By Esther Rubin. It took Bikur Cholim of Philadelphia twenty years of perseverance, lobbying and cajoling, but now, finally, cholim from all over the world will be able to have a user-friendly experience as they access one of the most prestigious medical centers in the world.
Until last week, being a frum patient at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) was not such a user-friendly experience. There was no access to kosher food nor other frum amenities for caregivers. This made it difficult for religious patients and their families.
“Already twenty years ago, we realized how vitally important a kosher pantry would be for frum patients,” said Mrs. Malkie Schwartz, co-head of Bikkur Cholim of Philadelphia. “We started lobbying the leadership of the hospital back then, but, due to layers of bureaucratic red tape, we were met with all kinds of obstacles. “This past Thursday, however, we finally celebrated the ribbon cutting on an absolutely state-of-the-art, new Bikkur Cholim room that offers so many amenities for the frum patient. HUP can now be an appealing option for any frum patient from anywhere in the world who desires to access the amazing network of HUP’s world renowned specialists.”
Mrs. Schwartz together with co-head of Bikkur Cholim of Philadelphia, Mrs. Susie Wohlgelernter, and their group of volunteers have been serving cholim in CHOP, Lankenau and HUP for decades.
The new Bikkur Cholim room contains a supply of nutritious meals, snacks and even cholov Yisroel ice cream, something that is very hard to come by in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Mindy Oppenheimer was instrumental in cutting through the red tape and lobbying the hospital.
Many frum doctors in HUP also helped lobby the hospital. Notable among those involved in making the pantry a reality, were HUP President Regina Cunningham and Pastor Jim Browning, who was willing to give up his own office so that Jewish patients would have access to kosher food.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Rebbetzin Choni Levene, rebbetzin emeritus of the Lower Merion Synagogue, Philadelphia’s largest Orthodox shul, expressed the gratitude of the Jewish community.
“Bikkur Choim was found to extend kindness and consideration and to fulfill the needs of patients and their families,” she said. “For over twenty years, under the caring, dedicated leadership of Malkie Schwartz and Susie Wohlgelernter, volunteers all over the Philadelphia area have been bringing food, support, solace and comfort to the sick and those who love them. We thank the administration of HUP, and in particular Mindy Oppenheimer, Simcha Zevitt, Carolyn Jackson, Chaplain Jim (Browning) and Paula Yudenfriend, for allowing and facilitating our ability to provide for the special and particular needs of your Jewish patients.”