Friday, May 22, 2009

Dr. Okun and Her Family Do Great Community Work with Bikkur Cholim of Rockland County

"Bikkur Cholim" is a phrase that means "visiting the sick." All of us, sometime during our lives, will be put in the position of visiting someone we know who is sick. Some of us choose to visit lots of people who are sick, to see if we can help them with anything, or just to visit and make them feel better because they have someone to keep them company.

When Orthodox Jews arrange to visit someone who is sick on the Sabbath, they find a place that is walking distance from the sick person to stay for the duration of the Sabbath (Friday evening until Saturday night), and arrange in advance for food. This is because we don't travel, cook, or spend money on the Sabbath (unless it is a life or death situation.) Sometimes we don't have the luxury of planning in advance.

Bikkur Cholim of Rockland County is a Charitable Organization that rents three rooms on the property of Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, NY for Orthodox Jews to stay if they have someone to visit at this hospital. One room has beds and a bathroom for women (complete with a pack and play for babies), one room has beds and a bathroom for men, and one room has a table and chairs, refrigerator, and warming drawer. This organization also provides food. The organization has volunteers from Rockland County who purchase food (both catered foods- like chicken and cakes, and supermarket foods- like yogurt and fruit) and drop it off at the "kitchen" room on Fridays. The student volunteers from Westchester Hebrew High School in Mamaroneck come on Friday afternoon to put the food away- some in the refrigerator, and some on the hot plate. The volunteers from the Young Israel of White Plains come on Saturday night to clean up. (I, Dr. Judith Okun, am a Saturday night volunteer.) There is a cleaning service that washes the linens and towels during the week.

Every second to fourth Saturday my family goes to Valhalla to throw out any spoiled foods and take the trash to the garbage bins in the parking lot. Any food which is going to spoil within the week we take with us back to White Plains. There is a battered women's shelter behind Grace Church that takes contributions 24 hours a day, and accepts food that is not sealed in a package. We bring them cake, juice, milk, chicken soup, salads, and even "kugels" (potato or noodle pudding.) This way the leftover food can benefit even more people and not go to waste.

Sometimes when we arrive at the hospital we find the rooms empty. Sometimes the guests are still there. We have met many grateful recipients of this charity. Last Saturday night the guest was a young woman and her son. Her son was hit by a car on Friday afternoon right before the Sabbath. His leg was treated at the hospital and then he was released. It was already after sunset on Friday night, and now that the emergency was over they could not travel back home. The woman could not thank us enough that they had a clean and comfortable place to stay, and that there was good food to eat, food that was fit for honoring the Sabbath. We tried to explain that all of this was provided by Bikkur Cholim of Rockland County, and she should extend her "thank you" there, but she saw us as representatives of the whole "process" and kept thanking us. It's hard to accept the thanks, when our part in the process is so small, but its wonderful that this service is here for those that need it!

--Dr. Judith Okun, of Okun Orthodontics

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