The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling in Jerusalem

The Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Center for Pastoral Counseling Taube Family Campus, HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, established in November 2005, is a pioneer in establishing chaplaincy in the State of Israel, where, unlike the United States, the function of the chaplain and the Hebrew vocabulary for pastoral care, healing, and spiritual counseling did not exist, nor was there an infrastructure in Israeli society to encompass this critical area of rabbinical work. Prior to the launch of the Blaustein Center, Israeli hospitals and hospices did not have chaplains, and palliative care did not involve rabbis. Within the Israel Defense Forces context, only Orthodox rabbis served. In the midst of trauma in Israel due to successive wars and the Intifada, secular professionals were performing most of the clinical work. Some health professionals were wary of the spiritual dimension, and the Orthodox establishment did not welcome others offering a progressive orientation to spiritual sustenance.  

Today, the Blaustein Center plays a strategic, pivotal role in shaping the direction of the liberal rabbinate in Israel and of Israeli society itself and is integrating pastoral counseling into professional care giving in Israel. Modeled after its counterpart in New York, the Blaustein Center in Jerusalem offers courses, fieldwork placements, clinical supervision, and professional mentoring while working with the Israeli professional care giving community to craft a place for rabbinical pastoral counseling within the existing secular infrastructure and venues.

Directed by Dr. Ruhama Weiss, the Blaustein Center offers the:

  • Mezorim Program in pastoral care and counseling;
  • Sugyot Chayim– Life Texts for Pastoral Care, a Talmudic Bibliotherapy Program; and
  • Practical Rabbinics professional development and mentorship for students in HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program

Graduates of these programs are serving in Israel’s hospitals, hospices, mental health centers, senior care facilities, and educational institutions.  

The Blaustein Center is a pastoral counseling laboratory-think tank that is developing a network of key stakeholders in Israeli care giving, providing orientation for Israel’s secular physicians, clinical psychologists, and social workers, and creating partnerships with other progressive institutions. It is heightening public advocacy and awareness to stimulate and inform the growing Israeli interest in the North American exploration of the nexus between religion, spirituality, and healing.

In addition, the Blaustein Center has transformed HUC-JIR’s Israel Rabbinical Program, where the primarily text-study driven curriculum has been enhanced by adding the professional development and spiritual growth tracks that already characterize the stateside rabbinical programs. Courses on Life Cycle Rituals and Ceremonies, Spiritual Mentoring, the Human Life Cycle in Community, and Death and Jewish Mourning, as well as mentored field work at the hospices and hospitals provides emerging Israeli Reform rabbis with the necessary expertise to address the challenges of such issues as loss, death, bereavement, trauma, and family and community systems in crisis, and provide them with the necessary expertise to address the challenges facing the Israeli rabbi.

The impact of the Blaustein Center is felt throughout Israeli society, as HUC-JIR’s rabbinical students and alumni with finely honed pastoral and counseling skills lead congregational pulpits, develop ‘community rabbinates’ serving diverse and unaffiliated populations, and assume leadership positions within communal organizations and educational institutions. Israelis now are able to engage a liberal Israeli rabbi to perform the functions of a hospital or hospice visit, a shiva call, or a support group with spiritual dimension, and are finding a new spiritual and ritual connection to liberal Judaism through these rabbinical services of gemillut chasadim