Over the two and a half years I’ve written for Hamodia, I’ve received several letters from readers, some offering corrections, others criticism, a few even complimentary. The most praiseful, without question (besides Mom’s), was from a Rabbi Spitzer of Laniado Hospital. His letter included an invitation to host my doctor wife and me for a visit to Laniado Hospital. I admit some reluctance to accepting the invitation. The Sanzer hospital just seemed too foreign an environment for me because I’m (Baruch Hashem) healthy, and viewing the Sanz community in Union, N.J. on my way home to Passaic it just looked, well, foreign. Rabbi Spitzer, through polite persistence, won out. I booked our passage to Kiryat Sanz to visit Rabbi Spitzer and Laniado.
Nestled next to Netanya, Laniado Hospital emerges — a city surrounded by sand — a remarkable complex of buildings with people, religious and secular, darting every which way. We parked and met Rabbi Spitzer, a man with a courtly, anachronistic manner. He greeted us warmly and we entered his world of healing.
I, the columnist, may have been the ticket but my wife, Dr. Jenny, was the real guest of honor. Rabbi Spitzer engaged her in collegial conversation throughout his VIP tour of the facilities. His immense pride in Laniado and its goals were evident. I enjoyed and was moved by the tour but could not appreciate it to the level Jen did; she was clearly impressed by Laniado and its approach to medicine.
I’ll take you now on an abbreviated version of our “well visit” to Laniado. First a little background. Laniado Hospital serves Netanya, Israel’s fastest growing city, and its suburbs. The late Klausenberger Rebbe, zt”l, opened it in 1976, fulfilling a vow he made during the Holocaust after the Nazis had killed his wife, 11 children and 150 relatives, all told. The Rebbe vowed that if he survived he would build a hospital in Israel where every patient, irrespective of race, creed or color, would receive equal quality medical treatment regardless of age or ability to pay, the hospital’s spiritual mandate. Now we can enter the miraculous world of Laniado Hospital for a too-quick tour. (Our tour had many more stops and meetings. Space does not permit me to share everything.)
Let’s start at the Tessler School of Nursing where we met its director, Dr. Ester Strauss, originally from Rochester, N.Y., a student of the school’s second graduating class. She was so upbeat — a confident, devoted and humble woman perpetuating the Klausenberger Rebbe’s goal of preparing nurses to heal in the “Jewish way” of caring for patients. I felt like I was visiting the aunt I always wished I had.
At the Department of Surgery we met Dr. Yaakov Ulano, who, upon becoming closer to Yiddishkeit, switched from Harvard to Einstein Medical School where he earned dual board certification in internal medicine and surgery. Hamodia readers may know him from his many summers providing medical care in South Fallsburg.
Down to the Diabetes Center, directed by Dr. Niven, a leading endocrinologist who made aliyah from London. It is the first in Israel where a diabetes patient comes in the morning and is examined by experts in all related specialties, resulting in a collaborative treatment plan on the same day. This holistic approach saves the patient time and money, providing a vastly superior diagnosis. Jenny found the center’s comprehensive approach remarkably sensible, wondering why it was the exception and not the rule in the treatment of diabetes.
It was in the Neonatal ICU that we met and chatted with Dr. Aryeh Simmonds, who moved to Israel from Teaneck, N.J. What a mentch! If your baby needed attention, this is definitely the ward you’d choose. It was in his office that I think I met an angel. Though her name tag said “Head Nurse, Eti Litig” after a few moments I’m pretty sure it was an angel tasked with healing, taking human form. There was an absolute aura enveloping Nurse Eti. Our host treated her deferentially, honoring one who heals the most vulnerable of G-d’s creatures, newborns in physical distress. Plastering the walls of the unit were pictures of “her” babies, infants Eti cared for, coaxing them to health. Typing these words and thinking of her I am transported to a better space.
I will end where our tour began, Geriatrics. I pray my father, who’s 87, in declining health, spending the year in and out of hospitals several times this year, is treated with the respect I witnessed in Laniado’s Tessler unit, with Torah-trained nurses caring for their elderly patients. The ward was cheerful, stocked with books, live plants and soothing music.
On the wall next to every bed was a curious item — a corkboard. Jen, despite working in numerous hospitals, never saw this before. We asked the department head, Dr. Charmush, “Why the corkboard?” She said they found that when patients, especially the elderly, pinned favorite photos or pictures, it was decidedly therapeutic, helping them retain autonomy of space and acuity of memory, each corkboard like a fingerprint, unique to the individual. Amazing, a simple corkboard as an instrument of healing! What would your corkboard look like?
My corkboard of Laniado is this column of our tour. Snapshots and images: our host, Rabbi Spitzer, in a long coat and hat; doctors; nurses; even an angel surrounded by pictures of healthy babies. Just looking at this corkboard makes one feel better.
Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst, and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his amazing wife and two wonderful children. He can be contacted at msolomon@Hamodia.com.