Spiritual Care volunteers (SCVs) are integral to the JFS Chaplaincy Program and fulfill the mitzvah of bikkur holim—visiting the sick. Under Community Chaplain Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick’s guidance, Brad Ordo is among this group of volunteers who receive extensive training to work in the healthcare community serving Jewish patients’ spiritual needs.
Volunteers provide connection and support at a very stressful time to those who might otherwise be alone or disconnected from the community while in a hospital or eldercare facility.
Brad was a school friend of Rabbi Rudnick’s, having both attended the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy. He then moved to Los Angeles for thirty years, where Brad volunteered in various positions: a visitor to AIDs units in the ‘90s, a support group facilitator, and as part of a literacy program where he tutored young adults from other countries helping them to integrate into the community. When his mother was in failing health, Brad moved back to Kansas City. He wanted to be around to support her and to help his siblings. His mother was a JFS client of the older adult services program. “I was impressed and inspired by how I saw her social worker and her psychotherapist at JFS tend to her needs and support her at a critical time in her life journey,” he shared. She passed in 2018.
In 2019, after attending a Communitywide service of Spiritual Renewal led by Rabbi Rudnick, Brad decided to utilize his experience at JFS as a Spiritual Care volunteer. “It is important to meet people where they are spiritually. You don’t want preconceived notions about what each person is going through,” he said. “I try to be an open vessel and take in what each person shares. We’re just there to listen — using our ears more than our mouth.”
Spiritual Care volunteers are a welcome surprise to isolated members of the Jewish community. While most Spiritual Care volunteers visit people in a facility, Brad’s mission is to meet people isolated at home. Since COVID-19 began, he has been primarily meeting virtually, although he did arrange a masked visit early last summer.
He makes weekly calls to Gertie, an older woman who had difficulty transitioning from her apartment into assisted living. Brad’s calm and soothing nature lends Gertie support and is the highlight of her week.
Another regular Spiritual Care client is Lori, who went into an elder care facility when her husband’s heath began to decline. He has since passed away. Lori has signs of dementia and is legally blind, but she and Brad say the Kaddish prayer together, which she appreciates, he said.
Another client passed away from cancer. During those last two or three months of her life, Brad was with her when she knew she was dying. “I made it a point of staying connected to her along with her JFS family of social workers. We often visited her when she was hospitalized and made a Hanukkah celebration for her in her hospital room by bringing her gifts and homemade food.”
Brad spoke at her funeral. Like many older adults, she had no family left. JFS stepped in to connect her to the Jewish community and provided spiritual support in her last days with Brad’s help. If you know someone in need of spiritual care or would like to be a spiritual care volunteer, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.