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entries tagged with: Holy Name Medical Center


Holy Name to host gathering on new towns in Israel’s deserts

Dr. Jacqueline Brunetti organized an event at Holy Name Medical Center on Monday to introduce the community to the OR Movement, which helps to create towns in the Negev and the Galilee.

Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck is hosting an event that aims to breathe new life into underdeveloped regions of Israel.

The informational gathering, scheduled for Monday, June 28, at 6 p.m., will introduce participants to the OR Movement, an organization devoted to populating Israel’s Negev and Galilee.

OR is settling desolate areas of Israel that are important to Israel because of the demographics and the natural resources found there, said Shai Baitel, the U.S. director of OR, Hebrew for light.

“We are bringing Ben-Gurion’s vision [of making the desert bloom] to the next level,” said Baitel. “The Negev and Galilee are the most unpopulated, undeveloped regions of Israel.”

Since OR was founded in 2001, it has established six communities in the Negev region. The latest is Carmit, a town for English speakers in the northern portion of the Negev.

OR is unique, said Baitel, because it crosses all religious, political, and socio-economic boundaries. “People of all groups come together under our umbrella to work on building new towns,” he said. “It’s a cause everyone can agree with and they all work hard together to put together communities in the undeveloped portions of northern and southern Israel.”

Dr. Jacqueline Brunetti, director of radiology at Holy Name, is a testament to OR’s capacity to inspire people from all backgrounds.

Brunetti, who grew up in an Italian -merican family in New York and attended Catholic schools, said she became acquainted with OR’s work when she visited Israel for the first time in 2008.

Her friend Angelica Berrie brought her to an OR settlement, where the physician was so moved by the idealism and can-do attitude of OR’s pioneers that she wanted to share the group’s mission with others. With the support of Holy Name’s President/CEO Michael Maron, Brunetti organized Monday’s event.

“We went to this settlement in the middle of the Negev,” Brunetti recalled. “Here we were in the desert, there was nothing, and they had created beautiful homes with grass and trees. I was blown away by the energy and the ability of these young people to successfully accomplish something that is against the odds. Imagine what could be accomplished if more people had this degree of drive and commitment.”

OR is unique, she said, because it is doing more than bringing people to settle in Israel. “OR is helping to create new communities in parts of Israel that are considered undesirable. It’s the politically safe thing to do. It’s important to the future of Israel to increase the population in these regions.” Settling that region of Israel, she noted, can help Israel from a security standpoint. And Israel needs to survive for the sake of the world, she added.

Brunetti quips that she returned from her trip a “raging Zionist.” Visiting the land and its people gave her an appreciation of Israel’s unique challenges. “Unless you’ve actually been in Israel, you don’t understand what Israel means to the world. It is symbol of democracy and creativity and strength of the human spirit and it’s surrounded by countries bent on its destruction.

“Maybe not being Jewish and seeing Israel for the first time with a wide-eyed view affected me in a different way. I know sometimes people can take things for granted when it’s a daily part of their life, and the sense of critical importance of some issues may lessen.”

OR was the brainchild of four childhood friends, including Ofir Fisher, an Israeli submarine captain and the son of renowned Israeli entertainer Dudu Fisher. The men had just completed their military service in the late 1990s and were searching for a way to make a positive impact on Israel’s future.

“The big moment came after our army service, when all of us climbed into a car and over a month drove the length and breadth of Israel, meeting people in different communities, asking lots of questions, probing for answers,” Fisher has said. “What stared us in the face was that 80 percent of the land of Israel was in the Galilee and the Negev, and only a small percentage of our population lived in these areas.”

In 1999, the crew of idealistic friends established their first settlement, Sansana, in the Negev, with 15 families. They realized they were onto something and established the OR Movement, which today has a staff of 30 and more than 6,000 volunteers.

