Since 1980, rabbinic students at HUC-JIR/LA
have enrolled in special classes to prepare them for visiting the
sick (bikkur cholim) as one of a rabbi’s primary mitzvot. Students
have also held clinical apprenticeships at major hospitals in Los
Angeles, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, UCLA Medical Center,
Santa Monica Hospital and City of Hope. The College-Institute is
committed to training within the context of traditional rabbinic
study. Occasionally, rabbinic students are joined in healthcare work
by colleagues from the HUC-JIR School of Jewish Communal Service.
1993, a dramatic development added to the quality of our programs.
Judith Schindler, then a rabbinic student, was apprenticing at
Cedars-Sinai, where she visited Irving “Red” Kalsman who
had suffered a serious stroke. Mr. Kalsman was profoundly moved by
his visits with this young student and in appreciation, decided to
help the College-Institute advance this work. Mr. Kalsman and his wife,
Lee, first funded enhanced health-related rabbinic training. The success
of that initiative led to the April 2000 national conference “Re-imagining
Illness, Re-imagining Health”, which led to the creation of a permanent
endowment that today fosters the programs of the Kalsman Institute
on Judaism and Health.
Kalsman passed away shortly before the first conference to bear his
name, but his legacy and spirit carry on. Lee Kalsman lead her family— her
children and grandchildren— in the development of this center for
public discourse and spiritual care, before she died in September
With the support of this generous family, and the inspiration of Mark and Peachy
Levy, the Kalsman Institute serves as a resource for the healing community
and the Reform Movement.
Bill Cutter on the Institute’s origins.
(click picture to view highlights).