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[Prayer for a] Nurses’ Commencement, by Rabbi Avraham Samuel Soltes (1951)

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Father of Mercies:
We have assembled
this day
to invoke Thy blessing upon these,
Thy daughters,
who embark this evening
upon careers of consecrated service
to their fellow men.

Grant them strength,
O Father,
that they may be enabled
to bear up
under the endless strain
of serving
the impatient needs and whims
of suffering mankind,
and of their harassed co-workers and
associates
in the mission of mercy.

Fill their hearts
with understanding,
that their service
may be more
than physical amelioration,
for there liveth no man
on earth
to whom
the applause
and sympathy
of another human being
is not of supreme consequence.

Imbue their spirits,
O Heavenly Healer,
with the faith
that for every woe
there exists a hope,
and for every pain
a healing balm,–
that
in the dark sea of endless suffering
in which the barque of their life
may be cast,
they may be fortified
in their spiritual fibre
to resist
the corroding barnacles of callousness
that would impair
the worthiness of their endeavors.

Lend wings
to their faith,
O Father,
that they may shelter the despairing
beneath their pinions,
and all men
may see
in their consecrated ministrations
the healing hands
of Thy ministering angels.
Amen.

“Nurses’ Commencement” at Beth Israel Hospital was first published in Rabbi Avraham Soltes’ collection of prayers, תפלה Invocation: Sheaf of Prayers (Bloch 1959) and dated to September 19, 1951. We are not entirely certain whether this prayer was written for a Nurse’s Commencement ceremony at Beth Israel Hospital in lower Manhattan, next to Stuyvesant Town, which included a School of Nursing, or for a ceremony at Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey. In 1949, Rabbi Soltes, left his position as assistant rabbi at Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Manhattan to serve as rabbi at Temple Sharey Tefilo in East Orange, New Jersey (which is close to Newark).

Beth Israel Hospital was incorporated on May 28, 1890 by a group of 40 Orthodox Jews on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, each of whom paid 25 cents to set up a hospital dedicated to serving immigrant Jews living in the tenement slums of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. At the time, most of New York’s hospitals would not treat patients who had been in the city less than a year. It initially opened a dispensary at 206 Broadway in 1891, and moved to Jefferson and Cherry Streets in 1895. On March 12, 1929, it moved to First Avenue and 16th Street, facing Stuyvesant Square, and the old building was converted into an old age home, the Home of Old Israel. It purchased its neighbor Manhattan General Hospital in 1964 and was renamed Beth Israel Medical Center on March 10, 1965.

Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, previously Newark Beth Israel Hospital, is the largest hospital in Newark, New Jersey. It was run under auspices of the Newark Jewish Community and its suburban successors from its inception in 1900-1901 until its purchase by Barnabas Health in 1996.

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