Shira Ruskay Center

The Shira Ruskay Center offers social work services, spiritual care and volunteer support based on each client’s needs and preferences. It was founded in 1997 to assist seriously ill patients, their families and loved ones. We assist with navigating the complex and often chaotic health and social service system, thereby enabling access to better and more comprehensive care.

Named in memory of Shira Ruskay, who was an active member of our initial advisory committee. Both in her work and in her life, Shira, a hospice social worker, modeled the compassionate, sensitive caring that can make such a difference to patients and families as they face illness or impending death. Shira Ruskay Center social workers or rabbis can visit you at home to:

  • Assist individuals and families in accessing medical or community services
  • Offer guidance, direction, education, and support
  • Help individuals and families cope with overwhelming feelings and concerns
  • Guide individuals and families as they prepare for the future
  • Provide Jewish spiritual and religious resources and guidance
  • Offer specialized group and individual bereavement support
  • Partner with professional health care providers to ensure comprehensive care
  • Provide professional and community education programs throughout New York City

Since 2003, the Shira Ruskay Center has been the designated New York City Regional Care Center of the Jewish Healing and Hospice Alliance, an initiative of UJA-Federation of New York. The goal of the initiative is to enhance support and care for the Jewish community when serious illness is present. As part of this larger initiative, the Shira Ruskay Center has been able to increase our services to meet the complex needs of the Jewish community. Regional Care Centers have also been established in Westchester and Long Island.

For Synagogues, JCCs, Y’s and Jewish Communal Organizations

People who have strong support systems cope more effectively with the stress of serious illness. Synagogues, community centers and communal organizations have the potential to be natural helping networks that provide their members with information, guidance and support; their ability to cope may thereby be enhanced. Contact us:

  • When planning educational programs for congregations, community centers and other Jewish organizations.
  • When members need assistance in coping with serious or life-threatening illness
  • When “sharing the care” and developing mutual support or Bikur Cholim is a goal

We regularly give presentations and lead workshops tailored to groups large and small. Topics we have presented include: Ethical Wills: A Spiritual Legacy; Health Care Proxies: Honoring Your Wishes; Using the Health Care System Effectively; End-of-Life Care; Caring for Parents when Roles Reverse and Hospice Care. We can provide:

  • Assistance for community institutions to develop or increase their capacity to function as a strong mutual support system
  • Support in planning programs for your community and offering speakers and workshops for your staff or community
  • Information and resources for rabbis, cantors, staff members and community leaders to assist them in meeting the needs of congregants and members

Bereavement Support

We offer bereavement support groups that are individualized for specific types of loss, and for various Jewish cultural, spiritual, and religious needs. Our groups include participants with similar losses such as individuals who have lost spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones. We attempt to group participants of similar age.

Our eight-week groups are co-lead by a Social Worker and a Rabbi, and are offered throughout the year. Currently, many of our groups are offered in partnership with the JCC of Manhattan and within individual synagogue congregations. Pre-registration is required and fees apply.

2016 Support Meetings for Bereaved Jews

Loss of a Parent (for 20s, 30s & 40s)
Tuesdays from 6:30–8:00pm: January 12–March 1

Loss of a Spouse/Partner
Thursdays from 6:30–8:00pm: January 28–March 17

Loss of a Spouse/Partner (for Older Adults)
Wednesdays from 1:30–3:00pm: March 30–May 10 (no session Passover week)

Loss of a Parent
Tuesdays from 6:30–8:00pm: March 15–May 10 (no session Passover week)

Parents Who Lost a Young Child
Wednesdays from 9:00–10:30pm: January 20, February 17, March 16, April 20

Parents Who Lost a Young Adult Child
Thursdays from 4:30–6:00pm: January 14, February 11, March 10, April 14

Parents Who Lost an Adult Child
Mondays from 1:30–3:00pm: January 25, February 22, March 21, April 18

M’kom Shalom: A Place of Peace (For Jewish survivors of a close one’s suicide)
Wednesdays from 7:00–8:30pm: January 13, February 10, March 9, April 13

To Register for Loss of a Parent or Spouse/Partner, contact Amy Warren, LMSW, at 212.632.4693 or AWarren@jbfcs.org. For all other groups, contact Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, LCSW, at 212.632.4770 or SWeintraub@jbfcs.org. For bereavement services in Riverdale, contact Anna Kirsblum, LCSW, at 718.601.9714 or AKirshblum@jbfcs.org.

Holiday Programs in the Presence of Loss

The holidays can be a difficult time when experiencing the loss of a loved one. The Shira Ruskay Center offers three programs annually — Coping with the Empty Chair, Gathering the Generations in the Sukkah, and Lights in the Darkness — to provide assistance and comfort during those times.
All programs are facilitated by a Rabbi and a Social Worker, and are open to the public at no cost. These programs are offered at the JCC in Manhattan and can also be organized in your community (contact us for more information).

For more information or to register for our support groups or holiday programs, call (212) 632-4608.