For a mosaic of Jewish patients and families, their final day of Passover this year was spent praying under the sunlight streaming through the famed Chagall windows in the Abbell synagogue at Hadassah's Ein Kerem Medical Center. The twelve abstract stained glass windows were created by Russian-French Jewish artist Marc Chagall to represent the twelve tribes of Israel in the early 1960s.
But as beautiful and majestic an experience as it was to pray in such splendor, Passover is a time for Jewish families to be together; such a prayer service came primarily as a necessity, rather than one of choice for most of those present.
The experience erased the typical infighting that is often the hallmark of Jewish life in the festive holiday and Sabbath meals that followed.
Chassidim from numerous rival sects danced together as one around the tables with Jews from the Lithuanian and National Religious movements, and with those who were completely secular. Jewish unity, so elusive in times of health, appeared as if by magic in the roomy Berenbaum conference room, secreted away on a lower floor of Jerusalem's largest research hospital.
Hadassah provides the infrastructure for religious families to make it through a Sabbath or holiday -- no small point, considering the setup and cleanup involved for conference room, where an average 100-120 people are served at each of the three Sabbath meals, a nearby kitchen facility is made available to the meal's organizers, and a large room (Cheder Brit) is made available to observant Jewish family members who need a place to spend the night or find kosher food.
The food and equipment itself is provided each week by a mysterious "organization that has no name,” run by a man who insists on remaining anonymous. The donor instead sends Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz and his wife Sima to lead a team of volunteers in producing the holiday and Sabbath repasts. “We are here every week,” the rabbi's wife told Arutz Sheva with a smile.
Everything is kosher l'mehadrin, and produced in two huge kitchens in Jerusalem in time for the Sabbath or holiday, complete with grape juice, beverages, fish and salad course, soup, entree, and a sweet, fresh fruit salad. For Passover, hand-baked round shmurah matzot were on the tables for all meals.
Most important, said the guests, was the joyous atmosphere generated by Jews who joined with Israelis from around the world. Gathered around the hospital's holiday tables this past weekend were people who had come to Jerusalem from South Africa, Australia, France, the U.S., the UK and Morocco. But language was no barrier.
“There is only one Torah, and it is written in Hebrew,” commented the father of a child hospitalized just minutes before the holiday began.
“Jewish song is made up of passages from the Bible,” he pointed out. “Nigunim (Chassidic melodies) have no words; they reach deep into the soul – and isn't that the place where the healing really begins?”