“Connectedness, love, hope and meaning belong to everyone,” said chaplain Michael Schultz, who leads a first-of-its-kind spiritual care team at Rambam Health Care Campus. “Spirituality is universal.”
Rambam is commemorating its 80th anniversary. While some are touting Rambam’s eight decades of medical and technological innovations, from its 2,000-bed fortified underground emergency hospital to its forthcoming collaborative Helmsley Health Discovery Tower, Schultz is reveling in the hospital’s success at spiritually serving its constituents.
Rambam, Schultz said, regards spiritual care on the same level as all caring professions. The spiritual care team is integrated into the general medical team and enjoys the administration’s support. Schultz said spiritual care in Israel as a field is still young and growing and Rambam is playing a key role in creating this new field.
For example, Rambam helped create a forum to advance and explore multicultural spiritual care to ensure that the spiritual needs of the underserved Muslim and Christian Arab populations are also attended to. Specifically, Schultz runs a two-year, 800-hour chaplain training program that takes an innovative, multicultural approach to spiritual care, which has influenced the way spiritual care training is provided throughout the country. Schultz said he prepares a team of spiritual caregivers to “make a bridge through faith between the Jewish and Arab populations in Israel, and between Christians, Muslims and Jews.”
Schultz brings several guest lecturers to his training course and multiple sources “so everyone in the group can get to know a variety of spiritual languages,” he said.
“It is not just Hebrew and Arabic, but learning to speak the language of the spirit,” Schultz explained.
Schultz moved to Israel from Boston nine years ago. While in America, he received his rabbinical degree and was trained as a chaplain. He said he sees his role as helping sick patients connect to themselves, others, their community and/or faith tradition, and something larger than themselves: God.
“I try to create a supportive space for a person to share, however deep they want to go,” said Schultz. “The spirit and the body are connected. I help them find hope.”
The work can take on several different forms, from spiritual counseling or just listening to reading faith-based texts or singing. He recalled a story of an older, Arabic-speaking Christian woman in the oncology unit for whom he served as a spiritual guide.
“One thing we would do is sit and sing Psalms together,” Schultz said. “Connecting through faith made our communication possible… Psalms are so deeply rooted in both Judaism and Christianity.”
Schultz said Israeli patients, like patients around the world, need someone to provide a listening ear and to help them “touch the spirit” for strength and support. In Israel, formal religious leaders are not generally expected to take on that role. As such, Schultz and his team of Rambam chaplains “are blessed to be able to support the spiritual lives of all the residents of the Holy Land.”