Examining an evolving field

by | May 17, 2013 | Book Reviews

Flourishing In the Later Years
(Jewish Pastoral Insights On Senior Residential Care)
by Rabbi James R. Michaels and Rabbi Cary Kozberg
Mazo Publishers, 2012
297 pages

This second edition—the first one was published in 2009—proves that Flourishing In the Later Years is a flourishing and welcome addition to the growing field of Jewish pastoral care, particularly its geriatric focus, receiving long overdue professional attention. The Christian denominations and seminaries have been ahead in the essential area of pastoral care, though our Jewish counterparts are finally catching up.

The editors, our colleagues Rabbis James R. Michael and Cary Kozberg, are pioneering professional Jewish chaplains whose critical contributions to their chosen vocation, and avocation, are deeply appreciated. In fact, their present book is not restricted to those who serve or live in senior residential facilities, but offers invaluable information and insight to all who are touched by and care for the human condition-spiritually, psychologically, and physically-with particular emphasis on Jewish settings.

Four major factors are emphasized that impact geriatric care that have emerged since the first edition was published: “senior residential care” is replacing “long-term care,” with focus on the individual’s needs; the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; the new Jewish “Green House” residences in Dedham, Mass. and the use of technology to benefit the elderly. The book, an eye-opener, is divided into three parts: Clinical Issues, Pastoral Programming, and What Will the Future Bring.

As a son of Polish Holocaust survivors, I was interested in Dr. Paula David’s chapter, “More Battles: Age-Related Challenges for Holocaust Survivors.” The one by Sara Paasche-Orlow, “Revealing The Jewish Voice In Clinical Pastoral Education,” reminded me of my four CPE units from Saint Luke’s Methodist Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the 1970s. I was fortunate to be among the early rabbis to receive this unique and essential training, followed in 1980 by a doctorate in Pastoral Care and Counseling from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, the first rabbi to earn the degree from the Presbyterian Church, USA, affiliated seminary.

The 23 contributors, including the editors, reflect wide and varied backgrounds, expertise, and experience that we ought to learn from and celebrate. Rabbi James. R. Michaels is director of Pastoral Care at the Charles E. Smith Life Communities (the Hebrew Home of Greater Washington) in Rockville, Md., and Rabbi Cary Kozberg is director of Religious Life at Wezner Heritage Village in Columbus, Ohio.

Rabbi Michaels poignantly concludes, ‘as the Baby Boom Generation enters its senior years, the need to provide spiritual comfort and guidance for them and their families will continue to grow and evolve. Will we create new pastoral models to fulfill the need? This is the question that we who are concerned about the welfare of Jewish seniors must address. In doing so, may we work to fulfill the Jewish people’s mission of bringing kedushah / sanctity to the world.’

—Rabbi Israel Zoberman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Chaverim. A certified Pastoral Counselor, he was the first rabbi to earn a doctorate in Pastoral Care and Counseling from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago in 1980.