As people get older, needs change and new challenges arise physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually for which none are ever fully prepared. For clergy,the challenge is to not neglect this growing population. For those not in the profession, there can never be enough literature that combines the spirituality and practicality of caring for older parents. About 2 years ago, a new book was published by Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Jewish Visions For Aging, which attempts to fill a gap in the Jewish spiritual care literature.
Rabbi Friedman’s book is a compilation of her previous published articles on the topic of caring for the elderly in the Jewish community. She discusses issues regarding balancing caring for parents with caring for self, providing support to the growing dementia population and creating a Torah studies class in the long term care facilities. Her writing exudes respect and admiration for those she has cared for over the years.
In terms of the layout and style of the book, the book is repetitive at times, which I believe is often the challenge of compiling older writings into book form. Her chapters are sourced with endnotes and contain primary bibliography for the professional looking for more research on a given subject. This allows for a non-professional reading the work to not be overwhelmed by sources and rather be able to absorb the information she presents.
The other concern I found with this work is one I have found in other works on Jewish spiritual care, namely that they feel at times as if they lack much on Jewish specific spirituality. I think this results from the general notion in chaplaincy of transdenominationism, as in not focusing on one’s own specific denomination when caring for others. Hence, I think many oscillate to the almost other extreme of never discussing aspects of one’s own tradition. Nevertheless, her work does present a selection of texts scattered through the book which can serve the community in focusing on the meaning of Jewish spiritual care.
I believe finding Jewish spiritual texts that one can relate to the work of pastoral care is a continuing challenge Jewish chaplains need to confront, further enriching the already quality care provided. Therefore, I have found that Jewish Visions For Aging is a worthwhile addition for the chaplain’s library, as this is a wonderful companion to Jewish Pastoral Care, edited by Rabbi Friedman as well.
disclaimer: I purchased a copy of Jewish Visions For Aging and did not receive a copy for review.