Come September, GBMC HealthCare will have a kosher hospitality room available for hospital patients and their families.
The room has been in the works since 2016, when Toby Friedman of Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, a nonprofit that serves the needs of people facing illness in the Jewish community, and Rabbi Ruth Smith of University of Maryland Medical Center first proposed the idea to the hospital. Since many Baltimore hospitals feature a kosher pantry to accommodate kosher-observant patients and their families, the duo wanted to bring the concept to GBMC.
“The Jewish community is expanding within the greater community, and they’re coming to us for health care more and more,” said Chaplain J. Joseph Hart, GBMC’s director of spiritual support services. “The Orthodox community wants to seek our care, and we realized to accept them completely we need to be able to provide accompaniments for dietary restrictions.”
A space off the main lobby was chosen to house the kosher hospitality room due to its easy access. The hospital funded the construction, which began in February and wrapped up in July.
The 290-square-foot kosher hospitality room features a kitchenette and a seating area outfitted with chairs and couches. Patients and visiting family members can eat, relax and catch a quick nap in the room.
On display in the room is a large book collection donated by Dr. Dov Frankel, one of GBMC’s emergency physicians. The pantry will also feature a museum-quality display case to house a collection of Judaica that has belonged to the hospital since 1966.
Volunteers from Bikur Cholim, as with the kosher pantries in other hospitals, will stock the pantry with full meals and snacks on a weekly basis. The food is provided by a variety of local kosher vendors, including 7 Mile Market, Seasons and the Knish Shop.
The kosher hospitality room will be dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Shlomo Gardner by his family.
Rabbi Pinchos Rabinowitz, executive director of Bikur Cholim, praised the new facility in a statement.
“On behalf of Bikur Cholim and the Jewish community of Baltimore, we are most grateful to the entire GBMC community for being a patient-first hospital — a place where all patient needs are valued, whether it be medical, emotional, religious or family,” he said. “The opening of a kosher pantry and hospitality room which supplies kosher meals and religious articles to observant patients and their families is an extraordinary display of respect and compassion, and a gift to the Jewish community of Baltimore.”
Shoshana Goloskov is an intern at the Jewish Times.