Posted by Sue Spielman

Synagogue caring communities are built around the tradition of bikur cholim, Hebrew for "visiting the sick." In Jewish tradition it is an imperative to support those who are ill or isolated. Visiting those in need brings comfort and reinforces connections to life. But it's not easy. Caring communities depend on members to make sure this caring work happens, yet the knowledge and skills of these volunteers varies.

At JF&CS we recognized the need for experienced professionals to educate and support synagogues to create effective caring communities – ones that truly reach out to provide support to each congregant in need. We developed the Caring Communities Resource Network (CCRN) to bring together members of synagogue communities and help them refine their synagogue's caring skills. Each caring community benefits from developing a structure based on a "train-the-trainers" model that is then replicated and tailored to fit each synagogue's specific needs. At CCRN community-wide workshops hosted by JF&CS and JFS Metrowest, synagogue lay leaders bring their experience and expertise to collaborate and support each other in building strong and effective caring communities. Currently more than 60 synagogues are members of the CCRN including synagogues throughout Greater Boston, Eastern MA, and Metrowest.

On May 13, members of synagogue caring communities met to discuss how their synagogue can serve the caregivers for those with Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder. In the workshop, Marjie Sokoll, Director of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections and Beth Soltzberg, Program Coordinator of JF&CS Living with Chronic Illness, led an active discussion about how caring communities can help congregants access resources, find support, and deal with the overwhelming challenges they face. The discussion that followed about how their communities could support caregivers illustrated that synagogue caring community leaders already know so much and can learn even more from each other.

Sue Spielman, MPA has coordinated the Friendly Visitor Program for more than a decade and more recently the Caring Communities Resource Network, both programs of JF&CS Jewish Healing Connections(JHC). Prior to her work with JHC, Sue worked for 20 years in the world of parenting education and support as an educator and community organizer. In her work with people of all ages, Sue has developed a deep appreciation for the positive impact a friendship can make on one's quality of life, and she is honored to be able to help create those friendships. Sue received degrees from Harvard University, Wheelock College, and the University of Massachusetts.