Bikur Cholim of Greater Washington (BCGW) recently opened a kosher hospital pantry, which provides kosher food for patients’ families, at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The kosher pantry at Holy Cross is the fourth the organization has established. The others are located at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Maryland; and the Children’s Inn on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
The new pantry, which requires a password to enter, is just inside the hospital’s cafeteria on the main floor, and is easily accessible from patient floors, the urgent care unit, and the emergency room. Food selections range from yogurt to frozen meals, and all have kosher certifications approved by the Vaad of Greater Washington.
BCGW has a longstanding, strong relationship with Holy Cross, but until now had not been able to secure a dedicated kosher pantry. Fran Kritz, former president of BCGW and a member of the board of directors of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington reached out to the JCRC for help — and help was immediate.
Rabbi Batya Glazer, formerly director of interfaith initiatives at the JCRC of Greater Washington and now the executive director of the JCRC of Philadelphia, worked with her colleague Father Charles Cortinovis, executive director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs for the Archdiocese of Washington. Father Charles organized a meeting at Holy Cross with key members of the hospital’s leadership including the hospital’s president, Dr. Louis Damiano, facilities managers, and patient supervisors.
Instead of just being an informational meeting, the hospital staff came prepared to ask questions to make the pantry a reality. Rabbi Glazer and Father Cortinovis helped Bikur Cholim explain the need for the room as well as the logistics required — such as a locked facility and hot water available throughout Shabbat. Within weeks of that meeting, Bikur Cholim President Gary Winters and Bikur Cholim Executive Director Audrey Siegel had created a standards and procedures document for the hospital, which, once approved, allowed them to begin work on the pantry.
As with all the kosher pantries in the greater Washington, D.C., area, Bikur Cholim pays for appliances including a large-capacity refrigerator, microwave ovens, and food. Sharon Butler, a BCGW board member, coordinated the appliances and supplies, and Holy Cross renovated and updated the available space and built cabinets for the food and other necessities. Winters pointed out that the pantry at Holy Cross is especially important because so many members of the Jewish community from White Oak, Woodside, Kemp Mill, and downtown Silver Spring use the hospital.
According to Siegel, who supervises all the Bikur Cholim pantries, religious needs including siddurim (prayer books), kiddush and havdalah sets, and grape juice are always on hand for people who unexpectedly find themselves at the hospital over Shabbat.
Open since the end of September, families who have used the pantry during the week posted photos on Facebook to share their excitement and thanks.
Leaders at Holy Cross expressed delight at the opening of the hospital pantry and said they looked forward to continuing to support the Jewish community.