Shira Ruskay Center
Coping with life-threatening illness or loss can be overwhelming and isolating...
We can help.
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.
The center is 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.
The "Doula to Accompany and Comfort Program" was initiated in October 2000. Trained volunteer Doulas visit people who are at the end-of-life, especialy those with limited supports. Doulas can minimize the sense of isolation, provide emotional comfort, and assist with practical concerns. Doulas work with one patient at a time, in collaborating hospitals, nursing homes and community agencies. This program is non-sectarian and serves the entire community.
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.
We have gathered below some inspirational notes received from people directly impacted by the work of the Shira Ruskay Center...
From Family Members:
"Many people helped us along the way, and so my father had a good life and a great death. I am particularly grateful to you for all your efforts on our behalf... and for the excellent service you gave my father and me at the critical moment. The support, data, and behind-the-scenes work you provided contributed immensely to our well-being and my father's longevity... he was very happy to be home for the seven months after he left the hospital."
-- Hannah (Daughter of a patient)
"There is so much that you offered me at a time of such intense crises. As Jerry's physical condition deteriorated, I felt the realization that I would have to make decisions on my own. It was a scary place to be. I didn't feel that I had the full support from doctors who seemed unwilling to confront the reality of Jerry's illness and its impact on all of us. I couldn't discuss things freely with family members, and wasn't sure what to say to the children. Jerry had always taken charge in decision making. Now, for the first time, he was incapable. It was frightening. I knew of the value of hospice and wanted to take the steps necessary to have closure but it seemed so insurmountable at the time. With your help, I gained clarity, objectivity and direction. It made sense of the situation. There was relief in knowing that we would have a new support system available to us. We could be there for Jerry wholeheartedly, with compassion and care. There was comfort for all of us, too."
-- Rhonda (Wife of a patient)
"My only sister, Ruth, was gravely ill. Ruth lived by herself on the top floor of a four-story walk-up. I use a wheelchair. Mother was in her 90's. There is nothing more devastating than a loved one alone and in pain--except being unable to reach her. But the Shira Ruskay Center could reach her. And they did. When I phoned the first time, I heard the voice of kindness, reason, support. Harriet made suggestions that assisted me and my sister throughout those months of turmoil. When we seemed lost and chaos reigned, Harriet handled everything we couldn't. She called on the exceptional services from JBFCS and provided us with so much that we needed. My sister had aides, social workers, ambulance services, food, love and caring--all with a Jewish orientation. I had a person I called "Friend" who I could contact at anytime for help, knowledge, and comforting. I will be grateful to Harriet and the Shira Ruskay Center all my days."
-- Carol (Sister of a patient)