Rabbi Samuel Vitsick, who has the distinction of having been the nation's first Jewish hospital chaplain, retired last week from his full-time post at Sinai Hospital.
"There is hardly a Jew in Baltimore whose life he hasn't touched," Alfred I. Coplan, chairman of the Associated: The Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, said as friends and relatives gathered to fete the chaplain's 35-year service.
Dr. Samuel Abrams, the long-time Sinai surgeon, even remembered the shul, a small synagogue, the Lithuanian-born rabbi operated at the corner of Baltimore and Chester streets in 1940, soon after he moved to Baltimore. The future physician was bar-mitzvahed there. In later years, the rabbi continued to give guidance to the whole Abrams family here and overseas.
Among the lasting legacies of the Vitsick chaplaincy are Sinai's kosher kitchen, which he continues to supervise, and mezuzahs that are posted on the door posts of all patient rooms, operating rooms and service areas.
Strictly speaking, those miniature scrolls of biblical quotations would not be necessary because a hospital is not a permanent place of residence.
But Rabbi Vitsick believes that the mezuzah has an important therapeutic value.
"A person comes in, touches it and is reminded of the purpose of life," he once said. "That thought, that awareness, serves as a blessing of a long life."