director of development and communications at JGS Lifecare. “When the pandemic broke out Devorah was immediately concerned with the wellbeing of our staff, the heart of JGS Lifecare, and sought ways to lift them up and provide them with concrete support.”
Rabbi Jacobson conceived of a three-tiered holistic effort to support mind, body, and spirit of JGS staff. Working with the local interfaith community she initiated Interfaith Meals of Gratitude – to nourish staff bodies. Area synagogues and churches, so eager to help, have been raising monies to provide a designated Tuesday meal for JGS staff over 3 shifts. The monies are given to several local restaurants, which themselves are facing difficult times, and the restaurants are then preparing and delivering the weekly meals. The program will continue weekly for another 5-6 weeks. Secondly, working with her network of crises therapists and mental health counselors, she coordinated a Mental Health Initiative – to support staff emotionally, by volunteering their time to speak with staff confidentially by phone at no cost for up to six weeks. Almost 20 staff members have already taken advantage of this initiative. This week Rabbi Jacobson is launching the third “plank” of what she has been working on, supporting the spiritual needs of staff by offering Prayer/Inspiration Cards – to provide staff with spiritual uplift.
“It’s my hope that as staff come into work in the morning, every Monday, they will take a card from the entry table, and hold onto it for inspiration and some spiritual support, particularly as they begin a new week,” reflected Rabbi Jacobson. These beautiful prayer/inspiration cards were designed in collaboration with her dear friend Tamar Rosenthal, a talented graphic designer who lives in Los Angeles and was anxious to help from across the miles.
“As staff, we endure a whole lot of heartache, especially during these times.” commented Delila Jones, a member of the nursing home’s Life Enrichment team. “But to receive the support and consideration that we have makes the burden lighter…because we know we are all carrying it together. I am blessed and thankful for the positive words shared and the support offered.”
At JGS Lifecare we continue to seek ways to support our staff, our greatest asset, during these challenging days. We express our great appreciation to Rabbi Jacobson for her efforts, and for all organizations and individuals who have partnered with us to uplift our staff.
About JGS Lifecare
JGS Lifecare is a leading health care system serving seniors and their families. JGS Lifecare services include nursing home care (The Leavitt Family Jewish Nursing Home), rehabilitation services (Sosin Center for Rehabilitation), assisted living (Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence), home health and hospice care (Spectrum Home Health & Hospice), adult day health care (Wernick Adult Day Health Care), independent living (Genesis Lifecare) and palliative care (Francis B. Cohen Palliative Care Program). For more information, call JGS Lifecare at 413-567-6211 or visit JGSLIfecare.org.