Jodi Warum knows first-hand what it’s like to be constantly in and out of hospitals. A mother of five, she travels with her eight-year-old son, Azzi, every six months or so from Monsey, New York to treat his muscular dystrophy at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. “When we came for the first time, we were a little panicked knowing that Worcester doesn’t have much in terms of Jewish infrastructure. So my husband and I reached out to Chabad knowing that they would be able to help us navigate our stay.”
Chabad at UMass Medical, directed by Rabbi Shmulik and Sarah Fogelman, is a Jewish home away from home for students at the UMass Medical School and for the medical professionals, patients, and their families at UMass hospitals. It’s quite a synergy of demographics, and very soon, Chabad will have a brand new center to accommodate these many guests.
In just a few days, Chabad will close on a new property, conveniently located one block away from the medical school, and plans are in full swing for the new space. The center will be a hub for Chabad’s activities at UMass, including ongoing student events, kosher meals for patients and their families, and classes for medical professionals — all of which, until now, have been held at the Fogelman’s home or rented spaces.
In addition to a synagogue, multi-purpose room, and student lounge, the center’s crown jewel will be a collection of hospitality suites where visitors can stay —free of charge —while their loved ones are being treated. One of these suites will be sponsored by Chabad on Call, a non-profit organization supporting hospital outreach.
“People visiting or accompanying loved ones to hospitals for treatment are usually emotionally drained,” says Rabbi Fogelman. “They shouldn’t have to worry about technicalities like finding kosher food or accommodation.”
Chabad’s new center comes in parallel with growth by the hospital itself. UMass Medical Center is a world leader in gene therapy development, and patients are increasingly traveling there from all over the country as new breakthroughs are made. Many of the genetic diseases treated there have high prevalence rates among Jews of Ashkenazic descent, and Chabad has always been there for these families, providing physical, emotional, and spiritual support. The Fogelman’s new center will allow them to take that support up a notch.
“Being able to offer a place to go home to after spending time at the hospital, going somewhere to sleep where it’s free and it’s comfortable — that’s what we’re really looking forward to being able to offer,” said Sarah.
Patients and their families are similarly thrilled. The Warums hope that they will stay in one of the new suites the next time they are in town. And Azzi — well, he seems to be quite a fan of the Chabad House’s food. “It’s always fresh, and delicious, and amazing,” he said.