A small group of women created the Jewish Healing movement in 1990 to expand the normative definitions of Jewish practice to include providing spiritual resources for Jews facing serious illness and their families and caregivers. Five of us – three rabbis (Nancy Flam, Susan Friedman and myself), a breast cancer survivor (Ellen Hermanson z”l who later died of that cancer), and Nessa Rapoport, a novelist who had sustained deep family losses – came together to speak of an enormous absence we had each experienced in our Jewish lives. The Jewish wisdom and practice that help people deal with the suffering that surrounds personal loss and serious illness were not readily available when we needed them.
Rachel Cowan is the Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She was previously the Program Director for Jewish Life at the Nathan Cummings Foundation. Cowan earned her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College and Master’s degrees from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, where she was also ordained as a rabbi in 1989. She has written Growing Up Yanqui and Mixed Blessings: Untangling the Knots in Interfaith Marriage (with Paul Cowan), as well as numerous articles in Moment, Sh’ma, and anthologies. Cowan has received several honors, including being counted among the “Forward 50” in 2000 and 2001.
To see enhanced versions of these objects, please access the multimedia version of this page.
Rachel Cowan reading an excerpt from her Yom Kippur sermon, “Paths to Healing,” which was printed in The Outstreatched Arm, newsletter of the Jewish Healing Center, Fall 1991.
Credit: Courtesy of Rachel Cowan.