For Sheryl Grossman, a short visit to Baltimore from Morgantown, W. Va., for a small procedure quickly turned into a nightmare last winter, until Bikur Cholim, the Johns Hopkins Minyan and other local community groups got involved.
“I would not have made it without the generosity of the community,” said Grossman, who came to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in January 2013 with stage IV lymphoma, the sixth of seven cancers she has battled since childhood.
When doctors and staff at Hopkins decided to start her on chemotherapy, Grossman, who made the trip without friends or family, found herself in need of support. She called out for help in a Facebook post, and within a day she was enveloped by a network of volunteers from the Baltimore Jewish community.
In the span of just a few days, Bikur Cholim, along with Jewish doctors and other professionals working at Hopkins, had given Grossman a support system she could count on for just about anything she needed.
On Feb. 19, Grossman again traveled to Johns Hopkins from West Virginia, where she returned home last fall in remission, to celebrate with her friends and adoptive family the grand opening of Bikur Cholim’s new Jewish Hospitality Suite at the hospital.
Located in a quiet hall off the Blalock lobby, the suite, which officially opened its doors in October, offers Jewish patients and their families a peaceful space to get away from the bustle of the hospital. Amenities include kosher snacks and coffee, two microwaves, a refrigerator and separate sinks for dairy and meat.
At the end of the ceremony, which was attended by the hospital’s leadership and Baltimore rabbinic leaders, including Rabbis Moshe Heinemann and Moshe Hauer, hospital chaplain Rabbi Tsvi G. Schur affixed a mezuzah to the room’s door frame.
Aron Katz, president of Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, read a letter from the parent of a sick child to the dozens of people gathered to officially dedicate the room. In it, the parent described how the room helped both parents and children looking to escape the stress of the hospital. Often, said Katz, families that have to rush to the hospital unexpectedly or stay longer than anticipated don’t have the chance to prepare small comforts such as kosher snacks or gather reading material. The new room helps with that.
In January 2012, Bikur Cholim and Sinai Hospital opened a Bikur Cholim Kosher Hospitality Room, where patients and their families can access Shabbat meals, electric candles, kosher foods and other items to help make their stays more comfortable. The organization also stocks a kosher suite at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Bikur Cholim of Baltimore was founded in 1985 to assist Jewish patients. It is run entirely by volunteers and helps both members of the Baltimore Jewish community and others, such as Grossman, who were drawn to Baltimore by the city’s well-known hospitals and medical centers. In addition to the establishment of kosher suites, the organization also helps those struggling with illness get to and from appointments, find temporary housing and access free-loan medical equipment.