The Bay Area Jewish Healing Center was instrumental in launching the award-winning Kol Haneshama (Jewish Spiritual Care for the Dying) program, in which volunteers provide compassionate companionship and spiritual support in the last years of our residents’ lives. In addition, since 2020, after the retirement of Rabbi Sheldon Marder, BAJHC has been providing spiritual leadership and chaplaincy to SFCJL residents, families, and staff alike, regardless of their affiliation.
In this series, we have been introducing each of the three Bay Area Jewish Healing rabbis, who have come to be treasured members of our SFCJL family.
Rabbi Eric Weiss
Rabbi Weiss was born and raised in Los Angeles. His parents were elementary school teachers and his father taught religious school as well. Synagogue life was a given in his household. After graduation from the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he majored in biology and Judaic studies, he was accepted at rabbinic school at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He decided instead to get real-life experience by working as a paralegal and volunteering at a LGTBQ hospice. Later, he reapplied to the rabbinic seminary and was admitted as an openly gay student. As part of his studies, he lived in Jerusalem for a year. He received a Masters degree in Hebrew Letters and was ordained in 1989.
Rabbi Weiss serves the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center as both President and CEO and is formally trained in Jewish education, clinical pastoral care, and spiritual direction. In addition to his work with Kol Haneshama, he is a spiritual direction supervisor co-founder of “Grief & Growing™: A Healing Weekend for Individuals and Families”. He is the editor of two books, Mishkan R’fuah (Where Healing Resides) and Mishkan Aveilut (Where Grief Resides) and his writing has appeared in numerous publications. He has served on several boards, among them the national board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), the Reform movement’s national rabbinic body.
Rabbi Weiss has many outside interests including swimming and painting. He writes and studies poetry both in English and Hebrew. He lives in San Francisco with his husband, Dan, and their miniature poodle, Bella.
Since The Lynne and Roy M. Frank Residences (Frank Residences) opened in September 2020, Rabbi Weiss’ work at SFCJL has focused on serving the residents there. He holds a weekly conversation group and Kabbalat Shabbat services, officiates at holiday observances and gatherings, and teaches classes ranging from Tu B’Av art to mezuzah hanging instruction. He also provides chaplaincy to residents and staff, especially when they are mourning. Among Rabbi Weiss’ many talents is his ability to make Jewish values, customs, and traditions accessible to everyone. His warmth and compassion resonate with residents and staff from many different faiths, and he has a devoted fan base among many residents.
For the Frank Residences Yizkor Service, led by Rabbi Weiss, SFCJL opened the doors to our synagogue, Congregation L’Dor V’Dor, to gather together for the first time since the Covid outbreak. It was tremendously meaningful to be able to celebrate Passover with a spiritually moving community service within the walls of our beloved synagogue once again.
Rabbi Weiss recently announced that he will be retiring, after 26 years with the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center. One of the other BAJHC rabbis will fill in until someone is found to take his place, but Rabbi Weiss will continue to be with SFCJL over the summer, so we still have months ahead to enjoy and appreciate his graceful presence.
Rabbi Weiss reflects:
I am endlessly fascinated by spiritual experience and what each of us does with it. For example, pretend we are sitting over a cup of coffee. May I ask you this: What is something that is spiritual for you? What might you say? Maybe you would talk about Nature: a hike, being at the ocean. Some of us might mention something to do with the arts such as music or dance. Others of us might mention something about a relationship, or some other activity. Whatever it might be, everyone one of us has a natural spiritual hunger we seek to satisfy.
One of the reasons I find this so important is that when we come to any life transition, such as aging, it usually is the ways we satisfy our spiritual hunger that gives us succor through a transition. We might crave the ocean, a hike, a favorite piece of music or a conversation with a good friend. That’s because we can have important insight or clarity about a challenge when we pay attention to the things that give us spiritual satisfaction. Spiritual experience in the midst of a life transition gives us great calm and the ability to think more deeply about what we hope for in life.
Here at our Frank Residences, for example, I have seen how much this sort of attention matters. For example, in the midst of Kabbalat Shabbat we gaze out at the gardens, look upon the birds, watch the wind, listen to beautiful music. It tends to focus us on the entry into the week’s rest. The calm helps to reflect on the week and what we hope for into the next week.
I have seen folks from Memory Care take walks outside and suddenly engage in deep conversation about themselves and loved ones. I have seen how a walk in the wonderful gardens of Frank Residences, a cup of coffee around a table at Bakar Noshery, lunch outside in the pleasant sun, a movie in the theater, a quiet moment in the library, even a fun class in the gym, all seem to stimulate a sense of spiritual wholeness, as life at Frank Residences nourishes not just one’s body but also one’s soul.
It is because of our Jewish identity, not despite it, that we work to ensure a supportive and caring spiritual environment for all residents, patients, and their families regardless of their religion. Learn more about the ways you can support our Spiritual Life Program.