People living with chronic and/or terminal illness deserve understanding and support on many levels. When a parent has such an illness, the challenges for the parent, or loved one and other family members can be complex and range far beyond treatment, coping strategies, and case management. They can touch on every aspect of life.

Supporting the Healing Center

Yet in these circumstances, there are almost no Jewish books or widely shared guidance for parents or loved ones who need to explain that they have an incurable illness, to their child; or for teachers or classmates or acquaintances who would want to understand and be of real help. Many people feel they do not have the tools or the comfort to reach out. Much of the community is simply not aware of the availability of spiritual care specifically for children, parents or loved ones; and the Jewish Healing Center is underutilized as a resource for those families.

And so people hesitate to help; opportunities for care and meaning are missed while social confusion and uncertainty deepen; relationships falter or fade when they may be needed most; and families struggle with isolation and stigma at a time when we would wish for them only healing connection and well-being.

Sarah Bendiner Fenner

Sarah Bendiner Fenner was a doula and childbirth educator who lived with breast cancer for twelve years. As a young working mother and an involved member of several Jewish communities in the Bay Area, Sarah educated herself and took a proactive approach to her health care and treatment.

Sarah pursued a life that acknowledged, but was not defined by, cancer. Her soulful, continuing participation in community life, even while in treatment and eventually hospice, helped people normalize the presence of illness in the context of friendships, familial relationships, and interventions with healthcare professionals.

Sarah’s particular caring light–and her deep practicality–inspired a group of friends and family members to establish a fund that will extend her good in the world, as a community-wide effort reflective of the links and bridges that Sarah created in her life.


The Sarah B. Fenner Fund represents an enduring effort by Bay Area Jewish Healing Center to mobilize support and advance spiritual care around children and families where a parent or loved one is living with a chronic or terminal illness.

This initiative will focus on creating new resources and building capacity–for the Healing Center, and within the broader community–to provide healing comfort and to nurture meaningful and life-affirming relationships.

The Board-directed fund will allow the Healing Center to:

  • Create and disseminate new Jewish educational resources that exemplify BAJHC expertise as a national thought leader in the area of Jewish spiritual care. This may include podcasts and other digital materials, a Jewish children’s book and a tool kit to help families and their communities of friends navigate these most profound, life-shaping circumstances.
  • Train teachers, counselors and other professionals in Jewish schools, synagogues, and camp settings to utilize these “tools” and provide supportive life affirming and communal responses to individuals and families.
  • Deliver more resources into the hands of children, parents, and families in need, and to their friends, neighbors and schools, and other key caregiving agencies and professionals.
  • Develop workshops and provide consultations to help communities respond to, connect, and hold families striving to live fully and lovingly in the face of serious illness.
  • Raise visibility and awareness about the current work of the Healing Center through an outreach and marketing campaign and lower the barriers to utilizing the Healing Center’s services and support.

Over time, we aim to realize a vision where anyone in the community, lay or professional–and any group, organization, or institution–has easy access to resources and training that facilitate genuine comfort and connection, understanding and support for children, parents or loved ones living with chronic or terminal illness in their families.


Bay Area Jewish Healing Center was established in 1991 as the nation’s first Jewish Healing Center, with a mission of providing Jewish spiritual care to those living with illness, to those caring for the ill, and to the bereaved through direct service, education and training, and information and referral. Jewish healing brings ancient wisdom and modern tools to support people as they struggle with life’s greatest challenges. Housed at the Healing Center, the Sarah Bendiner Fenner Fund is intended to mobilize financial support and concentrate Healing Center staff and resources in a particular area of need, over the long term.


To inquire about or support the Sarah Bendiner Fenner Fund, please contact: