The hospital within walking distance of Kew Gardens Hills, NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens on Booth Memorial Avenue and Main Street, has a familiar name walking its halls: Rabbi Yossi Mendelson. He joins the hospital as it continues to expand its programs and reaches out to communities to better care for their members. “It’s exciting to develop new relationships with the community. There’s a real strong desire by the hospital to be there for the community and be sensitive to its needs,” said Rabbi Mendelson.
Coming from a Chabad background, Rabbi Mendelson began his rabbinic career reaching out to less affiliated Jews, including a stint in Ukraine where he picked up a basic understanding of Russian. In 2010, he was elected as the spiritual leader of Congregation Machane Chodosh in Forest Hills, a diverse synagogue whose membership spans the spectrum of Jewish observance and backgrounds ranging from elderly German Jews and Holocaust survivors to the younger Bukharians and Israeli newcomers.
His role as a hospital chaplain began a couple of blocks from the synagogue at the Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, a 312-bed hospital where some of his congregants have been treated. He built on this experience with classes in clinical pastoral care. “It’s about giving spiritual and emotional support to someone in crisis. It is a multidisciplinary approach focusing on the hospital environment,” said Rabbi Mendelson. “It’s a very meaningful field of study.”
The NewYork-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital is a much larger venue, with 535 beds and 14 clinical departments. Its staff performs nearly 15,000 surgeries and 4,000 infant deliveries annually. It is located within the Queensboro Hill Eruv, which is connected to the Kew Gardens Hills Eruv at Main Street. Its Jewish features include a bikur cholim room, a chapel containing a sefer Torah and siddurim, a Shabbos elevator, and kosher food.
“My role at this hospital incorporates four things: pastoral care, educating the hospital community on Jewish needs, coordinating between the hospital and community, and working with the bikur cholim volunteers,” said Rabbi Mendelson.
By Sergey Kadinsky