Prayer space dedicated at Children’s Hospital

In a significant upgrade, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) unveiled a $3 million interfaith prayer space on Jan. 22.
February 17, 2016

In a significant upgrade, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) unveiled a $3 million interfaith prayer space on Jan. 22.

Known as the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Foundation Interfaith Center, the 2,400-square-foot indoor and outdoor facility was made possible by a $5.5 million gift to support spiritual care services at Children’s Hospital from the foundation established by Farmers Insurance Group co-founder Thomas E. Leavey and his wife, Dorothy E. Risley Leavey.

“Knowing parents and patients have a place to come and pray is the reason the foundation gave this gift,” Kathleen McCarthy Kostlan, chairwoman of the foundation and daughter of its founders, said in acknowledging the largest gift ever made in support of the Children’s Hospital spiritual care services program. 

Also a member of the hospital’s board of trustees, she went on to highlight the connection between prayer and healing: “Spiritual care is a vital component in helping people heal. Numerous studies show that the benefits of spiritual care during hospitalization can include shorter hospital stays, improved pain management, motivation to heal and an improved sense of well-being.” 

The interfaith center, located between the Anderson Pavilion and the McAllister Building, was designed to accommodate people of all faiths. It features a tranquil patio for emotional respite as well as a communal sanctuary that will host weekly religious services and events. Alcoves for meditation and prayer dedicated to different religions — including Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism — line the hallway stemming from the entrance. 

Each prayer space is decorated with spiritual-themed artwork. The Jewish space has a window facing east toward Jerusalem. A mezuzah graces its doorframe and a florid image of the Tree of Life, the creation of local artist Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik, adorns one of its walls. 

Children’s Hospital President and CEO Paul Viviano praised efforts of the hospital’s spiritual care services program during opening remarks at the dedication ceremony celebrating the completion of the new prayer space, which replaces a much smaller predecessor that was only 150 square feet.

“Spiritual care is one of our most special and impactful programs,” Viviano said. “When they’re here, families are often experiencing some of the darkest, most challenging times of their lives. We help them cope with those circumstances and provide a shelter for patients, their families and caregivers alike.”

The ceremony included representatives from a variety of faiths presenting symbolic gifts for the occasion. Chaplain Efrat Brayer, the Jewish on-call chaplain at the hospital, presented a set of Sabbath candles and a Kiddush Cup. 

Brayer said she provides care and support to members of all faiths during times of need, drawing on her own connection to Judaism during the most emotionally stirring moments.

“I get my strength from my own faith, in putting the families first,” Brayer told the Journal. “They’re often going through such a difficult time. If I can provide comfort to ease their souls, then it’s a privilege and an honor. In my own quiet way, I hold the families in my own prayers.”

Dr. Robert Adler, chief medical officer of the CHLA Health System and senior adviser to the hospital’s department of pediatrics, has been a member of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills for more than 50 years. He gushed about what the addition of the newly crafted space will mean for his patients. 

“When people ask me, ‘If I could go anywhere in the world for treatment, where should I go?’ I always tell them, ‘Whatever you need, we have it right here,’ ” Adler said. “When I look around at all this, it’s nice to know that people’s spiritual needs aren’t going to be compromised at all.”

Adler has ample reason to be proud of the finished product: His fingerprints are all over it. He, along with Brayer, helped to pick out items such as the mezuzah and made sure the window faced Jerusalem

“I think it’s important for the Jewish community to know and be aware of how supportive and respectful CHLA has been to the needs of its Jewish patients. That includes giving spiritual care, offering kosher food and helping patients follow Sabbath law during their stay. I’m also confident that the new prayer space provides all the necessary comfort and support, regardless of which branch of Judaism you adhere to.” 

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