By Chaia Frishman
While visiting her son in Lakewood, Frumi Z. felt a sharp pain on her side. When the pain did not subside after taking a deep breath, sitting down and taking a drink, her son Yossi knew that something was wrong. Fast forward nine hours and Mrs. Z is now recovering in the post-op room at Robert Wood Johnson hospital in New Jersey. Her emergency appendectomy completed by the top Chief Surgeon was a success, her family’s needs met, and someone at their side throughout this ordeal. All because of the collaborative work of one small, yet powerful group of individuals better known as the Jewish Medical Liaison Group (JMLG)
What is a hospital liaison? We all hear about them and we all know someone who works as one. A liaison works for a particular hospital to represent patients in different religious or cultural demographics to streamline any issues that may arise because of their designation. They coordinate with different medical professionals related to their patient. They advocate for their patients. They deliver calm to chaotic situations. They quite literally are the go to people with all things medical throughout the frum community.
These 43 liaisons for the frum community hailing from places like New York, Lakewood, Montreal, Chicago and beyond joined together to form the JMLG several years ago for the singular purpose of connecting with each other, collaborating with one another and to multiply their resources for the good of our communities. Many of the group members have never met in person. Phone calls, emails and texts are exchanged when one liaison needs information to help a client that may be more readily available to a fellow liaison. Various annual gatherings, email and other text forums keeps everyone updated and available for each other as needed.
While working as a liaison is a hired job, joining the JMLG has taken their dedication to a whole new level. This tireless and thankless job can sometimes is rigorous, never ending and truly a 24/7 commitment.
Chizuk and inspiration was needed and through the brainchild of its executive board, a weekend convention was prepared to gather all liaisons and their spouses for the first time. To rejuvenate them, acquaint themselves with each other and prepare themselves for all that will face them ahead. After months of preparation, 45 couples enjoyed a weekend in the Somerset Doubletree in New Jersey. It was a Shabbos that most will never forget. In fact, for many of them it was the first time they ever met face to face.
This event would not have been possible without the innovation and sheer generosity of Mr. Kenny Rosenberg and Daryl Hagler founders of the Centers for Care Company, at the forefront of the Medical almost every facet of health care. Through their nursing homes, rehab programs, Senior Care Ambulance, Home health aids and variety of health care initiatives, they have worked with many liaisons throughout the year and this convention was a natural fit. They have shown real sensitivity and compassion to the particular needs of the frum patient.
The convention program began with a key-note given by Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender of Achiezer, on behalf of the JMLG. The theme of this event is “Gratitude,” he said, “specifically to the spouses and families of those present.” Rabbi Bender pointed out the dedication of those present and pointed out how each and every one of the convention attendees had likely never experienced a quiet and peaceful Shabbos without the interruption of a particular emergency.
Rabbi Yechiel Spero, prolific author and speaker and the resident Rabbi of the Shabbos, delivered many stirring drashos throughout the weekend underscoring the importance of the achdus of the group, while highlighting the selfless acts that happen every day due to the work of the JMLG members.
The Shabbos morning drasha was given by Rabbi Benzion Lesser, a Chaplain at Maimonidies Hospital and his warn divrei chizuk were well received by all. The delicious meals over Shabbos were punctuated by a riveting round table discussion clarifying different questions that come up on a day to day basis. Led by Rabbi Yehuda Kasirer, of Lakewood Bikur Cholim, the issues were diverse. One question addressed how to navigate family members torn on whether to transfer a patient. So many facets need addressing. Will it be harder to visit that patient in the new hospital, stalling recovery due to his emotional turmoil? Will that move cause the family financial hardship due to insurance concerns? Is the best doctor necessarily somewhere else? The weighing of options is crucial for all decisions. And the challenge of making those decisions with the speed necessary should be noted.
During the Shabbos meal, Heshy Neuman of the Center’s group delivered beautiful words reflecting on this unique weekend.
The culmination of the event was on Motzei Shabbos when 100 more participants joined the convention. Representatives of area Bikur Cholim organizations, medical referral groups and Hatzolah coordinators from across the tri state area arrived to join this special weekend. Rabbi Boruch Ber Bender began the program and once again marveled at the diverse crowd that had gathered from every stripe and background all with the same common denominator. Each of these groups is directly involved in medical care in the Jewish community and bringing them all together can and will benefit so many families and individuals in the future.
He introduced Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel, a close friend to JMLG and Executive Vice President of the Agudas Yisroel of America. He gave stirring divrei bracha and reminded and highlighted the impact that the group had on our society at large.
Rabbi Bender then introduced Mr. Sruly Rosman, a liaison for NYU Medical center. Mr. Rosman went on to enumerate the amazing details that led up to the creation of the convention and then introduced Kenny Rosenberg, one of the event sponsors. Mr. Rosenberg spoke about the work that his Centers for Health Care does for so many throughout the Jewish community.
The next speaker was Mr. Solomon Rosenberg, a liaison at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. Mr. Rosenberg gave gripping detail of the JMLG from its early days of creation and how it has now flourished into an active and robust group that works together on a daily basis. Mr. Rosenberg gave a rallying call to all, to continue to work together to make sure that no Jewish patient ever find himself alone. He announced plans that will be rolled out in the near future to further integrate these liaisons, Hatzolah members, organizations, and other askanim so that patients in our communities will be better served. He went on to explain that when all of these individuals work hand in hand, great things can be accomplished.
The evening was closed with the moving final words of divrei Torah shared by Rabbi Spero. He poignantly integrated the weekend’s message. Many people lingered after the speeches to network to get to know each other and exchange contact info, all with the same goal: to help Klal Yisroel in any way possible. Indeed it was a weekend not to be forgotten and one that all of the participants look forward to in the coming years.