Patients at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital and their families will now have access to kosher food. The new Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington Kosher Pantry opened last week at the hospital in a ribbon-cutting and mezuzah-hanging ceremony.
“It has a refrigerator and freezer and is also stocked with dry goods,” said Audrey Siegel, the executive director of the organization.
In concert with the hospital and its chaplain’s office, Bikur Cholim raised funds for the pantry from philanthropists in the community after realizing how much of a desire there was for it.
“We brought the idea to the hospital after the last few years of people from the community asking us questions,” Siegel said. “Patients would call us around Shabbat and holiday time asking about places to stay nearby and kosher food choices.”
Bikur Cholim negotiated a space on the third floor of the hospital where, in addition to the kosher food, other amenities for patients including toothbrushes and even prayer books are available.
“Any need taken off the list of burdens is very helpful to mind and spirit,” said Rabbi Sholom Raichik, director of Chabad of Upper Montgomery County, who hung the mezuzah.
Raichik, who acts as an on-call rabbi for the hospital, praised the work of both the hospital administration and Bikur Cholim for arranging the room in response to the sensitivities of the patients.
“It’s a great thing for people in the hospital,” he said.
The Pantry at the hospital is not the first Bikur Cholim has created in the area. Shady Grove Adventist Hospital joins the Children’s National Medical Center as host for the network of Meir L’Olam Kosher Food Pantries created by Bikur Cholim. They also have a small storage area for kosher food at the National Institute of Health hospital.
“We do fundraising specifically for these pantries,” Siegel said. “It’s an ongoing fundraising project.”
Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington provides many kinds of support to the community. Their work, often done by volunteers, includes providing places to stay for those visiting sick relatives, transportation to and from the hospital, medical equipment loans and even educational events for the community and children. The Kosher Pantry is a good expression of their mission of making things easier for patients and their loved ones in accommodating their needs, Siegel said.
“Their needs are taken care of,” Raichik said. “They don’t have to go running around now.”