Guide to Observance of Jewish Law in a Hospital
Rabbi Jason Weiner
Reviewed by Rabbi Dr. Jeffrey Cohen, Health and Social Care Chaplaincy, June 2015
As noted within the promotional material, this booklet is designed to assist people observing traditional Jewish Law while undergoing medical treatment, especially in the complex and unfamiliar environment of a hospital. The handy and brief booklet of 104 pages was originally published as an internal document for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, USA, where the writer is the Senior Rabbi. The book has a series of [Orthodox] Imprimatur (known in Hebrew as “haskamot”) from many rabbinical authorities.
The booklet is an invaluable guide for any facility which has a number of observant Jewish patients in any year. Arranged in a logical manner (including an index) the booklet would be useful for any pastoral/spiritual care department. Among the broad topics addressed are Shabbat; Festivals; Food and Meals; Prayer; Interactions with Individuals of the Opposite Gender;Kohanim (The unique issues that affect those descended from priesthood); Death and Post-Mortem Care; and Labour & Delivery. The booklet complements Tzvi Schur’s Illness and Crisis: Coping the Jewish Way (1993).
What is missing, and in a sense would have set the scene for this booklet, is Fred Rosner’s The Jewish Patient in a Non-Jewish Hospital (1986), which should be viewed as the “Jewish Patient’s Bill of Rights.”
The criticism of this booklet is that it is not clear to the non-Jew who would use it, what parts apply to a Jew, and what parts apply to non-Jewish staff. For example, in reading the section on use of lights on the Sabbath, a non-Jewish staff member would be excused for thinking that the description of how lights can be turned on or off could apply to them when in reality it applies only to the Jewish patient. There is a need for some sort of coding within each section as to whom each point is applicable to. The observant Jew would, in general, know most of the halakha/rules, but this book does clarify some points even for those who are reasonably educated. This is a book that any pastoral/spiritual care department, which serves orthodox patients, should have on its shelf.