By Deb Silverthorn
“Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’leimah, the renewal of body, the renewal of spirit,” sang Debbie Friedman, making the mishaberach, the prayer for healing, one sung by generations. Dallas’ Rabbi Avraham Tanev, who is nearing the end of his chaplain residency at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has spent nearly a year toward certification as a chaplain, to provide those blessings, the offering of that renewal.
Here, Rabbi Tanev is participating in UT Southwestern’s chaplain residency and his wife is a physician assistant at Parkland Hospital. Their twins Asher Chai and Maytal go to Torah Day School of Dallas, and Naomi Bracha and Leora Chana to Gan Menachem Preschool. The family has joined the community, and found deep connections, at DATA of Plano.
“Rabbi Tanev is a kind and caring man and we are thrilled to have him, and his beautiful family, as a part of our community,” said DATA of Plano’s Rabbi Nasanya Zakon. “His role as a chaplain is critical, and the way he gives support and direction is a gift.”
Rabbi Tanev’s chaplaincy, said Rabbi Zakon, includes helping families — in times when someone has passed away — in accordance with the traditions of our people. This can include burial plans, shiva and “the psychological aspects of how to concretize the moment — how to be true and embrace the situation and tradition — and in how to find calm.”
Rabbi Zakon explained, “Really, his job is to help patients walk through some of the most difficult moments and for some, who may not be religiously affiliated, he truly guides them in where to turn,” said Rabbi Zakon.
In March, Rabbi Tanev received 100 care packages that were put together by Bikur Cholim of Dallas volunteers. The boxes included grape juice, a challah, sweets, electric candles and Havdalah supplies along with get-well cards written by area children.
“Our patients are so appreciative that others, people they don’t know, would think about them and want them to have the tastes and supplies for Shabbat and the holidays,” said Rabbi Tanev, who also delivered packages just before Passover and for Shavuot.
Rabbi Tanev was born in Bulgaria, the only son of Yehudit and the late Adrian, Asher Chaim, who passed away when his son was just 3. Rabbi Tanev moved to the United States in 1999 to study in New York, first at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn and then at Yeshiva University, where he earned his undergraduate degree and rabbinical ordination.
Rabbi Tanev and Hilah Korin, who were connected through the dating app SawYouAtSinai, were married in 2013 in Brooklyn.
Hilah was born in Rechovot, Israel. She is the daughter of Priscilla and Tal Korin and sister of Jonathan (Batya) and Daniel. Her family moved to the United States, first to Denver and then to Dallas. Her parents have since attended Congregation Shearith Israel, and Hilah graduated from J.J. Pearce High School.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Texas Woman’s University and worked at Parkland Hospital’s labor and delivery department before spending a year in Israel studying at Midreshet Rachel. Upon her return, she completed the physician assistant program at Duke University and began working in that field in New York.
In 2014, the couple moved to Miami, Florida, where she worked as a physician assistant, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Rabbi Tanev worked alongside the late Rabbi Dovid Lehrfield, serving on a bet din, a Jewish tribunal. After Rabbi Lehrfield passed away, the Tanevs decided to move to Dallas last year to be near Hilah’s family.
Rabbi Tanev’s residency, accredited by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education, concludes at the end of August and he will soon search for his next opportunity. While he hopes to remain at UTSW, there’s no assurance yet a position will be available.
He said, “This position [at UTSW] is rewarding because we work together with the medical teams. The doctors and nurses and others are responsible for physical treatment and healing and we, the chaplains, offer emotional and spiritual healing.”
Rabbi Tanev’s participation in UT Southwestern’s Clinical Pastoral Education program is a full-time, four-unit, yearlong opportunity that prepares participants for a variety of ministries including hospital chaplaincy, pastoral ministry in a congregational setting, volunteer ministries, nonprofit ministry and pastoral counseling.
UT Southwestern’s Manager of Clinical Pastoral Education Douglas Watts says the role of the chaplain is to unburden the patient and their family, and that Rabbi Tanev takes that seriously.
“Rabbi Tanev is a very caring person with the true gift of hospitality. He’s committed to the education process and to enhancing his own skills and to improving himself,” said Watts. “We humans are created by the stories that drive our lives. The stories we, as chaplains, hear are important and the ability of our patients to share is an important part of their whole healing.”
Rabbi Tanev and other chaplains serve the entire community of patients, regardless of religious affiliation or association — or none.
“I’ve served Jews of every denomination, those unaffiliated and many non-Jews. In Dallas, prayer is important to so many and I’ve only found respect from everyone I’ve connected to,” said Rabbi Tanev. “Many prayers are acceptable to almost everyone and reading Tehillim, psalms, in Hebrew or English, brings consolation to many.
“My job is to support all of our patients, and their families, without judgment or bias. That support,” he says, “is my honor.”