Rabbi Joseph Krakoff meets with two of his colleagues from Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network: Bonnie Laker, left, community liaison, and Cheryl Weiss, director of education.

Krakoff channels pastoral care passion into Jewish Hospice job.

Rabbi Joseph Krakoff meets with two of his colleagues from Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network: Bonnie Laker, left, community liaison, and Cheryl Weiss, director of education.Rabbi Joseph Krakoff is moving on to the next chapter of his professional life.

The rabbi, who served Congregation Shaarey Zedek for 16 years until the congregation’s board ended his tenure on July 31, is now handling community outreach and education for the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network in West Bloomfield.

He is providing pastoral care to the organization’s clients, but his primary focus will be working in the community and with other healthcare providers to explain the organization’s mission and services.

In addition to support for people nearing the end of life, Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network (JHCN) provides support for those with debilitating chronic illnesses, people with disabilities and the frail elderly, including those with Alzheimer’s disease.

The organization, started 13 years ago by Rabbi E.B. “Bunny” Freedman, does not provide clinical care. Instead, it works in partnership with other area hospices and hospitals, supplementing their medical and nursing services.

The organization’s slogan is “We make every hospice a Jewish hospice.”

JHCN has fewer than two dozen staff members, including 10 rabbis. Many work part time, including Krakoff, who started his new position Sept. 1. The organization cares for approximately 150 clients and families every day.

None of its services are covered by health insurance, and the organization does not charge clients or families, relying instead on donations from the community.


“Blessing And Honor”
As a congregational rabbi, Krakoff was familiar with the Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network.

“I had the opportunity to be with many people in their final days,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always gravitated toward. It felt so important to be there for people at the end of life.”

Krakoff says he considers it a blessing and an honor to spend time with people at the end of life and to help their loved ones say goodbye.

He also serves on the board of Reverence Home Health & Hospice, a service of St. John Providence Health System. Freedman recommended him for the position.

At JHCN, Krakoff will be talking to community organizations, such as congregations, women’s groups and fraternal groups, about hospice care, comfort care and support services. He’ll reach out to establish new partnerships with healthcare providers and to help partners learn about working with Jewish patients and families.

Krakoff is also developing the organization’s new blog, to be called Every Day is a Gift. He will join Freedman and Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny, a Jewish Hospice chaplain and Temple Israel rabbi, as a regular writer; there will also be guest bloggers.

“We hope the blog will be a cutting-edge place to go for information, answers and support on all aspects of caring for people at the end of life and those with serious illnesses,” Krakoff said.

Cheryl Weiss, JHCN director of education, said Krakoff’s services are much needed.

“There was a hole in what we do, and he is the perfect person to fill it,” she said.

“Families of people nearing the end of life are the most fragile, most vulnerable, most raw,” she said. “Rabbi Freedman and our whole team recognized Rabbi Krakoff’s special passion, commitment and understanding” for families in that situation.

David Techner, funeral director at Ira Kaufman Chapel in Southfield and president of the JHCN board, said when he heard Krakoff was available, he immediately thought he’d be a good addition. He called Freedman and urged him to offer Krakoff a job.

“Since 1998, when he arrived in this community, I’ve heard nothing but positive responses” from families that Krakoff worked with when a loved one died, Techner said. “He has boundless energy, and he can fill so many roles that could enhance a family’s experience of Jewish hospice.”

Freedman agrees.

“It’s wonderful to see Rabbi Krakoff in action,” he said. “He’s completely adaptive to everyone he encounters, including patients, families and rabbis of all backgrounds. He’ll be a wonderful addition to our staff.”

Krakoff will continue to teach a weekly class at Hillel Day School and classes for the Jewish Federation’s FedEd adult education program. He’s also working on a book proposal.

Krakoff said his new position enables him to do all the professional activities he enjoys most: pastoral care, teaching and writing.

“All my worlds are coming together,” he said.

By Barbara Lewis| Contributing Writer

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