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Targum Shlishi Supports First Interfaith Chaplaincy Training Course in Jerusalem

Kashouvot is a young, pioneer organization in Jerusalem that is on the front lines of providing pastoral care as well as working to advance the field in Israel. Pastoral care, which is also referred to as chaplaincy and/or spiritual support, is dedicated to emotionally and spiritually supporting people at times of life transitions. The circumstances can range widely, and may include illness, end-of-life, and grief as well as challenges such as surgery, loss of independence, fertility treatment, and more.

A Young Organization, A Young Field

The field of pastoral care is fairly new to Israel. As a result, the presence of chaplains in hospitals and nursing homes is relatively rare, and most people are not familiar with chaplaincy or its benefits. Kashouvot is working to change that on two fronts. Not only does it provide pastoral care in a variety of settings, but it has also embarked on educational training for people who seek to become chaplains, and Targum Shlishi is helping to support these educational efforts.

Kashouvot, established in 2010, works in settings such as hospitals, hospices, palliative care settings, retirement homes, and with private clients, and provides its services in multiple languages. The organization’s vision is for every patient to have access to spiritual support and for it to become commonplace that chaplains be paid members of hospital staff. Kashouvot is the only organization in Israel dedicated to placing trained chaplains into hospital and nursing home settings.

“Kashouvot has identified a real need in Israeli society, and is working with conviction, diligence, and a steady sense of purpose to address that lack,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “We supported the organization in its early days by providing funds to help it launch a website, and over time we have come to know and greatly respect co-founder and director Rabbi Miriam Berkowitz. It has been inspiring to see this young organization establish itself and help so many people—it is a testament to the vision and determination Rabbi Berkowitz and her colleagues.”


Targum Shlishi’s current grant is supporting Kashouvot’s training classes in pastoral skills. In fall 2017 Kashouvot offered a course titled “A Taste of Pastoral Skills” to a diverse group of women ranging from secular to modern Orthodox. Kashouvot is in the planning stages of developing a more comprehensive curriculum and of becoming an official teaching site for students who will then be certified as Israeli spiritual care providers.

As Kashouvot describes it, “In our course, students will learn to witness another person’s story without judgment, to identify the feelings behind the stories, and to do a spiritual assessment of the primary needs of each patient. They will learn a variety of pastoral tools and be able to adapt the care to the needs of each patient, strengthening each person’s inner resources and identifying sources of hope, resilience, and wholeness.”


Furthermore, Kashouvot plans for its course to be the first interfaith chaplaincy training course in Jerusalem, with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian students. Kashouvot envisions that the interfaith training will not only help patients, but that it will build interaction and trust in the group of students from different faiths, and will have powerful societal repercussions. Furthermore, in training Arabic-speaking chaplains, the program will address a severe need, as only one of the eighty-eight people in Israel who are currently certified spiritual caregivers is a native Arabic speaker (all Kashouvot staff are learning basic Arabic this year).


The instructor for the fall 2017 course as well as for the future training program is Tova Avichai-Kremer, director of Kashouvot’s staff development and training. She is an Israeli certified pastoral caregiver and is former principal of Keshet, the Israeli secular-religious elementary school. In addition to her work with Kashouvot, she also works with victims of terror via the Israel Trauma Coalition and is involved in HUC interfaith seminars for “healing hatred through spirit.”

Making a Difference

Chaplaincy has been described by veteran American chaplain Jane Mather as walking into some dark places and bringing light: “We are not afraid of the patients’ darkness…We want to be with them where they are. We try to find common ground and a common language, speaking about hope, love, faith, relationships, family, regrets. Our goal is not to get them from one point to the other. Our goal is to help them identify where they want to go.” A participant in Kashouvot’s fall course, Sharon Laufer, who has volunteered with Dhevra Kadisha (Jewish Burial Society) for many years, said: “I am now ready to open my heart and be with people that are ill or in the process of dying. Kashouvot has given me the opportunity to learn skills and tools to be a successful spiritual caregiver.”

About Kashouvot

Kashouvot was founded in 2010 in Jerusalem. It is the only organization dedicated solely to placing trained chaplains in hospital and nursing home settings in Israel. Additionally, Kashouvot is dedicated to advancing the field of spiritual care in Israel, to working with patients of all faiths and backgrounds, and to partnering with other like-minded organizations. Learn more about Kashouvot and about pastoral care in general at its website.

About Targum Shlishi 

Targum Shlishi, a Raquel and Aryeh Rubin Foundation, is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter.

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