CLERGY CORNER: Bridging faiths

Posted on 25 July 2012 by LeslieM

We had a patient at Catholic Hospice who happened to be of the Muslim faith. We did not have a Muslim cleric on staff and so it was that the chaplains from a fellow Mid-East faith … our rabbis … were called to find out if they had any contact within the local Islamic community.

It might surprise you to learn the rabbis did, indeed, have such contacts for chaplaincy and pastoral care issues, but, sadly, one contact could not be reached and the other had recently moved out of the area.

We did not feel comfortable sending a team chaplain rather than one of the same faith as the patient.

The patient’s father, a traditional Muslim, had traveled from a far-off land to be here at his son’s side and he wanted to make sure all was done according to his religious tradition. Now, here is where it could have gotten really complicated. You see, the patient’s wife was not Muslim. Theirs was an intermarriage. His wife was Catholic.

Thankfully, she agreed to respect her husband’s faith and showed great respect to her father-in-law as well. I must say, this was a nice change from having to deal with familial differences that often lead to horrific situations.

Our hospice rabbis went on a search far and wide. One of the people contacted happens to be the medical director at St. Johns, which is a part of Catholic Health Services. I don’t know if you have ever had the privilege of meeting Dr. Jules, but he is a mensch, a good-hearted soul … sweet as can be, and his heart is pure gold.

He happens to be a brother of the Muslim faith. I asked for his help in finding someone for our hospice patient and the patient’s family, to see that everything was done in a way that would give true comfort and respect to those under our care.

I let him know that the patient was not expected to survive more than a few days and, now, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

I ran into Dr. Jules the other day. He let me know that no fewer than 30 Muslim brothers, including Dr. Jules himself, went to visit this man and his family. They recited the proper prayers and performed the proper rituals and, when the time came, they made sure the person was buried per Muslim tradition.

But what really sent a glow through my heart and soul was when Dr. Jules told me that the father asked him how so many brothers found out about his son and Dr. Jules told him that it was because of the rabbi from Catholic hospice and, on hearing that, tears began to fall from the face of this traditional Muslim from a foreign land, who was facing the passing of his beloved son.

Imagine that … only in America can one find a rabbi working for The Diocese (with Catholic hospice) who finds a Muslim brother and, in the process, three faith groups come together to comfort a family facing the loss of a loved one.

Catholic, Jew, Muslim … dealing with our differences, respecting one another, working in tandem to provide comfort to all those under our care. That’s what chaplaincy is all about, that’s what Hospice is about. May G-d bless us one and all!

Shalom, salaam and peace my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is a member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains and serves in this capacity in a number of Health Care settings in the area including Advocate Home Care Services and L’Chayim Jewish Hospice in Partnership with Catholic Hospice of Broward County.

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