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Prayers for Health: Actual & Textual
Ruth Alpers, William Cutter, Evan Kent, Ruth Langer, Benjie Schiller, and Howard Silverman
November 2004


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Learn about the Scholars
The Joint Commission is pleased to sponsor this mini-course in partnership with the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health. Exploration of the concept and history of the MiSheBerach and other prayers for healing, the role of caregivers and their prayers, and the use of liturgy and music at the hospital bedside. Offered as a joint project of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, this three-session course includes a discussion of historical prayers for healing as well as contemporary applications by clinicians.


This mini-course consists of three 1-hour presentations by telephone and an email discussion between each of the phone calls. If you cannot make the live session, recordings will be made available an hour after the call for you to listen to at your leisure. Through the discussion, you will have a chance to interact with your colleagues and our special presenters. There are also a set of relevant sources for you to download. Once you register, study materials will be available for downloading from this website - including articles, handouts, and/or texts.

The sessions are as follows:


William Cutter and Ruth Langer

Prayers, Blessings, and Related Intentions


Ruth Alpers and Howard Silverman

The Clergy Clinician Conversation


Evan Kent and Benjie Schiller

The Healing Presence of Music: A Jewish Perspective

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Scholars' Bios

Rabbi Ruth Alpers is the Jay Stein Director of Human Relations. Prior to entering rabbinic school, Ms. Alpers worked as a researcher in molecular biology doing recombinant DNA research at Washington University School of Medicine and Children's Hospital in St. Louis. Before joining the administration of HUC-JIR, she served as assistant and associate rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston. In February 2001, Rabbi Alpers became a Supervisory Candidate with the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. She was certified as a Jewish Chaplain by the National Association of Jewish Chaplains in January 2002.

Rabbi William Cutter is Director of the Kalsman Institute on Judaism and Health, Paul and Trudi Steinberg Professor of Human Relations, Professor of Education and Modern Hebrew Literature, and Lecturer in Chaplaincy, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion /Los Angeles. He has taught at the College-Institute since 1965, and has served as the Assistant Dean and Director of the Rhea Hirsch School of Education, which he helped found in 1970. He is from St. Louis, Missouri, and received his A.B. Degree from Yale University in 1959. His current research concentrates on the development of modern Hebrew literature at the turn of the century, and the ideological place of the Hebrew language in modern Judaism. He serves on the advisory board to the UCLA Medical Center Department of Spiritual Care and supervises the chaplaincy training of the students at HUC-JIR Los Angeles.

Cantor Evan Kent, a 1988 graduate of the Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music and has served Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles since his investiture from HUC-JIR. Before attending HUC-JIR, Evan received his Bachelor's degree from the Manhattan School of Music and a Master's degree in Public Administration from the City University of New York.

Evan has been an instructor and cantor for the UAHC Santa Cruz Kallah since 1995. He is currently the Director of the Hebrew Union College/Los Angeles Cantorial Music Program. In addition, Evan has also served as an adjunct faculty member for the Hebrew Union College School of Communal Service.

He has served on the executive committee of the UAHC Pacific Southwest Council and is currently a member of the UAHC Committee for Adult Jewish Learning and Growth. In addition, Evan is a member of the executive board of the American Conference of Cantors.

Cantor Kent has concertized extensively throughout the United States, Canada and Israel. He attended the Chautauqua Opera Festival in New York for two seasons and has many opera, oratorio and musical theatre credits as well. He has sung as tenor soloist with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony on numerous occasions. He was proud to appear in the North American premiere of Shostakovich's "From Yiddish Folk Poetry" with the orchestra. In December of 2000, Evan appeared with the LAJS in the West Coast premiere of Kurt Weill's "The Eternal Road."

In addition, he has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale, the Kol Echad Chorale and Orchestra and the Novakowsky Chorale.

