New Jersey Jewish News Story
Beth Chaim takes congregants health to heart with defibrillator training course
In bold red letters, signs on the cabinet just inside the main office at Congregation Beth Chaim in Princeton Junction announce the contents within: Automated External Defibrillator located here.
Inside is a device that distinguishes the 800-family Reform congregation from every other synagogue in the Greater Mercer County region a HeartStart OnSite Defibrillator, a machine with the capacity to save a life in the case of sudden cardiac arrest.
In the synagogues social hall just a few steps away, about 25 participants in an American Red Cross HeartSaver AED training course were receiving instructions in the use of a defibrillator from Vince Shipos, director of health and safety for the Wall, NJ-based Lifeforce USA, Inc. Each day, Shipos told the group, more than 1,000 Americans suffer sudden cardiac arrest and, in most cases, the use of an AED offers them their only hope of survival.
Its extremely important, Shipos said. CPR is a wonderful skill to learn, but the AED is what really increases the chances of survival. The goal of CPR is not to fix the problem. It will buy you time till better treatment can get there. And that better treatment will include the AED.
Although he has conducted HeartSaver AED training courses in synagogues in the New Brunswick area, Shipos said in an interview, Beth Chaim is the first and only Mercer County synagogue that signed up for his course in the use of a defibrillator. In fact, said Beth Chaims Rabbi Eric Wisnia, to his knowledge, no other congregation in the region has brought the life-saving equipment on board.
A couple of years ago, we started to get very health-conscious, said Wisnia as he sat outside the synagogues social hall with his colleague at Beth Chaim, Rabbi Batsheva Appel.
Theres a real sense that we have to move into the 21st century and start becoming sensitive to the needs of our congregants, he said. He noted that during recent construction, the sanctuary was equipped with a bima lift and devices that assist with hearing, and that the congregation has a wheelchair and large-print prayer books on hand.
The impetus to purchase a defibrillator and to train congregation members in its use came from Jordan Plotkin, son of Neil and Lori Plotkin of Princeton Junction. Jordan made the initiative his mitzva project for his bar mitzva on Aug. 28, 2004.
He gave us some seed money, and the mens club took it on, raising the rest of the money, Appel said. Since last year, members of the mens club and teachers in the congregations preschool have been receiving instruction in the use of the AED through the American Red Cross HeartSaver AED training course.
Reached at home, Jordan, who is now 14, said he decided on a defibrillator for his mitzva project because of his interest in medicine and in helping other people.
I thought it was important to donate a portion of my bar mitzva money to the synagogue, said Jordan, a student at the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in Princeton Junction. I think other synagogues should have defibrillators also. It makes me feel good that I can save a life by donating money.
Jordans initiative really sparked something wonderful, Wisnia said. Added Appel: Im proud that we have this in our congregation. In the book of Leviticus, it says that youre not supposed to stand by the blood of your neighbor. This enables us to help people who need help. I hope we never have to use it, but Im glad we have it, just in case.
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