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Jewish Journal: Rabbi Jason Weiner—The Calm, Unanxious Presence

The Jewish Journal recently interviewed Jason Weiner, PhD, senior rabbi and director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai, about his experience as a hospital chaplain and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected him.

Weiner recalled how challenging he found his job when he first began serving as a chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 15 years ago. He felt unprepared to comfort or counsel patients and families grappling with intense experiences and life-or-death decisions.

"I found it very difficult at first," Weiner told the Jewish Journal. "People were dealing with really severe crises, asking me questions about life and death. If I gave the wrong answer, it could impact someone’s life in a very significant way."

But after several years of training, he found chaplaincy to be sincere and meaningful work. "Every day you are on the front lines of life and death, so things matter in the hospital in ways that are sometimes more profound and feel more important than in other areas of life," Weiner told the Jewish Journal.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced hospitals to limit visitors, Weiner improvised to comfort patients who often felt isolated. He delivered homemade meals to them and held up smartphones so they could see their families over FaceTime. He even stood outside the room of a Jewish COVID-19 patient who died early in the pandemic to recite prayers over the phone with their family.

"I was for sure putting myself at severe risk," Weiner told the Jewish Journal. "But I had this attitude of, 'I have to do this. People are counting on me.' Sometimes it was a burden, but it also felt like a privilege."

Click here to read the complete article from the Jewish Journal.