With chaplaincy being relatively new in Israel, patients aren’t always sure what a chaplain does. But Dina Herz, who works in the Hadassah Medical Center’s Bone Marrow Transplantation Department in Hemato-Oncology, understands that “most people have moments of loneliness and spiritual needs when they are hospitalized--particularly for serious diseases.”
Fluent in English and Hebrew with a lilting accent that sometimes gives away her birthplace of Switzerland, Ms. Herz is a modern Orthodox Jew, who has her own ideas about the “World to Come.” When she speaks with patients, however, such as the Moslem woman who just received the unhappy news that there were no more treatments for her lymphoma, she is careful. The woman wanted to talk about where she was going. “Let’s read the Traveler’s Prayer,” suggested Dina, who has a set of cards with various prayers and spiritual thoughts in different languages. “The Traveler’s Prayer? We have one, too,” said the woman. So they compared the prayers and then said them together.
Ms. Hertz explains that, of course, Hadassah has its own Rabbi--Rabbi Moshe Klein—but he has many other duties such as organizing prayer services, overseeing that kashrut of the food, and forging and sustaining ties with the religious community. Although he does visit and comfort patients, it’s not the single focus of his work as it is for a chaplain.
To qualify as a hospital chaplain, Ms. Herz had to undergo 800 hours of training, in Israel and abroad. She now sees patients twice a week. “Sometimes a person needs a hug, sometimes the chance to talk about fears, and sometimes just to have someone to be with,” says Ms. Herz. “They see I’m not upset by talking about the big subjects like pain and death. One woman told me that her tears were stuck and I helped her by letting her cry. ‘You made space in my throat,’ she said.'”
For Ms. Herz, “being able to bring spiritual comfort is a dream job.”