Marpeh – Training Israeli Spiritual CareGivers

Marpeh (healing in Hebrew) is geared towards clergy, social workers, health care professionals and educators. Pastoral care- involving listening, consolation and compassion to help people confront significant life challenges- constitutes an important component in healthcare for patients and their families that is missing from Israeli healthcare institutions. With a vision that this situation may be addressed by training a cadre of qualified professionals able to counsel and offer spiritual support to chronic or terminally ill patients and their families, the Schechter Institute established Marpeh, the first and only academically accredited pastoral education program in Israel.

There are currently 28 students in the program. Based on Jewish values such as bikkur holim (visiting the sick) and gemilut hasadim (deeds of loving-kindness), Marpeh integrates M.A. degree studies with supervised fieldwork at healthcare institutions.  It utilizes chevruta (paired study) learning, workshops and meaningful discussions all designed to to build spiritual strength of caregivers and patients.  Two modular units are offered: four academic semesters over two years, or four summer semesters. Both modules train for certification in spiritual caregiving through 800 hours of courses and supervised clinical fieldwork.

Marpeh students and graduates work with terminally or chronically ill patients in hospitals, the elderly and infirm in senior residences, pupils in schools and children with special needs, and with those traumatized by rocket attacks near Gaza. Through their service Marpeh students contribute hundreds of volunteer hours to non-profit organizations and health care institutions.

The program is based at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies and was established in 2012 by Dr. Einat Ramon, a lecturer in Women’s Studies and Jewish thought at the Schechter Institute and a leader in the world of spiritual care and the establishment of standards and codes for spiritual caregivers in Israel.  Dr. Ramon has served since 2009 as the Chair of the Profession and Standardization Committee of the Israeli Network of Spiritual Caregivers and the Association of Spiritual Care in Israel.