Volunteer Spotlight: Carl & Rosalie Rosenthal

Volunteer Spotlight: Carl & Rosalie Rosenthal

Get Well Wishers

Carl and Rosalie Rosenthal Visit Hospital Patients to Talk, Listen, and Help Pass the Time

While perhaps not as well-known as the “Top Ten,” Bikkur Cholim, the commandment to visit the sick, is central to Judaism, and to our role in Tikkun Olam: defined by acts of kindness performed to help repair the world. For more than a decade, JF&CS volunteers Carl and Rosalie Rosenthal have been visiting Jewish patients hospitalized at Piedmont Hospital, and are doing a world of good.

“We knock on the door, say we’re visiting from JF&CS, and see where the conversation goes from there,” says Carl. They often put “Jewish geography” to work, finding that their connections to New York, Charleston, and, of course, Atlanta, can lead to common ground that gets the conversation flowing.

It was 12 years ago when, through Shalom Atlanta and their involvement at Ahavath Achim Synagogue, the Rosenthals learned of the need for volunteers to visit Jewish patients at area hospitals. Over the years, Carl says they have learned to “read the signals.” Some patients, who may not have family or friends near by, welcome a visit and a chance to talk. Others are quick to nod and say a “thanks for stopping by” – a sign to keep it short.

Carl recalls one particular visit when he and Rosalie introduced themselves to a patient in his 60s and his daughter. After a few questions, the daughter encouraged her dad to respond, reminding him “his English was good enough.” Soon, a memorable conversation flowed and they learned that the patient had a doctorate in mathematics. “That was rewarding time spent, when we got him to talk with us,” says Carl, adding that a little conversation gives people a chance to take their mind off of illness for a moment, and helps to pass the time.

Visiting the sick is just one of the ways we care for each other – a “foundational structure in our community, like having a kosher butcher, a mikvah and congregations,” says Rabbi Judith Beiner, the JF&CS chaplain. She reminds volunteers that their job is to “spread a little Jewish sunshine around, and let people know we care.”

Rabbi Beiner visits area hospitals, as well, and responds to requests from unaffiliated Jewish families that would like a visit from a rabbi. Along with help from Denise Deitchman, a program assistant in the JF&CS Chaplaincy Department, they enlist and train new Bikkur Cholim volunteers, who sometime shadow Rabbi Beiner on her hospital visits as part of an orientation.

Rosalie says visits to Piedmont Hospital patients are a regularly scheduled item on their monthly calendar for the second Tuesday of every month – and something they always do together. “After so many years, it’s become a routine part of our life,” she says. They check in with the chaplain’s office, get a list of Jewish patients, (data gathered from hospital intake forms) and the hospital room numbers, grab JF&CS get well cards made by Atlanta-area children, and take it from there. Sometimes visits can include a stop to talk with family members in the ICU waiting room, or to see new parents on the maternity floor.

“It’s always a highlight when new parents ask if we would like to hold the baby,” says Rosalie, remembering a wonderful visit with an Israeli woman who had just had a baby. Three years later they encountered that mom once again, who remembered this devoted Bikkur Cholim couple, appreciating that they were back to see her second child.
“We get as much as we give,” says Rosalie.

Interested in becoming a Bikur Cholim volunteer? Visit volunteer services to learn more.