They decided that this was a region where pioneers could establish settlements in Israel free of the highly politicized Palestinian-Jewish conflict over disputed “occupied territories.” It is an area, they believed, where young idealists could bring Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion’s vision of making the desert bloom to the next level. And it’s a part of Israel where Jewish and non-Jewish Zionists around the world can talk about hope for Israel’s future.

Baitel said he and Fisher are coming to Teaneck because they realize the vision for Israel’s future is not a monopoly. “There are a lot of different people who care about Israel’s future and the vision belongs to them,” he said. “We are happy to share the vision so they can help us make this dream come true.”

The program will include a short video presentation about OR and a question-and-answer session. The event is free and there will be no solicitation of funds. Refreshments will be served.


A conversation with Arnold Balsam

Arnold Balsam, a 40-year resident of Teaneck, is the first Orthodox Jew to serve as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Teaneck’s Holy Name Medical Center, a Catholic institution. Founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace in 1925, Holy Name defines its mission as serving as “a ministry of healing, embracing the tradition of Catholic principles, the pursuit of professional excellence and conscientious stewardship. We help our community achieve the highest attainable level of health through prevention, education, and treatment.”

Balsam has been a member of the Holy Name board since the late 1980s, and has contributed his expertise as a Certified Public Accountant to the running of the hospital. Before retiring, Balsam was senior executive partner at Loeb and Troper, LLP, where he worked for 44 years. That New York-based accounting firm, with offices in Europe and Israel, has served not-for-profit and healthcare institutions, such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, UJA Federation, and American Friends of Ben Gurion University. Balsam’s four children grew up in Teaneck, attending local day schools, and his three married children live in Englewood, New Milford, and Teaneck. His grandchildren attend Solomon Schechter Day School of Bergen County in New Milford, Yavneh Academy in Paramus, and The Moriah School.

The Jewish Standard sat down with Arnold Balsam at his Teaneck home, where he lives with his wife Deborah, to find out more about his unique role as an Orthodox Jewish chairman of the board at a Catholic hospital.

Jewish Standard: What does the board do?

Arnold Balsam: The board is responsible for the running of the hospital. It’s responsible for the entire corporate governance, the actions of the CEO [the president], and it oversees all the activities of the institution. The board meets every other month, and the executive committee meets in the alternate months. There are also about seven or eight committees, such as the finance and budget committee and medical ethics committee, that oversee various issues. I am most involved with the finance and budget committee and the executive committee, but I get correspondence from all the committees. There are people who serve on committees who are not on the board; for example, Rabbi Lawrence Zierler is on the medical ethics committee.

J.S.: How did you get involved with Holy Name?

A.B.: My late wife [Elaine, who died in 1993] was in charge of the Community Mental Health Program at Barnert Hospital. One of her colleagues, Deborah Lynch, was the sister of Sister Patricia Lynch, who in the ‘80s was coming back [to Holy Name] as president and chief executive officer, and looking to upgrade [the hospital facilities]. My [accounting] practice included health care and not-for-profit hospitals. Sister Patricia approached me and said, “We could use your services on the board as we try to restructure.” I felt it was an opportunity to give back to the community at large. So I started to participate and it became a very close relationship with the hospital. I felt I could serve the hospital, and I could serve the community.

J.S.: Have you used the services of the hospital?

A.B.: As a patient — I’ve been there. I’ve been in the emergency room and I’ve been a patient there a few times. I got a firsthand look at it…. It’s a fine hospital, or as they say now, medical center.

J.S.: How has the transition to a medical center changed what they do?

A.B.: There are extended patient services, ancillary services for the general public. There’s a cancer treatment center, and it’s a much more comprehensive hospital setting. The emergency room had undergone a major overhaul this year — about $20 million. The community feedback has been excellent. The service is quick, it’s comprehensive. The radiology service and laboratory services are right there near the ER, so the community has been very happy about it.

J.S.: What are the major challenges for the hospital?

