WALTHAM, Mass. (May 26, 2023) – Through a grant from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab at Brandeis University has funded four projects to advance innovative approaches to Jewish spiritual care.
Recent research from the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab found that Jewish chaplains are often embedded in a wide variety of institutions but not always called upon to serve those without access to spiritual care. At a time of declining institutional affiliation, chaplains may be the only religious professionals that many American Jews, especially under 30, see in times of need. In addition, the Jewish community has a higher percentage of people over 65 than the general population and families that do affiliate are increasingly multi-faith. Jewish chaplains are well positioned to support them.
“Chaplains working in Jewish organizations have the education and training to address some of the most pressing issues we’re seeing today,” said Wendy Cadge, the project’s principal investigator and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Brandeis University.
With the support of the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab awarded 4 grants totaling $160,000 to institutions across the country to extend the work Jewish organizations are doing to address the spiritual needs of those who have not had easy access to spiritual care until now. The projects will serve a wide variety of communities who currently do not have easy access to spiritual care providers, including those suffering from addiction in Wisconsin (Jewish Social Services of Madison); low-income and isolated older adults in Connecticut (The Towers Foundation, Inc.); clients at a community center in California (Jewish Community Center of San Francisco); and those experiencing grief and bereavement in Michigan (The Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network).
The Chaplaincy Innovation Lab’s project also includes support for Jewish theological educators. Rabbi Mychal Springer (New York-Presbyterian Hospital) is convening seminary pastoral care faculty to share resources with each other and with demonstration project grant recipients to support their programs. The group has expressed strong interest in continuing to explore collaborative programming and integrative curricula. Participating institutions include Yeshivat Maharat, Academy for Jewish Religion (CA), Academy for Jewish Religion (NY), Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (New York and LA), Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Mechon Hadar, Jewish Theological Seminary, Yeshiva University, Hebrew College, American Jewish University, and Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. Speaking of the high potential for educators’ creativity to enhance the provision of spiritual care, Rabbi Springer said “The seminary pastoral educators have conveyed gratitude for having a space to foster connections and be in dialogue about the state of the field today. While there is plenty of diversity in our contexts, there is also a shared commitment to enhancing our curricula and teaching students best practices for meeting the unique spiritual care needs that evolve all the time.”
Within its overall mission to spark practical innovations that enable chaplains to nurture the spirits of those they serve and reduce human suffering, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab continues to research and publish on the unique contributions to spiritual care made from the Jewish tradition. More information on this work can be found in the project “Leading Where Life Happens,” which includes a full-length working paper and an executive summary, at ChaplaincyInnovation.org.
About Chaplaincy Innovation Lab
Founded in 2018, the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab supports chaplains in all sectors as they recognize and respond to changes in American religious and spiritual life. The Lab brings chaplaincy leaders, theological educators, clinical educators, and social scientists into a research-based conversation about the state of chaplaincy and spiritual care. Driving its work are questions about how spiritual caregivers can do their best work. The Lab aims to improve how chaplains are trained, how they work with diverse individuals (including those with no religious or spiritual backgrounds), and how spiritual care develops as a professional field.
About Brandeis University
Brandeis University was founded in 1948 by the American Jewish community at a time when Jews and other marginalized groups faced discrimination in higher education. Today, Brandeis is a leading research university for anyone, regardless of background, who wants to use their knowledge, skills and experience to improve the world. Nearly 6,000 Brandeis students and 550 faculty members collaborate across disciplines, interests and perspectives on scholarship that has a positive impact throughout society. Learn more at brandeis.edu.
About the Charles H. Revson Foundation
The Charles H. Revson Foundation was established in 1956 and endowed after Revlon founder Charles H. Revson died in 1975. Originally founded to service the Jewish community, medical institutions, and schools and universities in New York, the endowment gave the foundation’s board extraordinary latitude to innovate in its giving. Today the Foundation supports urban affairs, Jewish life, biomedical research, education, and the New York City library system. Learn more at www.revsonfoundation.org.
Chaplaincy Innovation Lab Contact
Director of Programs
The Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network
“Grief and Bereavement Support”
This program was created to fill a gap in spiritual, emotional and mental health support for caregivers of individuals with a terminal illness. Through one-on-one and group sessions, a JHCN rabbi-chaplain and social worker will help caregivers cope with anticipatory grief leading up to loss, provide support in the year following, develop connections to a network of supportive peers, and identify additional resources as needed. JHCN seeks to help clients manage grief and redefine life after a loss in a way that enables them to live with purpose and meaning.
Jewish Social Services of Madison
“Cherut (Jewish Addiction Collaborative of Dane County)”
The Cherut project will bring the issue of addiction out of the shadows of the Jewish community in Madison, Wisconsin and develop explicit ways to address the addiction crisis. We will use the evidence available about effective community-wide and family support programs to adapt and offer them in Jewish settings. We will work to explicitly welcome Jewish people and their loved ones facing substance use disorders more strongly into the Jewish community. We will also create support programs using Jewish spiritual tools for those who are walking the road of recovery or coping with a family member with substance use disorder.
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
“Where Life Happens: A Chaplain-in-Residence at a Jewish Community Center”
Modeled after an Artist Residency framework, where artistic talent partners with an anchor organization providing key resources to nurture collaboration, innovation and broaden shared impact, the JCCSF Chaplain-in-Residence will be embedded in-house in the JCCSF’s Roots & Culture team, offering spiritual support to two existing JCCSF constituency groups to test the potential impact of Jewish Chaplaincy in the context of a Jewish Community Center. The Chaplain-in-Residence will be positioned to support individuals and families in crisis via counseling; conduct rituals for individuals or groups; facilitate support groups and other gatherings; participate in JCCSF events promoting spiritual growth and education; educate and train individuals and groups on spirituality and chaplaincy; and establish communication channels to connect Jewish chaplains across the San Francisco area.
The Towers Foundation, Inc.
“Chaplaincy for Low-income and Isolated Older Adults in Greater New Haven”
The Towers at Tower Lane project will help low-income older adults in our communal residential setting and in the broader Greater New Haven community. The project will target potentially isolated and lonely older adults in need of spiritual connection. This project will be measured through a new care delivery model called the Proactive Partner Model, which provides evidence-based and outcomes driven approaches to care. Through our new model we’ll be able to better understand the impact of chaplaincy on social and emotional well-being for individuals and cohorts. Sarah Moskowitz, Spiritual Leader, will work with staff and volunteers leading this project.