Sun Health’s ‘rabbi in residence’ officially ordained
By Shanna Hogan and John Tucker
Inside her unit at Grandview Terrace, 103-year-old Sybil Newman inches slowly from her dining room table to her couch.
“Everything about me has become rusted,” she quips.
On a recent Friday morning she is meeting privately with Sun Health’s newly ordained Rabbi Jesse Charyn. The Jewish granddaughter of a well-known New York rabbi, Sybil is a regular at Rabbi Jesse’s biweekly services and consults with him for spiritual guidance, at times the two conversing in Hebrew.
“The word rabbi itself literally translates from Hebrew to ‘teacher’ and Rabbi Jesse has all the necessary qualities of a teacher,” says Sybil, a retired math professor. “He truly cares about helping people learn.”
While 34-year-old Jesse Charyn has long been known as Sun Health’s rabbi in residence, it wasn’t until this June that he became officially ordained.
The son of two Jewish educators, Rabbi Jesse grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee and moved to Israel in 2002. While serving in the Israeli army, he met an Arizona State University student named Shira, who was spending a gap year in Israel.
In 2006, after Rabbi Jesse was discharged from the military, he followed Shira to Arizona, where he continued his education at ASU. The two were married in 2009 and recently welcomed a baby girl.
Rabbi Jesse spent years training at rabbinical schools in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Jerusalem and New York. While working as a chaplain at Banner University Medical Center, he learned about Sun Heath’s spiritual services and was hired as a part-time consultant, organizing Jewish activities and events.
“I really love working with older adults,” Rabbi Jesse says. “I use the language that I have a very old soul.”
In January 2017, he was hired full time at Sun Health.
“I really feel honored to serve the residents,” he says. “As a rabbi for Sun Health, I’m not just employed for the Jewish residents. I use my knowledge … to uplift all residents and staff spiritually.”
When he meets a new resident, Rabbi Jesse provides his business card with his personal cell phone number.
“Being a rabbi is not just a job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” Rabbi Jesse says. “I am accessible and available to residents, their families and Sun Health staff.”
When Sun Health residents learned Rabbi Jesse was being officially ordained, he says he received an outpouring of support from many of them who have grown to become close friends.
“Everyone here has so much wisdom and phenomenal life experiences,” Rabbi Jesse says. “I’m not only here to serve the needs of the residents and assist them in spiritual matters, I also ask questions, build relationships and learn from each resident.”
At Shabbat and other services, Sybil says she’s noticed the impact the rabbi has had on the Jewish residents.
“I think he paints a good picture of what Judaism means,” Sybil says. “He’s perfect for Sun Health residents. He’s outgoing, personable and has a nice way with people.”
Sybil Newman passed away shortly after this story was written. May her memory be a blessing.