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Ruth Langer is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Boston College and Associate Director of its Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. She received her Ph.D. in Jewish Liturgy in 1994 and her rabbinic ordination in 1986 from Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. She is also a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Her research interests and publications focus on questions of the development of Jewish liturgy and ritual. Her book, To Worship God Properly: Tensions between Liturgical Custom and Halakhah in Judaism, published in 1998 (Hebrew Union College Press), examines the interplay of liturgical law and custom, of rabbinic dictates and the actual practices and understandings of the community, focusing on the mediaeval period.. Her current research traces and interprets the development and interpretation of the liturgies surrounding the reading of the Torah. Another series of projects underway looks at the impact of interactions with the non-Jewish, and especially the Christian world on the development of Jewish liturgies.

As Associate Director of Boston College's Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Ruth Langer has also been teaching, publishing, and speaking about Jewish-Christian relations. This center offers courses, lectures, and seminars on various aspects of Jewish -Christian relations as well as sponsoring scholarly research and serving as a resource to many local, national, and international organizations.

Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller is Professor of Cantorial Arts at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, School of Sacred Music, in New York. Her work involves training cantorial students to bridge the gap between performance and spiritual leadership. She was invested as a cantor and received her masterís degree from the institution where she teaches.

Cantor Schiller is also a nationally known composer. She received her bachelorís degree in composition from Boston University. Her works include "Life-Song Cycle," a series of pieces for Jewish life passage ceremonies; "Halleluhu," a multi-rhythmic setting of Psalm 150; "Víyeíetayu," "Grace," "Uíkratem Díror- Proclaim Liberty" and various commissioned works for synagogues, choirs, and interfaith liturgical groups. A World Fulfilled, a solo recording of her compositions, was released in 2002.

As a classical soprano soloist, Cantor Schiller has appeared with the John Oliver Chorale, the Boston Zamir Chorale, the Rottenberg Chorale and Sine Nomine of New York. She has served as cantor in several congregations, and tours the United States as a "cantor in residence," sharing new musical approaches to prayer and celebration She is a national fellow of the Synagogue 2000 project, a faculty member of the Spirituality Institute Cantorial Program, and a member of the C.C.A.R. editorial committee charged with creating a new prayerbook for the Reform movement.

Since 1989 Cantor Schiller has served as the part time cantor with her husband, Rabbi Lester Bronstein, at Bet Am Shalom Synagogue of White Plains, New York. They sing together in Beged Kefet, a philanthropic Jewish music ensemble. Beged Kefetís three recordings feature Cantor Schillerís arrangements and compositions.

She has recorded musical cassettes for the Reconstructionist movementís Kol Haneshamah home prayer book, Shirim Uvírachot, and the UAHCís Come Let Us Welcome the Sabbath (both with her husband). She is a featured cantor in Yamim Noraim, a 1995 CD recording of High Holy day music, published by Transcontinental Music, and in A Taste of Eternity with the Western Wind musical ensemble.

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Dr. Howard Silverman currently serves as the Education Director for the Program in Integrative Medicine and Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. He was formerly the Banner Health System Director of Medical Informatics and Clinical Innovation where he had organizational responsibility for creating synergy between care transformation activities, clinical innovation and information technology.

His past experiences in clinical innovation, medical informatics, medical education, implementing complementary / alternative medical practices, administration and individual and group mentoring give him a unique breadth of perspective and help establish credibility with the many constituencies within the provider community.

Dr. Silverman graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Purdue University, majoring in Mathematics and German. He earned a Master's Degree in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he specialized in Artificial Intelligence applications in medical decision making. He then attended Stanford University School of Medicine followed by a residency in Family Practice at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

After completing his residency, Dr. Silverman entered private practice and had the privilege to serve as the Medical Director of Hospice of the Valley, the Samaritan Visiting Nurse Service, the Samaritan Care Center and was the Program Director for the Family Practice Residency at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. He also served as Chief Medical Officer for the American Centers for Health & Medicine, a Catholic Healthcare West sponsored experimental practice to integrate managed care reimbursed primary care services with complementary and alternative therapies.

His book, Healing Ceremonies: Creating Personal Rituals for Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Mental Health (Amazon) describes his experiences using ceremonies as a vehicle to integrate traditional medical care and personal healing experiences and acts as a primer for creating healing ceremonies.

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