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Connected to tradition

For his special day, baby Neil Mowery’s parents dressed him to the nines in a snappy plaid shirt, slacks and a bow tie that complemented his tiny, blue eyeglasses.

Then Neil and his parents, Becky and Jim, joined more than two dozen friends and family at Brookdale Senior Living in Vernon Hills, a JourneyCare partner community and the home of Jim’s grandmother Delores Jacobson, for his Jewish Naming Ceremony.

This rite of passage would unveil the baby’s ceremonial Hebrew name, a milestone the family hadn’t yet completed as they focused on caring for Neil’s mitochondrial complex III deficiency, which brought him into JourneyCare’s pediatric palliative care.

Organized with the help of JourneyCare Jewish Care Services team members Tami Miller and Rabbi Brian Comrov, the ritual marked the official start of Neil’s life in the Jewish community. His loved ones hoisted a Tallis, a traditional Jewish prayer shawl, above the Mowerys to start the ceremony, reminding family and friends that God is above them and all four sides are open to his presence.

JourneyCare Rabbi Brian Comrov, left, officiated the Jewish Naming Ceremony for baby Neil, in the arms of his parents, Becky and Jim.

And before Rabbi Comrov recited traditional Jewish blessings in both English and Hebrew, he presented Neil with an accessory to complete his outfit for this special day: a child-sized, white yarmulke with Hebrew embroidery, to officially recognize him as a Jewish boy.

“I really don’t have words to describe what this day means to us, but it feels amazing,” Becky said. “We want to make sure that Neil has a foundation in our traditions. The Jewish community is so
vast and rich, and we want him to be connected to that.”

Family members also shared stories to explain the meaning behind Neil’s Hebrew name, Elkanah Eliezer, which in Jewish tradition is chosen from the names of revered ancestors. Neil was named for his paternal great uncle, a former U.S. Marine, and his maternal great uncle, who survived a devastating car accident and battled multiple cancers. Both were chosen for their fighting spirit.

Family and friends came to Vernon Hills to celebrate Neil’s Jewish Naming Ceremony, organized with the help of JourneyCare’s Jewish Care Services.

“Because of Neil’s disease, he has been through more in his 19 months on earth than most adults have been through in a lifetime,” Becky said. “We have given him a name that reflects this.”

JourneyCare’s Jewish Care Services team presented the family with additional special touches to complete this rite of passage, including a mezuzah, which can be placed on the doorpost of their home or Neil’s room as a reminder of God’s presence and his ability to protect.

Jewish Care Services is among several JourneyCare programs funded completely by donors and not covered by insurance of any kind. JourneyCare offers this as part of a suite of programs that provide holistic physical, spiritual and emotional care to patients and their families.

“This ceremony signifies how JourneyCare is dedicated to enriching the lives of our patients and families through expert and compassionate care,” Miller said. “Programs like Jewish Care Services honor and respect our families in ways that go far beyond meeting their medical care needs.”

JourneyCare’s Jewish Care Services combines the expertise of a comprehensive, nationally recognized hospice and palliative care program with specialized care that is sensitive to Jewish culture and traditions. The program includes a host of resources, such as rabbis from multiple denominations available as an integral part of the care team; responses to questions regarding Jewish law and end-of-life issues; coordination and collaboration with family, rabbis and physicians regarding care and medical ethics; and access to staff who have received sensitivity training in working with survivors of the Holocaust and other traumas. Click here for more details on Jewish Care Services or call 847-556-1656.

– By Elisabeth Mistretta, JourneyCare Content Specialist
Originally published in Together to Care, Issue 3, 2017