Sustaining and Being Sustained by Pastoral Care

Posted on Jul 25, 2018

This spring, we honored Victoria E. Schonfeld, a member of our advisory board, at our annual benefit luncheon. Vicki has been an active leader on the advisory board, helping the Center to survive and thrive, and being an inspiration to other volunteers and staff.

Her relationship to the Center is intensely personal. After 30 years as a lawyer, and then as chief operating officer at the American Jewish Committee, Vicki stepped down to pursue the next stage in her career—she wanted to take on a significant volunteer role in the field of healing or pastoral care. Then, two days later, she was diagnosed with cancer, and her plans changed.

At the Center’s annual benefit luncheon, from left to right: Rabbi Mychal B. Springer, director of the Center for Pastoral Education; honoree Victoria E. Schonfeld; honorees Nessa Rappoport and Julie Sandorf of The Charles H. Revson Foundation; honoree Dr. Su Yon Pak of the Union Theological Seminary; and Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen.

Now turn the clock back 10 years when Vicki’s late husband, Victor (z”l), was diagnosed with bladder cancer. At the time, Vicki had never heard of pastoral care. All she knew was that she wanted to be a comfort to her husband and help him and her family through his end-of-life journey. Then she remembered meeting Rabbi Mychal Springer and talked with Mychal about her family’s situation.

Vicki recalls that she was struck by how deeply Mychal listened. “It wasn’t just active listening; it was deep mindful listening. And she gave me actual concrete ideas of how to engage Victor—for example, making a CD of the piano pieces he had loved to play.”

Vicki never thought she would be on the receiving end of pastoral counseling. It was one thing to experience it on behalf of her husband, but entirely different to experience it herself.

That is why she joined the Center’s Advisory Board. She knows better than most how important clinical pastoral education is. “People look to rabbis and other religious leaders for ongoing support and comfort and they need to know that the person cares and is listening. That training is so incredibly important.” The Center is truly blessed to have Vicki as a part of our family.

Along with Vicki, we also honored Julie Sandorf and Nessa Rappoport (The Charles H. Revson Foundation) and Dr. Su Yon Pak (Union Theological Seminary) at our annual benefit luncheon. At the end of Vicki’s remarks, she sent the attendees on their journeys home with the following prayer by Rabbi Sheila Pelz Weinberg:

A Prayer for the Journey

For the Journey we take in this fragile vessel of flesh.
A finite number of years and we will reach
The unknown, where it all began.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel, in the discovery
The wisdom, the joy.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel is the reward,
The peace, and the blessing.

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