University of Miami Hospital Dedicates Bikur Cholim Room

(Wednesday, February 8th, 2012)

After reciting blessings in Hebrew, Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, placed a mezuzah, the parchment prayer scroll that marks a Jewish home, at the entrance of the modest but comfortable room where members of the Jewish faith can now find solace at University of Miami Hospital. Stuart Miller, UM trustee, had the honor of cutting the ribbon that spanned the entranceway of the bikur cholim room on the eighth floor.

The simple ceremony, applauded by several rabbis, members of the local Jewish community, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and other Miller School and UHealth-University of Miami Health System leaders, celebrated the January 25 grand opening of a special place created for members of the Jewish faith who visit relatives or friends admitted to the hospital.

“There are a lot of rooms in the hospital,” said Chief Rabbi Metzger, who made a special trip from Israel to meet with UHealth leaders and bless the addition of a room for bikur cholim, which means “visiting the sick,” at UMH. “But this is a small room with a big heart—a good heart. It will allow visitors to feel at home. That is so special and so important.”

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Chief Rabbi Metzger also used the occasion to thank Stuart Miller and his family for their historic contribution to the medical school. The Miller family’s $100 million gift in 2004 honored Stuart Miller’s father, the late Leonard M. Miller, a longtime South Florida businessman and philanthropist. In recognition of the gift, the School of Medicine was renamed the Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.

“You and your mother are doing a lot of good, and your father in heaven is so proud of you today,” Rabbi Metzger told Miller, presenting him a memento from Israel for the family’s outstanding humanitarian efforts.

Miami-area Rabbis Yehuda Kaploun and Yochanan Klein were instrumental in helping the administration of the hospital to better understand and engage the Jewish community, and they will both be on call to assist visitors. In addition to making kosher food available, the room will provide a refuge for observing the Sabbath. In addition former BP shomrim member Mark Rosenberg will be arranging all Chesed shel Emes issues

In their welcome remarks, Dean Goldschmidt and Anthony Degina, CEO of University of Miami Hospital, said the room underscores UHealth’s commitment to reach out to both local and international Jewish families, and is part of a broader UHealth program to be culturally accessible and accommodating to different populations.

“This event is a very important step as we expand the outstanding patient services of our flagship hospital,” said Dean Goldschmidt. “Members of Jewish communities throughout North and South America will now feel even more comfortable when they use the world-class medical facilities at University of Miami Hospital.”

“A recurring question we received during our outreach efforts was, ‘Do you have a bikur cholim room?’” Degina said. “Yesterday we did not have a bikur cholim room, but today we are all here to celebrate the fact that we do.”

The room consists of two spaces connected by an open doorway. The kitchen area has two refrigerators to keep meat and dairy separate according to Jewish law, and the “living room” is furnished with a sofa and tables.

The bikur cholim room also contains a small library, which was dedicated in memory of Mordechai Gershon Schapiro, a father of four who passed away recently, by his father, Rabbi Gavriel Schapiro, senior librarian of rabbinic manuscripts at the Lubavitch Library in New York. The library houses prayer books and other religious items and texts.

“Rarely in one’s lifetime does one have the opportunity to be involved in something that can be directly linked to experiences that date back 3,500 years,” said Rabbi Yaacov Kaploun, the founding president of the Moses and Aaron Foundation and an advisor to UM on some of its Jewish programs. “And it is even more meaningful when the actions serve as a stepping stone which helps pave the way for continuing our ancient traditions. This room represents comfort and acts of kindness.”

The Bikur Cholim Committee would like to thank Mr Jared Abramson and Mr Carlos Aja and the entire UMH staff for the efforts they put forth in making this room a reality.

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