Para-Chaplaincy: Walking in the Ways of God

Caregiver Support Group

“I never knew what it would mean to deeply listen to the life story of another person.”

“It is a privilege when a client shares and is willing to trust someone.”

In their own words, our volunteer para-chaplains share the extraordinary privilege they feel in being present to another through deep listening and having an open heart, with no agenda other than listening. At its core, this is the essence of “Shema Yisrael” – of truly “being heard.”

We read in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1-3), the story of Abraham when he is sitting in the opening of his tent in the heat of the day. Notably, we can understand that he is recuperating from the surgery of circumcision he experienced in the preceding chapter of the Torah. As he is sitting in the coolness of the entrance to his tent, he looks up to notice three strangers approaching, and with haste, he gets up to greet them. From this brief passage, Rabbinic tradition often teaches the Mitzvah of Hachnast Orchim – the value of welcoming guests. Yet that mitzvah puts the responsibility of this moment solely upon Abraham – and he is the one who is ill! Another Rabbinic insight teaches that the three who are approaching are actually fulfilling another mitzvah, a central commandment, of Visiting the Sick – Bikur Holim. It is from this source that Jewish tradition teaches this unique act of giving from one to another.

Community Chaplaincy, now in its fourth year, continues to grow and expand under the leadership of Rabbi Lynn Liberman, BCC. Our program reaches Jews of all ages throughout the Twin Cities who are in a variety of living situations and circumstances. “This is one of the most incredible gifts I am privileged to bring to others on behalf of our community,” said Rabbi Liberman. “When I see the face of an individual brighten up after spending time with them by hearing their story, I am reminded of the sacred nature of this work and the power of connecting with another. It is a space where God truly enters.”

As a way to further bring this mitzvah to those in need of spiritual support and encouragement, in particular to the unaffiliated, marginalized, limited in mobility or forgotten Jews of the Twin Cities, our Community Chaplaincy is excited to offer training for a second para-chaplaincy cohort.

Para-chaplains are specially trained volunteers who, under the direction of the Community Chaplaincy Program, help to extend the reach of our community chaplain to more people in need. Some insightful comments from our last cohort of trainees include:

  • “I think the most powerful piece of the training is our connection to each other!”
  • “Studying the Jewish texts behind this important mitzvah helped me to feel well grounded.”
  • “Learning the actual tools used by professionals in the field was great!”
  • “I wasn’t so sure about the role plays, but then found them to be so useful.”

Training sessions will begin on Monday, November 4, and last for seven weeks through December 16, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. Following the completion of training, cohort members will be matched to clients. This pairing may include one-to-one monthly visits with the same client, regular monthly visits to Jews who are incarcerated, leading holiday celebrations for those who are shut in, or other options to be announced.

Click here to volunteer to become a para-chaplain. Once we have your application, you will be scheduled for an interview. If accepted into the program, your commitment is expected to be for one year, with the option to continue after that.

If you would like more information, please contact Rabbi Lynn Liberman, JFS Community Chaplain at (651) 434-4112.