A.B.: An ongoing challenge is to encourage new young doctors to be active in the hospital and to admit their patients there…. Since we have the capabilities now of servicing patients in so many more areas, we want to attract additional doctors who will bring their patients in and have the benefit of these services. We have significant outreach programs to encourage doctors to come to Holy Name.

We have a program for physician practice development, for doctors who are starting out, or for those who have a practice and would like to join a group within a hospital setting. We’ve assisted in establishing offices and groups and the administrator services so they can practice medicine. The hospital has made considerable investment in this. We’ve just engaged a new chief medical officer, Dr. Adam Jarret, who will be starting in September. One of his primary functions is to work with physicians to encourage them to come aboard. We provide guidance so they can operate within physician group practice settings.

J.S.: How has Holy Name reached out to various groups in the community?

There’s a Korean medical program where they’ve established a relationship with the community, primarily in Fort Lee, and there are Korean doctors on staff.

There’s outreach to the Jewish community. We have many observant doctors on staff now…. You see a lot of yarmulkes walking around. There’s a Sabbath room, stocked with food and drink, where we make it quite comfortable for visitors who need it.

When [the hospital holds] events they always have kosher food. They’re very accommodating. There was always a willingness, and we just had to point them in the right direction and say “this is what’s needed.” When we spoke about a Sabbath room years ago, I expected a little closet or something where someone could come and sit down, and when I came back and saw what there was, it was significantly more.

We also have a summer program for Touro [College of Medicine] medical students who will work along with doctors as a learning experience.

J.S.: Former chairman of the board Ed Ruzinsky was also Jewish, but you are the first Orthodox Jew to serve as chairman of the board. How do you feel working in a Catholic environment?

A.B.: There are other Jews on the board as well. I don’t feel that I’m in a Catholic environment per se. I feel that I’m in a friendly, dedicated, medically progressive environment. The people I meet, I really cherish them. I appreciate their dedication. There is an openness to everyone, whatever the need is.

J.S.: Are there medical ethics issues that specifically reflect the Catholic mission?

A.B.: They don’t perform abortions. In strict Orthodox Judaism they would not favor abortions either. Their mission is to serve, and to serve in accordance with the Catholic mission. I haven’t seen anything that differentiates that from good medical practice.

I’ve seen very compassionate and dedicated attitude towards patients without regard for cost or [insurance] coverage. What really impressed me is the dedication towards the mission of healing — for everyone.

J.S.: How has your professional expertise helped Holy Name?

A.B.: It’s an ongoing process. The finance, budget, and personnel committee meets every month. For example, now we are in the process of refinancing the bond issue, so we meet with the bankers, administration, and other board members to take care of this.

J.S.: How has the recession affected the hospital?

A.B.: Our charity care costs have increased significantly. We’ve been monitoring it; it’s due to [the increasing number of] non-covered patients…. We haven’t had to scale back any projects. It’s a very well-managed hospital, very efficient. Our costs are low, through what I consider excellent management, but while we have low costs, it does not in any way impede the services. There’s a very low turnover in staff and people are very dedicated.

J.S.: Have they computerized all patient records?

A.B.: At every bedside there are computer screens where inputs are done. That’s one of the things that lead to our efficiencies. Doctors have a new computerized system for charting.

J.S.: How will the national health-care legislation affect Holy Name?

A.B.: The recent postponement of the Medicare cut was helpful. They were going to cut Medicare by 21 percent. But we don’t yet know the full effect [of the health-care legislation]. If there’s going to be more coverage for those who didn’t have coverage before, then that’s a positive. If rates are going to be cut, that’s a negative. What will happen with Medicaid rates? It’s a little early to tell. My concern — will people be discouraged from going into the medical field? Will we be getting the best and the most qualified in the field of medicine?

J.S.: What else would you like people to know about Holy Name?

