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Orthodox Jewish Occupational Therapy Chavrusa (OJOTC)

The mission

The OJOTC was formed to provide a forum for Jewish OT practitioners and students to network.

The goals

• To work with our professional organizations in meeting the religious needs of our members
• To provide a forum for our members and other occupational therapists to discuss issues related to practice and our religion
• To educate practitioners about the cultural needs of their Jewish clients
• To assist our members in resolving conflicts that may arise including Shabbat, Kashrut and other religious commitments

Contacts

Peggy S. Gurock, OTR, Co-Chair: pgurock@hotmail.com

Rivka Molinsky, PhD, OTR/L, Co-Chair: Rivka.molinsky@touro.edu

Web site: www.ojotc.org

Resources

In keeping with the mission and goals of the Orthodox Jewish Occupational Therapy Caucus the resources on this page of the Toolkit are different - as reflective of the needs this group represents. 

The following are three areas of how orthodoxy impacts the life of the Orthodox observant Jew. It is anticipated that this information will better enable cultural sensitivity and awareness of the occupational therapy practitioner for both clients and peers.

I. Kosher

Often referred to as “keeping kosher”, the rules and details of this religious observance are complex and beyond the scope of this toolbox.  Rather, the focus of this section is to better enable non-orthodox individuals to appreciate the practical impact for clients and clinician. 

According to Orthodox Jewry ALL food consumed must be kosher.  This status is determined differently for different categories of food, but is established by a “kosher symbol” that identifies the food item as kosher. Some of the more widely recognized symbols include: (among many others)

Kosher U symbol Kosher K symbol Blue U - Kosher symbol

Food that is not kosher, or food that is kosher but opened without orthodox supervision, or food that is placed in a non-kosher receptacle (i.e., serving bowl) cannot be consumed by an orthodox Jewish person. This may create difficulties in in-patient settings, out-patient cooking/meal preparation activities and/or community based treatment settings.  In addition, meat and dairy food items cannot be consumed at the same meal, on the same eating surface, or with the same utensils. 

Awareness of this requirement opens lines of communication and enables practitioners to help their clients in meaningful ways.

II. Sabbath/Shabbos/Shabbat and Holidays

Every week from sunset Friday through sundown Saturday orthodox Jews observe the Sabbath (pronounced differently dependent on region).  This twenty-six hour observation involves prayers, meals and family time.  The most significant aspect to understand for the purposes of this tool box is that no “work” can be done during its duration.  “Work” is defined as energy creating activities so that using electricity (i.e., opening lights), transportation other than walking (i.e., car), and talking on the telephone are all prohibited.  

These restrictions apply to specific holidays on the Jewish calendar including the High Holidays and Passover to name a few.  Orthodox Jews take these restrictions very seriously and very literally.  While these restrictions do not apply if a life is at stake, observing as much of these religiously significant behaviors and restrictions is a value that should be respected.  

Awareness of this area of observance will help clinicians develop sensitivity to both patients and their families.  Respect of their clients’ values for these observances will put clinicians in the unique position to provide support.  In addition, better understanding of these restrictions will help clinicians understand the needs of their peers.  The OJOTC, as a member of the MDI Network, is available to provide support to clinicians in meeting the needs of diverse clients.

III Gender Issues

This is not the place for a theological discussion related to gender roles and religion.  Rather this is a brief presentation of the practical impact of gender issues that may impact practice.  

The primary concept to remain aware of is that there is a general restriction for individuals to limit physical contact to close relatives of the opposite sex and avoid such contact with non-relatives.  Therefore, shaking hands or other casual contact between individuals of opposite sex is not acceptable.  This impacts introductions and casual interactions but does not limit treatment techniques.  Touch for the sake of healing, which occupational therapy practitioners use regularly, is acceptable – and encouraged.  Life, and the quality of life, is a value.  Therefore, treatment is not restricted to same gender practitioners, though it is preferred.  It is helpful to keep in mind that orthodox Jews do not have experience with casual touching and are often uncomfortable with touch, without indicating dysfunction.  A clinician discussing sexual dysfunction with a client anticipates a certain amount of discomfort and addresses the issue respectfully.  All touch with an orthodox person of an opposite sex to the practitioner should be understood in this context.  In addition, keep in mind that this applies to family members as well.  Lastly, eye contact discomfort with persons of the opposite sex exists in some segments of orthodoxy and should be tolerated and not perceived as rudeness.

Awareness of this area of observance will enable clinicians to avoid creating embarrassing or awkward moments with clients, client families, and peers.

Additional Resources

There are no websites the OJOTC endorses for better understanding of Judaism.  We are available to answer questions and help practitioners with specific cases and can be reached by the contact information listed above.

There are websites related to Jewish resources for persons with disabilities, recommendations for specific clients’ needs can be attained by contacting the OJOTC. 

Recommendations for specific clients’ needs on these, or other issues, can be attained by contacting the OJOTC at:  www.OJOTC.org