'Shabbat Friendly Project' addresses needs of UCLA's Jewish patients, family members
Jewish people of all observances can now feel that their religious practices are fully accommodated when they visit Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood.
The hospital's Spiritual Care Department recently completed its "Shabbat Friendly Project," which aims to address Judaism's special traditions.
Shabbat is the weekly Sabbath, or day of rest, in the Jewish religion. It begins at sundown on Friday and ends Saturday evening. Orthodox Jews — those who are most observant of traditional Jewish practices — follow the Jewish legal injunction not to work or create anything during Shabbat, and this includes performing any action that creates electrical power.
But what if a sick loved one is the hospital? How do you enter the hospital during Shabbat and visit them upstairs when the front doors are automated and you are required to push elevator buttons, initiating an electrical connection, to enter?
"These concerns were distressing to our Orthodox population," said Rabbi Pearl Barlev, the rabbi at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. "Our goal was to create an environment that respects the full spectrum of Sabbath traditions and allows family members to channel their focus on their loved one."
Barlev worked with several hospital departments, including patient relations, facilities management and hospital security, to implement changes that would allow observant Jews to feel comfortable in an environment that accommodates their special needs.
Among the resulting changes:
- Exterior doors that open by hand are located on the north side of the hospital's Westwood Plaza entrance and outside the dining commons cafeteria. The doors remain open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Elevator No. 408, located at the east elevator bank, will automatically stop at all floors during Shabbat, so no buttons need to be pushed.
- In stairwell No. 5, located through the doors at the east elevator bank, no lights will be triggered by walking up the stairwell during Shabbat.
Following another Shabbat tradition, the medical center's Spiritual Care Department has been offering pre-packaged Shabbat kits for several years. Now nicknamed "Shabbags," for "Shabbat in a bag," they include ritual items for Shabbat observance — two battery-operated candles, kosher challah, kosher grape juice, a wine glass and a copy of the traditional blessings in both English and Hebrew.
The Spiritual Care Department also continues to offer visits from the rabbi, Jewish religious services and kosher food that can be ordered from the patients' menus and can be purchased in the hospital's dining commons.
"The response to our Shabbat Friendly Project has been extremely positive," Barlev said. "We've heard from our Jewish patients and family members that they are very appreciative that their needs are being accommodated with compassion, sensitivity and respect."
The Spiritual Care Department at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center offers a diverse pastoral program, including multifaith spiritual care for patients, families and staff, as well as nationally accredited clinical pastoral education training programs.