Para-chaplain volunteers make connections with seniors.
SHELLI LIEBMAN DORFMAN
new breed of volunteers is appear-
ing among the visitors to Jewish
residents living in non-Jewish care
facilities throughout the tri-county
"With hundreds and hundreds of Jewish
residents living in non-Jewish settings, the
para-chaplain has become the right hand of
the chaplain," said Rabbi Dovid Polter, who,
along with Rabbi A. Irving Schnipper, serves
in the Jewish Community Chaplaincy
Program (JCCP) of Jewish Home and Aging
Services (JHAS) in West Bloomfield.
"We may be rabbis, but we're not angels,
and we can't be everywhere all the time, so we
count on para-chaplains to act as a supple-
ment and keep in touch with residents."
But the JHAS para-chaplains are not exact-
ly who you might think they are. While they
include mothers with young children and a
grandmother who makes weekly deliveries
with cookies she bakes with her grandchildren,
many come from other walks of life.
"We have a couple of clinical psychologists
with private practices, a retired podiatrist,
(and) a Holocaust survivor in his 90s who is
also a resident of a senior facility," said Shirley
Jarcaig, JCCP program coordinator. And over
the last couple of years, college students have
joined the volunteer ranks.
At 22, Brian "Boruch" Saks of Oak Park is
one of 50 para-chaplains called "friendly visi-
tors," volunteers who strike up caring friend-
Menorah House resident council president Sid Riskin watches as
ships with one or more residents of 20-25
Brian-Saks slices the challah.
local non-Jewish nursing facilities.
Every other week for the last two years,
that I hardly have any visitors at all and he knew I
Saks has paid a special visit to Sarah Gottesman at
would like to have someone come visit me," said
Menorah House in Southfield. While the Jewish facili-
Gottesman, whose family does not live close to
ty is not included in this JHAS program — Saks visits
Menorah House. "I always look forward to his visits,
anyway so he can see Gottesman.
which I enjoy very, very much."
"I first met Sarah when she lived at Elan Village,"
For Saks — who often comes to see Gottesman
he said of the Southfield facility that closed last year.
with a holiday card or birthday gift in tow — the feel-
"When Sarah moved to Menorah House, I followed
ing is mutual.
"I really look forward to our visits," he said. "Sarah
Saks also visits a resident at Farmington Hills Inn.
brightens my day. I hope I brighten hers, too. It gives
"When I was at Elan Village, Boruch found out
me a warm, special feeling to be able to show other
people how much I care."
Saks is joined in the 4-year-old para-chap-
laincy program by other college students: his
brother Shlomo and Shoshanna Rose of West
Bloomfield, a Wayne State University student
So Much To Do
While most JCCP para-chaplains visit one-
on-one with residents, about half-a-dozen
conduct Shabbat or holiday services in the
A few, like Brian Saks do both. He's run
pre-Shabbat programs and services for
Menorah House residents, delivered mishloach
manot (Purim packages) to various facilities
on Purim and led a Passover seder at
American House in Southfield.
`And last week, he came and blew the sho-
far for all of us," said Gottesman, who doesn't
mind sharing her friend.
Both Brian and Shlomo Saks have volun-
teered in the JHAS Guardianship Program,
helping to care for some of the 90 residents
for whom JHAS is guardian.
Others in the para-chaplaincy program
volunteer in the monthly reminiscence pro-
gram: singing old songs, playing old tunes on
the piano and leading discussions and quizzes
on topics and personalities from the past.
"This is a smaller commitment than the
others," Jarcaig said. "It can be as simple as
following our outlined program or becoming
involved just because you love old music."
In addition to the para-chaplaincy pro-
gram, JCCP also hosts middle school and
high school groups. The students visit one-
on-one with residents or become involved in
projects. College groups have visited and delivered
Passover parcels to residents. B'nai mitzvah candidates
make visits to nursing care residents a mitzvah project.
Making Of A Pam-Chaplain
Brian Saks' penchant for volunteerism formed when he
participated in a JCCP program with his Southfield-
based Yeshivat Akiva high school class several years ago.
"Our senior class went to various nursing homes
PARA-CHAPLAIN on page 52