A.B.: Holy Name is a medical center that has evolved over the 85 years of existence into a modern facility that can provide excellent services with a dedicated staff and dedicated nursing. But should it require expertise outside their capabilities, then they do not hesitate to refer patients elsewhere.

In the past 10 or 15 years the upgrading of the facility and the equipment has made it a modern, capable center where one can receive treatment in the most compassionate manner. The physical plant has really been upgraded. It’s an average of nine years old. You can think of it as a nine-year-old hospital.

We should feel very comfortable in knowing there’s a hospital like that in our community. Whether it’s for emergencies, or for being admitted for planned things like babies, outpatient treatment, or cancer treatment, it’s all there for you. It’s a very special place where patient care comes first.

Arnold Balsam is the first Orthodox Jewish chairman of the board of trustees of Holy Name Medical Center. Miryam Wahrman

Holy Name sets support group for infant and pregnancy loss

Focus will be on Jewish families

On Sunday morning, Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck will host the first of eight sessions of a professionally facilitated support group for Jewish families who have experienced infant and pregnancy loss at any time in their lives.

Nechama Inc., which began in January 2009 with sessions at Englewood Hospital & Medical Center, was founded by Reva Judas of Teaneck. She knows the pain of those she seeks to help, as her first child lived for only 12 hours and she suffered several miscarriages between the births of her four healthy children.

Judas, a kindergarten teacher at The Moriah School in Englewood, is a certified hospital chaplain. She named her support venture Nechama — “comfort” in Hebrew — and recently received 501(c) non-profit status for the organization.

Reva Judas is the founder of a support group for Jewish families who have experienced infant or pregnancy loss. Courtesy Reva Judas

“The main point of this group is for people — mothers and fathers, grandparents, siblings — to be able to deal with this publicly. Even a miscarriage will affect your life forever,” she said. “For example, I worked with two grandmothers this past year to guide them in helping their bereaved children and in working through their own grief.”

The timing for the new group meshes with International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, highlighted by a national “walk to remember” taking place Oct 24 at Holy Name. This non-denominational memorial day will feature readings by several clergy members, including Judas’ father, a rabbi visiting from California for his grandson’s bar mitzvah the day before.

Nechama was modeled on Johanna Gorab’s existing pregnancy and infancy loss support group at Holy Name. Judas borrowed some of her mentor’s ideas, such as memory boxes including photographs, a hospital bracelet, and other memorabilia from the deceased infant. She assures parents that it’s fine to include Jewish prayers or psalms and even a lock of hair, because that does not violate Judaism’s guidelines on burying a body intact.

She also tells families that even without a seven-day shiva period, which does not apply for miscarriage or stillbirth, there are specifically Jewish ways to mourn the loss.

On Nov. 15, she will address rabbis’ wives from around the country at a conference sponsored by Yeshiva University’s Center for the Jewish Future at Cong. Keter Torah in Teaneck.

“My goals now are to start one-on-one counseling and to train social workers and clergy to man a hotline. Certain things have to be decided so quickly when there is a loss,” said Judas, who recently started phone counseling for New York-based clients of Chai Lifeline, an organization for families of children with cancer and genetic diseases.

“We’re training the hospitals in what they’re allowed to do for Jewish families, and also trying to establish guidelines for all Jewish communities for handling these situations regardless of their different philosophies. We want to get across the idea of how important the grieving process is.”

This summer, a rabbi in Passaic called Judas for advice concerning a congregant who had just experienced a miscarriage late in her pregnancy. She worked with the rabbi and directly with the family to answer questions and offer suggestions. The family later traveled to Israel and planted a tree in memory of the baby, Judas said.

She hopes to set up Nechama chapters around the country with the help of grants and donations (a website is in the works). She would like to establish a national office and grief center as well.

The Holy Name group will meet from 10 to 11:30 a.m. for eight consecutive weeks. If there is need and interest, Judas said, a monthly support group will be considered. Call Judas at (201) 692-9302 for further information.


In memory of Marilyn Henry

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