When patients are in the hospital, visits from family and friends often lift their spirits and bring a level of comfort that can have a positive impact on their recovery. But for observant Jewish visitors, the timing of their visit can be a problem if it conflicts with the Shabbat (Sabbath) or holidays, when they cannot drive or operate machinery.
Mount Sinai Medical Center is the only hospital in Florida that takes the worry out of the timing by providing a fully equipped Bikur Cholim room for observant Jewish families to spend the night at the hospital during the Sabbath or holidays. Bikur Cholim, which means “visiting the sick” in Hebrew, is a term that encompasses a wide range of services for the sick, homebound or disabled. Mount Sinai’s Bikur Cholim room offers an element of comfort and convenience for observant visitors.
“Let’s say you have a loved one in the intensive care unit and you are here all day long on a Friday,” said Rabbi Simeon Schreiber, senior hospital chaplain. “The Sabbath begins 18 minutes before sundown on Friday evening, and if you are still here, you will not be able to drive. We can arrange for you to use the Bkiur Cholim room and sleep over on Friday evening and Saturday, as well.”
Although the hospital has had the Bikur Cholim room on its campus for many years, the room was renovated to make it more accommodating. Rabbi Schreiber spearheaded the fundraising effort to support the renovation and presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the new space in October. About 50 people attended the ceremony, including many of those who contributed to the renovation.
More of a studio apartment than a room, Mount Sinai’s Bikur Cholim room includes two beautifully appointed twin beds, a kitchenette, dining area and full bath. As an added measure of convenience, it remains fully stocked with kosher snacks and refreshments.
The unveiling began with Rabbi Schreiber affixing a mezuzah on the doorway of the room, as a declaration that there is one God and that those who adhere to God’s commandments will be rewarded and protected. Charlene Welker, Mount Sinai’s senior vice president for network development, was among the speakers during the dedication.
“This has been a labor of love for us,” Welker said. “We are grateful to Rabbi Schreiber and everyone who contributed funds to renovate this room and make it more comfortable for our visitors. This is something that is so important from a medical center standpoint because it ensures that we can take care of not only our patients, but their family members, as well.”
Although there is no fee to use the room, donations are accepted to defray the cost of maintaining the space and keeping the cupboard stocked, Rabbi Schreiber said. To learn more, or to reserve the room, please call the Mount Sinai Medical Center Volunteer Office at 305-674-2080.