While studying at Ben Shemen Youth Village in 1985,
Nir Cohen
began to attend the Reform youth move-
ment Tsofei Telem, where he encountered a religious
experience very different from the ancient traditions
of the Iraqi, Persian, and Jerusalemite communities he
had inherited from his parents and family. After com-
pleting his military service in the Intelligence Corps,
his enchantment with the desert landscapes of the
northern Negev mountains led him to continue to live
in this area, working as a desert tourism guide, a jeep
driver, and occasionally as a shepherd. Nir studied at
the School of Social Sciences at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem, completing B.A. and M.A. degrees in the
fields of sociology, education, social anthropology, and
international relations. He served as a student fellow in
the Minerva Center for Human Rights, alongside stu-
dents from other countries around the Mediterranean
who were seeking sustainable solutions to sea pollution.
After joining the Israeli Rabbinical Program, Nir became
a member of Har-El Congregation, where he performed
much of his professional development work. He also
served as a rabbinical counselor for Noar Telem and
as the rabbi of Kibbutz Yahel. While working for many
years as an educator and administrator in the Joint
Institute for Jewish Studies, he became convinced of the
vital need for dialogue between the different streams in
Page 18 |
Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
Annual Report
Strengthening Israel’s Progressive Future
continued from page 17)
To Comfort, To Counsel, To Care
eform rabbis, social workers, educators, and nurses are among
the first generation of Israeli pastoral caregivers –
be trained at HUC-JIR’s innovative Blaustein Center for Pastoral Care
in Jerusalem. The first cohort of
received their certificates
at the Academic Convocation in Jerusalem on November 14, 2008.
These eleven pioneers are helping to redefine Jewish religious out-
reach, grounded in the values and mission of the Reform Movement,
and will have an impact on the lives of many, through their capacity
to comfort, counsel, and care. A brief survey of their placements
offers an insight into their role as innovators who are introducing the
role of chaplain to Israeli society and as catalysts for pastoral care
in Israel (from left to right):
Miriam Gues Taoub, a registered nurse, works in orthopedic reha-
bilitation at the Sheba Hospital in a position funded by
UJA-Federation of New York;
Saralee Kasel, a registered nurse, offers pastoral care in the
oncology department at Soroko Hospital in Beersheva;
Debi Pinto-Cohen provides home care through the General Ill Fund
and works with the support group at Congregation Kol Haneshama;
Iris Solomon offers solace and care through the Tishkofet
Organization for cancer patients and their families, and provides
staff support and enrichment for its volunteers at its Zichron
Yaakov branch;
Ariella Vogel works in the head injury rehabilitation department
at Sheba Hospital in a position funded by UJA-Federation of New
York as well as with the Chaverut Project and Hadassah Hospital;
Gila Cohen works in the Beit Levenstin Rehabilitation Hospital,
the Beit Hashemesh Senior Home, and in the Special Needs
Bar/Bat Mitzvah project of the Masorti Movement;
Gidi Sand is an educator, able to lead support groups in commu-
nity settings through
Beit Midrash
study, in which Biblical texts,
coupled with creative writing and group dynamic techniques,
offer opportunities for spiritual and personal encounter.
Rabbi Miri Gold is a chaplain in the oncology department at
Kaplan Hospital and its home support for patients as well as
for her Congregation Birkat Shalom;
Rabbi Stacey Blank is serving her new congregation Darchai
Noam in Ramat Hasharon;
Avigail Eitam, a psychologist, is still a full-time rabbinical student;
Rabbi Kinneret Shiryon (not pictured) has worked in home
hospice care and is now concentrating on the needs of her
growing Congregation Yozma.