Rabbi Levi Meier, PhD, beloved Jewish Chaplain at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center passed away on Sunday, July 13, 2008 following a long illness. His devoted wife Marcie and their four children were by his side. "Rabbi Meier's passing is heartbreaking for us all. It is hard to imagine Cedars-Sinai without Rabbi Meier's compassionate ways, his gentle intelligence, and his wisdom and humanity. From quiet, essential moments with patients and families, to his vibrant writings, to the uniquely intimate services that inspired so many of us, Rabbi Meier shared his life with us. He enriched our lives beyond measure," said Mark S. Siegel, Chairman of the Board of Directors. Rabbi Meier became the permanent full-time cleric at Cedars-Sinai in 1978 and went on to serve the Medical Center as its Jewish Chaplain for over 29 years. As Chaplain, he served as a catalyst in the healing process of patients and their families. His work as Chaplain focused on pastoral counseling and medical ethics. In the same year as the Rabbi's appointment, the Medical Center's Lillian Heltzer Memorial Chapel was dedicated. Both served as milestones to underscore the Medical Center's Judaic roots, dedication to the art and science of healing and the humanistic treatment of patients and staff. This powerful idea, as Rabbi Meier noted, starts in the Heltzer Chapel at the very heart of the building. There inscribed on the Ark, are the words that God spoke to Abraham: "And be a Blessing" (Genesis 12:2). All who walk into the Medical Center's Chapel are reminded of this universal message and of Rabbi Meier's great presence as its spiritual leader. Rabbi Meier was a gifted teacher, biblical scholar and the author of several books including Ancient Secrets: Using the Stories of the Bible to Improve Our Everyday Lives, and Moses – The Prince, The Prophet: His Life, Legend and Message for Our Lives. He was also the Special Issues Editor of the Journal of Psychology and Judaism. Rabbi Meier was born in New York in 1946. After receiving Rabbinical Ordination from Yeshiva University of New York, he completed a PhD in psychology at the University of Southern California. In addition to his rabbinical duties, he was also a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist. In the words of Thomas Priselac, President and CEO of Cedars-Sinai, "Rabbi Meier meant so much, and gave so much, to our Medical Center. We have lost a friend who devoted himself to enriching our lives and, year after year, to lifting the spirits of patients and families during difficult times. He helped people of all faiths become familiar with Judaic principles and concepts in a very warm and welcoming way. In my years with Cedars-Sinai, I have never met anyone who did so much to ensure the interfaith strength of our institution. Rabbi Levi Meier brought out the best in each of us and it is hard to imagine our community without him. We will miss him sorely and remember him always." Rabbi Meier defined Jewish religious life at the Medical Center thru his very popular standingroom-only inspirational Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services that were broadcast to patient rooms via closed-circuit television. Each year he supervised the building of a Sukkah on the Plaza Level, celebrated Purim, created the Yom Hashoah lecture with members of the medical staff and leadership and held daily Mincha services. In addition, Rabbi Meier edited the pamphlet, And be a Blessing, excerpted from Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet that offers thoughts on nature, health, love and other physical and spiritual subjects to comfort and inspire patients and caregivers alike. "Rabbi Meier was a beacon of tolerance and universalism to us all." said Shlomo Melmed, MD, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs. "His devotion to his chaplaincy knew no religious, racial or ethnic boundaries. His insightful empathy and Talmudic wisdom, rooted in the deepest traditions of Jewish values, healed thousands of patients, friends and strangers. Cedars-Sinai was enriched and so many lives are touched forever by his teachings." May the memory of Rabbi Levi Meier be a blessing to all who were fortunate to know him.
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Published in the Los Angeles Times on July 20, 2008