LONGMEADOW — Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, chaplain and director of Spiritual Life at JGS Lifecare, has witnessed a great deal of suffering, stress, and loss in the past six weeks, unleashed by the COVID-19 virus. She has been especially concerned with the stress she has seen shouldered by JGS Lifecare staff, who on a daily basis are fighting this silent virus that shows no mercy to the community’s most vulnerable and frail, the elderly.
Staff are witnessing unprecedented losses of the people they cared for and loved, the pain of families unable to visit their loved ones, not to mention experiencing a hate crime perpetrated on the JGS Lifecare campus. In addition, they have their own private fears, for their own health and well-being, and that of their loved ones, as they report to work each day to provide comfort and care on the front lines of this pandemic.
“Devorah is a person of action,” said Susan Kimball Halpern, director of Development and Communications at JGS Lifecare. “When the pandemic broke out, Devorah was immediately concerned with the well-being of our staff, the heart of JGS Lifecare, and sought ways to lift them up and provide them with concrete support.”
Jacobson conceived of a three-tiered holistic effort to support mind, body, and spirit of JGS staff. Working with the local interfaith community, she initiated Interfaith Meals of Gratitude. Area synagogues and churches, eager to help, have been raising money to provide a designated Tuesday meal for JGS staff over three shifts. The funds are given to several local restaurants, which themselves are facing difficult times, and the restaurants are then preparing and delivering the weekly meals. The program will continue weekly for another five to six weeks.
Second, she coordinated a mental-health initiative to support staff emotionally, working with her network of crisis therapists and mental-health counselors, who volunteer their time to speak with staff confidentially by phone at no cost for up to six weeks. Almost 20 staff members have already taken advantage of this initiative. This week, Jacobson is launching the third plank of what she has been working on, supporting the spiritual needs of staff by offering prayer/inspiration cards to provide staff with spiritual uplift.
“It’s my hope that, as staff come into work in the morning, every Monday, they will take a card from the entry table and hold onto it for inspiration and some spiritual support, particularly as they begin a new week,” the rabbi said. These cards were designed in collaboration with her friend Tamar Rosenthal, a graphic designer who lives in Los Angeles and was anxious to help from across the miles.
“As staff, we endure a whole lot of heartache, especially during these times,” said Delila Jones, a member of the nursing home’s Life Enrichment team. “But to receive the support and consideration that we have makes the burden lighter … because we know we are all carrying it together. I am blessed and thankful for the positive words shared and the support offered.”