Rabbi Menachem Caytak can visit at least once a week with Jewish patients, who can also request to see him at any time.
Rabbi Menachem Caytak, co-founder of Chabad Jewish Center of Troy with his wife, Chana Caytak, has made it a priority to service Jews in need throughout northern Oakland County as well as Macomb County, especially those in the hospital, who can’t practice and join in Jewish traditions by themselves.
A few months ago, Rabbi Caytak began servicing Jewish patients in Beaumont Troy and now is getting ready to service the Jewish patients at Ascension Providence Rochester.
Rabbi Caytak is a volunteer rabbi on call at Beaumont and will soon be a volunteer rabbi on call with Ascension Providence Rochester. This means he can visit at least once a week with Jewish patients, who can also request to see him at any time. He provides Shabbos candles, an opportunity to do a mitzvah before Shabbos, challah, Jewish prayers and counseling. Before Passover, he distributed matzah to the Jewish patients in both hospitals.
“These are Jews who are not necessarily involved with our organization, or for that matter, any Jewish organization,” Rabbi Caytak said.
“The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s inspiration is what inspires us to service Jews,” he continued, “no matter their background or affiliation. For us, a Jew is a Jew no matter what. We have a saying: ‘Labels are for shirts.’ There is no such thing as labeling a Jew. Even a completely not practicing Jew is the same Jewish as the most religious rabbi.”
For many of the patients, seeing a familiar face, a Jewish rabbi offering families customs and traditions, is very meaningful.
“It means so much for them to be able to do a mitzvah, a Jewish tradition or even just a prayer during a time when they are most vulnerable and in need of support,” he said. “Once, a patient told me, ‘Rabbi, I usually wouldn’t do this Jewish mitzvah, but now I really want to do it for my health.’”
Rabbi Caytak tells a story of a man he met in a surgical waiting room. While his wife was in surgery, they put on tefillin together and the man was moved to tears. “He could not stop thanking me for giving him this incredible opportunity when he needed it most.”
Rabbi Caytak said the chaplains at both hospitals are incredibly welcoming and helpful, and he has become good friends with many of them.
During the height of the pandemic, there were Jews in COVID rooms at Beaumont Troy. He was unable to wear the regular protective gear to seal his face because the N95 mask doesn’t completely seal with a beard. “The hospital specifically arranged a CAPR, a helmet that seals behind the beard, to accommodate!” he said.
Chabad Jewish Center of Troy continues to look for ways to service Jews. “We are starting a program now to provide Jewish holiday programming for local senior living and nursing homes,” Rabbi Caytak said. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s vision to touch every Jew with the warmth and light of Judaism is becoming a reality in northern Oakland and Macomb County.”