Volunteering at RWJ Children’s Specialized Hospital
By Sara Goldberg, Class of 2017
Rutgers Hillel Student Board Community Service Co-Chair
It all started back in December with a phone call to Hillel, looking for a student to help out at RWJ Children’s Specialized Hospital with one child whose parents needed someone to cover for them. This one phone call turned into a comprehensive respite care program provided by the Jewish students at Rutgers for a number of Jewish patients in the hospital. Some of the children at the hospital come from far away in order to receive quality treatment, which makes it difficult for their parents and family members to continuously be by their side. Furthermore, often the children come from large families with many other siblings, which makes it difficult for the parents to attend to their sick child. Knowing this, students signed up through all hours of the day and night to spend time with and comfort the special children at the hospital.
As one of the coordinators for the Respite Care Program, it has been heartwarming to see how many students are willing to take time out of their busy schedules, step out of their comfort zones, and even make the trudge through the snow in order to be by the sides of the children at the hospital. Students sign up to spend any amount of time with a child at the hospital. Students have spent between 30 minutes and full shabbosim (25 hours) with the children. While the students are there they may read to the child, feed the child, play ball with the child, accompany the child to therapy, and even be a part of birthday or holiday celebrations, such as a Purim celebration we organized this past Purim.
Additionally, it has been moving to witness Klal Yisrael (the whole of Israel) come together for this important work. People who may have never met due to their geographical location or religious sect worked and spent time together to fulfill what Rabbi Akiva called a great principle of the Torah, v’ahavta lere’acha kamocha (to love your fellow as you love yourself). Through the Respite Care Program, I and many others have been able to understand what Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh (all Jews are responsible for each other) truly means. I, along with many others, have been privileged to learn from these amazing children, their families, and other volunteers about life, love, and ourselves. Because of all of this, I am so grateful to continue to be part of this experience and hope to continue to witness the accomplishments of the unbelievable support system the Jewish community has to offer. I understand and am grateful that this was only possible with the help of G-d, rabbis and leaders from both Rutgers Chabad and Hillel, other volunteers from the New York area, and one inspirational, exceptionally devoted, and extremely G-d fearing woman from Lakewood named Fraidy Rayman who helped us in organizing the program.
If you are interested in volunteering at the hospital, please email Sara Goldberg at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.