Accomplished . .
• • • • 45
Diverse group of rabbis grow close while learning compassionate care for others.
Yerachmiel Rabin, Avie
Shapiro, Dannel Schwartz,
E.B. "Bunny" Freedman.
Seated: Rabbis Dovid
Polter and David Nelson,
Dr. Urias Beverly Rabbis
James Michaels and
KERI GUTEN COHEN
Story Development Editor
t was an eclectic group of rabbis
gathered around the dinner table
— five Orthodox, two
Conservative and one
Reform.They teased each other like fra-
ternity brothers — with love, respect
and the kind of insider knowledge that
comes from spending a lot of time
And they have. For the past three
years, these eight rabbis met regularly to
learn together. Not Torah, though cer-
tainly that was discussed, but how to
relate compassionately to patients with
terminal illnesses and their families.
It's not a skill they teach extensively
at rabbinical school, the men say. As
they developed their skills through for-
mal Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE)
courses and a daylong seminar in New
York, they also formed bonds that
extend across all major streams of
The dinner, at Rabbi E.B. "Bunny"
Freedman's Oak Park home, was heavy
on steaks for those following a low-car-
bohydrate diet. The get-together cele-
brated the completion by the rabbis of
three CPE credits. A few of the rabbis
have completed four credits. Each credit
means 400 hours of studying, consult-
ing and interacting with patients and
Through the classes, where one com-
ponent is sharing case stories and getting
feedback and suggestions, the men
learned from each others' life experi-
"Before, we ignored each other; we
didn't care that much," Rabbi David
Nelson of Congregation Beth Shalom
said candidly. "Now we want to hear
what each other has to say. We have a
real sense of creating a caring group. We
love each other, watch out for each
But as the rabbis well know, transi-
tions are a part of life. One of their
comrades — Rabbi James Michaels of
Congregation Beth Israel in Flint — is
moving on to new opportunities. At the
end of July, he begins a job as chaplain-
director of spiritual care at the Hebrew
Home for Greater Washington in
"The CPE credits absolutely helped
me land this job," Rabbi Michaels said.
"It was the best education — getting
feedback from colleges and getting your
emotional pressure checked all the time.
I am so grateful for the knowledge and
Near the end of dinner, following a
round of kind words for Rabbi
Michaels, a discussion begins about a
story from Perkei Avot. After the rabbis
weigh in with their opinions, they hear
from one more voice — that of Dr.
Urias Beverly, a Baptist minister from
Novi, a former national president of the
Association for Clinical Pastoral Care,
and their teacher for the past two years.
He puts an entirely different spin on
the story, leaving the rabbis nodding
"We definitely found wisdom with
this man," said Rabbi Nelson.
The rabbis plan to continue their
studies — and their friendships.
"Hey, Dannel," Rabbi Yerachmiel
Rabin says as the men leave for Minchah
(afternoon service), "We need to make a