Starting a Jewish Healing Center
There are many issues to consider in organizing a local Jewish healing center. Because of the diverse nature of Jewish communities throughout North America, there is no one recipe for creating successful programs. However, there are some common core issues and methodology to use in developing a plan, mission and goals.
One way in which many centers get started is by developing a bikur cholim program (visiting the sick). This goes to the heart of community building. Often a central point of engagement for volunteers, healing centers, synagogues and other communal organizations, bikur cholim creates an opportunity to share core concepts and practices of Jewish healing.
It is important to conduct a community needs assessment to inventory professional, lay and community resources; available services; and current needs by age groups and by type of problem. It should also identify possible partners in the community as well as possible funding sources.
Forming an Advisory Committee
At the early stage, consider forming a Jewish healing advisory committee/task force. This step helps build cohesion and creates a forum where community leadership can learn about Jewish healing. It is important to involve rabbis and synagogues from the beginning to use this opportunity for building bridges between organizations.
You may need to first educate the advisory committee, and then the community, to help people and agencies come to understand this programming and its relevance to them.
Benefits of having community partners
Experience from the network of Jewish healing centers teaches us that programs need to be offered in a number of venues. It is always effective to offer programming through service providers and institutions that people already turn to and trust.
For example, depending on your target population and the reputation of local organizations, consider building partnerships with synagogues, Jewish family services, JCCs, senior care providers, the board of rabbis, community chaplaincy programs, organizations that serve the needs of those with specific illnesses, hospice providers and/or medical facilities. Through collaborative training initiatives, Jewish healing programs can increase the capacity of both professionals and volunteers to serve the spiritual needs of those in their care.
Staffing a Healing Center and Developing Lay Leadership
Jewish healing centers bring together a staff of knowledgeable Jewish professionals, including rabbis, cantors, chaplains, social workers, nurses, mental health professionals, Jewish educators, wellness practitioners, doctors, public health educators and artists (such as musicians, dancers and writers).
The leadership team needs the resources of those with skills in program development/administration, Jewish spiritual care and mental health care. Communities are often surprised to find a wealth of talented individuals interested in building programs. Their skills can then be enhanced by inviting experts on Jewish healing to work with local leadership and the community.
Volunteers and lay leaders play a dynamic role in most Jewish healing centers. They participate on advisory committees, helping to shape the direction of the center, raise community awareness and help generate financial support. People most often drawn to this work have themselves faced serious illness and/or loss or have an affected family member or friend.
How are Jewish Healing Centers funded?
Funding may come from the local Jewish Federation, local family foundations or other types of foundations, community health care trusts, allocation from the Jewish family services, rabbis discretionary funds, individual giving and fees for service. "In-kind" funding (office space, marketing and development resources, program venues etc.) can come from JCCs, synagogues, and partner organizations. Budgets can range from $20,000 to $500,000.
Let NCJH Support the Growth of Your Center
We provide consultation, training, technical assistance and resource material for groups interested in developing Jewish healing centers and/or programs. The NCJH publishes and sells a range of written materials and creates networking and training opportunities. (Contact us for more information and see our publications)