Our Stories

New Kosher Cabinets exemplify hospital’s commitment to spiritual care

Toronto, December 15, 2017

By James Wysotski

Chaplain Joel Aguirre shows what’s available in the Emergency Department’s Kosher Cabinet
Chaplain Joel Aguirre shows what’s available in the Emergency Department’s Kosher Cabinet. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

A new Kosher Cabinet in the Emergency Department will help Jewish patients and families practise their faith while hospitalized on days of worship.

The cabinet provides free kosher food, battery-operated Sabbath candles and prayer books. Filomena Machado, director of Mission, Values and Spiritual Health, said adding the cabinet in October 2017 has helped alleviate the challenges of finding kosher food on weekends and holidays.

It also helps patients heal, said the Rev. Joel Aguirre, a United Church minister and chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“Spirituality promotes healing,” said Aguirre. “That’s part of St. Michael’s values. We are a Catholic hospital, but we recognize and respect all faiths.”

Bikur Cholim, a volunteer-driven social service organization providing resources and support to vulnerable individuals and families, set up the cabinet and restocks it regularly. St. Michael’s is one of seven Toronto hospitals with a cabinet. The organization distributes location information and access codes for the cabinets to the Jewish community through its pamphlets and newsletters. Hospital chaplains can also access them.

Patients and families who use the cabinet will also find Bikur Cholim’s pamphlets, which detail other free services such as the delivery of meals and driving patients to and from appointments after discharge.

Toronto hospitals with Kosher Cabinets
  • St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Hospital for Sick Children
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • North York General
  • Mount Sinai Hospital
  • Mackenzie Health
  • Humber River Hospital

Adding the ED cabinet only “enhanced our services,” said Machado. “It is just a small piece of what we've already been providing to Jewish families for many years.”

The hospital meets the needs of this community though the services of the Jewish Family and Child organization. The organization sends a rabbi several times a week – or by request – to visit Jewish patients and pray, support or provide whatever is requested.

Like those of other faiths, the Jewish community can also use the hospital’s multi-faith room.

Machado said whether it’s a request for bedside Eucharist or to set up an Aboriginal smudging ceremony, the hospital has chaplains of many religions who will try to fulfill any spiritual requests.

“After all, our values are not Catholic values,” said Machado. “They're life values.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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