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Program trains chaplains in disaster relief
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Program trains chaplains in disaster relief

Among those who met in Whippany to discuss training chaplains in disaster relief are, from left, Jocelyn Gilman, the Rev. Willard Ashley, Rabbi Stephen Roberts, and Cecille Asekoff.     
Among those who met in Whippany to discuss training chaplains in disaster relief are, from left, Jocelyn Gilman, the Rev. Willard Ashley, Rabbi Stephen Roberts, and Cecille Asekoff.     

Jewish, Christian, and Muslim chaplains are teaming up with the American Red Cross to create a training program to sensitize local clergy in responding to disasters with spiritual care.

Clergy members met June 12 at the Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus in Whippany for a planning session for teaching disaster training to providers of spiritual and pastoral care. 

“Every disaster is local,” said Cecille Asekoff, director of the Joint Chaplaincy Committee of Greater MetroWest and executive vice president of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. “When there is a disaster, people go to two places — the blood bank or their local faith community. They want to give something or find answers or just be enveloped by a caring community.”

Asekoff’s organizations are providing the Jewish component to the interfaith effort.

“We will be offering training if and when a disaster strikes,” she said.

Joining her at the session were Jocelyn Gilman, Northern NJ executive director of the American Red Cross; the Rev. Willard Ashley, dean of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary; and Rabbi Stephen Roberts, a certified disaster chaplain.

“The clergy have to be sensitized to go in with the first responders,” said Asekoff. “Their first job may be to hand out water or a blanket or a coat if it’s cold outside. But when the time is appropriate, the chaplains will be part of the team that will provide pastoral care to victims and their families.” 

Those seeking more information can contact Asekoff at casekoff@jfedgmw.org or 973-929-3168.

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