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Rabbi and Rose chaplain: ‘Savor each and every day’

Rabbi Jeffrey KayeCalifornia native, Rabbi Jeffrey Kaye has been the director of chaplaincy department at Rose Medical Center since 2000.

Studying political science and international relations, Kaye received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and studied at the University of Judaism. He was ordained at HUC-JIR in 1993. Kaye served as a congregational rabbi at Temple Chai in Phoenix, Arizona, 1993-1997, and at Beth Shalom in Olington, Texas, 1997-2000. Along with his job at Rose, Kaye has been the leader of Congregation Beth Shalom in Centennial since 2004.

Rabbi Kaye is married to Rhonda, a lawyer for Lexis Nexus, and they have four boys, Ilan, 22, Doniel, 18, Asher, 17 and Avi, 12.

AS director of the Chaplaincy department at Rose, There is never a dull moment for Rabbi Jeffrey Kaye.

Rabbi Kaye, who received a certification in clinical pastoral education and chaplaincy, loves his job at Rose. Always interested in being a part of critical lifecycle moments, Rabbi Kaye is a helping hand during times of healing and the first religious leader to welcome a newborn.

An active member of Keshet, the Rocky Mountain Rabbinic Council and the Denver JDS board, Rabbi Kaye helps others find value behind religious teachings and never takes for granted the value behind the gift of life itself

Q: How did you decide to take the job at Rose?

A: It really was the excitement and interest in chaplaincy that brought us to the community. It had been a part of my interest and when I was a rabbi in Phoenix and Dallas, where I was a volunteer staff chaplain in the hospital.

The Rose opportunity was a dream come true — to come to such a  dynamic city and a Jewish community with so much to offer, the outdoors, the fantastic schools and, of course, the opportunity at Rose.

Q: Why did you want to become a Rabbi and a chaplain?

A: I gravitated toward the rabbinate from a young age after a 10th grade summer in Israel. I knew I wanted to help serve the Jewish people and be involved in the monumental critical moments of life.

Those motives from high school propelled me through college.

I found the congregational world to be immensely rewarding but, at the same time, chaplaincy offered a profound opportunity to work with people one on one and at very critical, poignant moments. I knew that was what I wanted.

Q: What are your daily obligations at Rose?

A: One of the real blessings is the rich heritage of the hospital, the special connection and relationship with the Jewish community and the overall community.

I am fortunate to have both the micro- and macro-level interactions and connections with patients, employees, physicians, volunteers, and the community.

I visit with patients who request a visit as well as round on the various floors and units, meeting with patients and members to see if there is need for assistance, a listening ear, a reflection or a blessing.

I also do counseling with staff members, volunteers and physicians. I teach in one on one and group settings. I have opportunities to be involved with bio-medical ethics issues. I meet with organizations, agencies and synagogues that plan programs for the community.

Q: What are some of those programs?

A: Jewish Baby University, a partnership the JCC, Rose, and Shalom Family, is an intensive, holistic program synthesizing prepared childbirth and teaches participants how to create a Jewish home and family. It is a great example of Rose’s strong connection to the Jewish community and how Rose pairs with organizations for joint programming.

It is unique for a hospital to sponsor an annual Chanukah celebration for the community. We collaborate with Allied Jewish Federation, JFS, JCC and synagogues.

Q: Why Rose?

A: It allows me to work with patients of all faiths, backgrounds and traditions, and I have the true privilege to work with the entire spectrum of the Jewish community — all denominations. I see my job as transcending movements and denominations.

Rose is the leading new baby hospital in all of Colorado and I feel fortunate to be with these families at that milestone.

Q: Rose started as a predominantly Jewish hospital. How is Rose different today?

A: Rose has absolutely maintained a strong relationship to the Jewish community after the sale, which was about 16 years ago. Jewish roots are part of the fabric of the hospital.

We offer not only kosher meals to all our patients but even kosher dining to our physicians — no other hospital in the Rocky Mountain region does that. We set up a sukkah annually for the entire community here to enjoy.

On Passover we have three kosherfor-Passover meals a day for the entire holiday, available to all of our patients and doctors.

Rose continues to be strongly linked to the Jewish community and intends to do so in the future.

Q: What have you learned from your job?

A: It reinforces how important it is to savor each and every day. Life is a gift, a blessing.

Q: How do you cope with being around pain and death?

A: There is emotional drain and strain; that cannot be minimized. But there is always uplift and beauty that sustains me.

When I see the beauty of people genuinely caring for another, when healing takes place, when there is new life and when others are happy from the comfort and compassion being expressed, it helps me cope with the draining and intense work.

Q: How do you connect to families at times of need?

A: A chaplain needs to be a good listener and to be patient, to take the time and energy to try to meet people where they are, to be both sympathetic and empathetic.

Q: Why is your work important?

A: It ensures the teaching that all are created in the image of the divine, including all those who are sick or healing.

Q: Do you see more people from one denomination of Judaism?

A: It really is across the board and transcends at times of need.

Q: How does it feel to know that you help bring people comfort in life’s hardest challenges?

A: It brings a sense of contentment, fulfillment. I feel in a very small way that it helps bring G-d’s presence in our world.

Q: What is your secret to parenting?

A: I see parenthood as a privilege, obligation and responsibility. It takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and devotion, coupled with a lot of love. It is instilling a sense of love for life in the world and true responsibility, while savoring and embracing life every day.

Q: How do you balance working at a congregation as well?

A: It is the best of both worlds to have a full time position as chaplain and be involved in congregational life. I love leading services and Jewish learning.

Q: What is your message for the Jewish community?

A: Life is sacred and cherished. Judaism is so amazing and wonderful in terms of giving us the tools, resources and treasures to embrace life. It is a vehicle we use to embrace life.

Q: What is your favorite month on the Jewish calendar?

A: Tishrei is the cycle of our fall holidays and there is such beauty and uplift in Nissan. In addition, during Pesach, the themes, values, connection to family, community and our people that transcend teaching for humanity and history make it a very special time.

Copyright © 2011 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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