By Chaia Frishman
At the end of a grueling day in the hospital with a loved one, nothing is as comforting as knowing there is a place to decompress. After the stress of dealing with medical personnel, loved ones in pain, and health-insurance paperwork, who wouldn’t want to rest their feet, have a cup of coffee and maybe daven Minchah? With the opening of Achiezer’s newest respite room in St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, that cup of coffee, in addition to many other amenities, is now within reach.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place this past Sunday as the inauguration of the room was well-attended by esteemed members of St. John’s, Achiezer, and many community leaders. Eight years ago, Achiezer, the Five Towns and Far Rockaway community resource center, opened its first respite room in the community, and in such a short amount of time there are numerous rooms available to meet the needs of community members, including ones in South Nassau, Mercy Medical Center, Long Island Jewish, and currently under way at NYU Winthrop.
This most recent respite room in St. John’s is one of many new improvements this local hospital has put out to better meet the needs of our community. In addition to the newly constructed emergency room, the hospital has been recruiting more neighborhood doctors to receive privileges. When an emergency arises, protocol deems it that patients are brought to the nearest medical facility. With patients in Far Rockaway and the Five Towns residing so close to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital, having a respite room in close proximity to their ER is a lifesaver. “St. John’s has bent over backwards to work with us to make sure that the hospital stay of friends and relatives of patients is stress-free,” said Rabbi Bender, president of Achiezer.
Details of the rooms include: lights that cannot be accidentally shut on Shabbos, fully stocked pantries and refrigerators that will be replenished, as necessary, with fresh food by Achiezer volunteers, a hot-water urn that holds enough to last throughout Shabbos and yom tov, and a warmer to sustain the correct temperature of Shabbos food brought through Achiezer programs providing food for patients and their families forced to spend Shabbos in the hospital. A tremendous debt of gratitude goes to Yoeli Steinberg and Moshe Ratner of Gourmet Glatt for their constant collaboration to make sure that the rooms are properly stocked.
“Sure, there are vending machines in most hospitals that carry some sort of kosher food. But a respite room is more than that. Last summer, when my mother was finally stabilized at South Nassau, I realized that in the rush of events, I hadn’t brought my tefillin with me. Imagine my relief when I saw that not only was all the food kosher, with the highest kashrus standards, but I would be able to avail myself of the siddurim, tefillin, and, of course, the Tehillim,” reflects one Lawrence resident. “Now having something so locally available will be a game-changer.”
The short program began with opening remarks by Gerald Walsh, CEO of St. John’s, thanking Achiezer for partnering with them, and Renee Hastick-Motes, vice president of external affairs at the hospital. Rabbi Bender dedicated the event to those who suffered the tragic massacre in Pittsburgh just this past Shabbos. He continued to highlight how much Achiezer and community values the relationship we have with St. John’s. Dr. Nathan Rothman, the chief of the ICU at St. John’s, hung the mezuzah.
Mark and Barbara Silber dedicated this room in memory of their parents, Abraham and Sara Silber and Solomon and Rachela Scheiner, as “a source of strength for all those that require it …” This room is not the first respite room dedicated by the Silbers, as they also dedicated the room at Mercy Hospital many years earlier. Their generosity to help support the many programs in Achiezer and our community at large is recognized and appreciated.
The need is great. Currently, plans are in the works for another respite room to open at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn. “When we embarked on this mission, we didn’t realize what an unbelievable and valuable service we were providing. The feedback we have received from people who unfortunately frequent these rooms show they are priceless,” Rabbi Bender concludes.
Achiezer and the community are extremely grateful to the community organizations that are there for us every day. Many representatives from these organizations, such as the JCCRP, Bikur Cholim, and Hatzalah were present. Achiezer would also like to recognize the attendance of representatives from the boards of St. John’s and Achiezer.
Special thanks to Israel Lieber of Dynamic Cabinetry and to the following vendors that so generously contributed their goods and services: Fabuwood Cabinetry, AHC Appliances LLC, Royal Marble, Frank Plumbing Supply, Lazer Marble Granite, Richelieu Hardware Store. Thank you to Boris Noble, community liaison to St. John’s, and Aliza Wartelsky, program coordinator for Achiezer, who facilitated this project.