Bikur Cholim opens doors to NIH guests

The Bernard Creeger Bikur Cholim House is welcoming guests as it prepares for major renovations. Photo courtesy Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington

Since it began receiving guests in June, Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington’s hospitality house near the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda has hosted 17 families.

The Jewish nonprofit bought the two-story Colonial-style home last year as a temporary residence for observant Jewish family members and caregivers of patients at the NIH Clinical Center.

The organization, whose name means “visiting the sick” in Hebrew, plans to renovate the house on Old Georgetown Road before holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony next spring.

The organization serves the ill in the Greater Washington Jewish community. It named its building the Bernard Creeger Bikur Cholim House in memory of father and father-in-law of lead donors Fran and Alan Broder,
Until the house opened, families of observant Jews who sought treatment or participated in clinical studies at NIH turned to individual families in Bethesda for kosher food and a place to stay on Shabbat within walking distance of NIH.

A $2.8 million fundraising campaign goal, to cover the purchase of the house, renovations and related costs, was announced at the organization’s annual gala, held Nov. 20 at B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville. The event, which brought in $1.1 million in funds and pledges so far, honored Francesca Lunzer Kritz, past president and board member, and volunteers Judy and Jerry Frank.

Among the planned renovations is the modernization of the kitchen, which Siegel describes as a “center of community and belonging” for guests. The updates will include new appliances, including some with features for Sabbath and holiday use.

A second, professional, kitchen will be built for food preparation not only for the Bernard Creeger House, but also for the people Bikur Cholim serves in hospitals and other facilities. Volunteers prepare some 2,000 kosher meals a year for the sick, the homebound and to caregivers.

Other renovations will include a library, exercise center, study, a security system and increased accessibility.
Bikur Cholim also lends medical equipment and provides transportation for medical appointments to the Jewish community in Greater Washington.

Barbara Trainin Blank is a Washington-area writer.

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