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October 4, 2015 | 21st Tishrei 5776

Create a Cancer Support Kit

Bringing comfort and support congregational support through physical objects and prayers.

When a member of our congregation is diagnosed with cancer, it can be difficult to know how to show support as a caring congregational community. It often seems that sending one person to visit a member of the congregation is not enough. What can we do to show that we are thinking of them? How do we convey our commitment to them even when we cannot be there all the time? What do we say or do in order to express that our community is there for them in this difficult time? We recommend putting together and bringing a small care package that will show that this visit and the sense of a caring community comes from the entire congregation, not just one person.

What to put in the kit?

There are a few simple items that any congregation can easily create or obtain for these visitation kits.


A powerful symbol of luck, well wishes and God's protection, the chamsa is an easy thing to obtain and an important item to include in the support kit.physical objects can serve as a reminder of emotional sentiments. This small item can travel with a person between home, the hospital, doctors' offices, etc. and at each of these locations helps the person to keep in mind the support and well wishes of the entire congregation.

A Collection of Prayers

A small booklet of prayers helps remind the person that the words of our tradition can offer great comfort.

  • Asher Yatzar(Mishkan T'fillah p.32), a morning prayer, is a reminder of the complexities of our bodies and that God fashioned our bodies in a specific way.
  • Many people appreciate the words of Psalm 23 or Esa Einai (Mishkan T'fillah p.576-577), which remind us that our lives are in God's hands and that God can support and protect us.
  • Lastly, using the Mi Sheibeirach (Mishkan T'fillah p.109) for healing is always an option, and congregations may want to personalize this prayer for their members.

Your congregation may want to consider ordering A Hospital Companion: For the Patient, Healthcare Provider, Clergy, Family and Friends, a collection of various prayers and Jewish inspirational readings. These can be ordered from:

Cantor Marshall Portnoy
Main Line Reform Temple
410 Montgomery Avenue
Wynnewood, PA 19096
Fax 610-642-6338


A Book about Cancer from a Jewish Perspective

When confronted with a challenge, many people turn to books that offer guidance and support. We recommend Life, Faith, and Cancer: Jewish Journeys Through Diagnosis, Treatment, and Recovery edited by Rabbi Douglas J. Kohn and published by URJ Press. This is a unique and powerful book about the experience of cancer through Jewish eyes.

A Helpful Resource Page

Caring congregations want to do everything they can to help someone who needs them. But a blanket offer of help can be overwhelming and when that help is actually needed, a person may not remember who offered what. It is easy to put together a page of phone numbers and services that can be given with the cancer support kit. This page can list email addresses and phone numbers for the synagogue clergy and a point person on the caring committee. You may also want to include information to reach specific people who can help with specific things: youth group members who are available for babysitting or animal care, congregants who live nearby that can help with grocery shopping or cooking, laundry, car rides, etc. This will not only allow the congregant in need to know that there are many ways to receive support, but also give them a succinct list of contact information.

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