Rabbi Charles Spirn, Ph.D.
Head Chaplain, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York (Retired)
Mar 17, 2014
Rabbi Charles Spirn grew up and went to school in France. While still a teenager in May, 1940, Rabbi Spirn escaped on bike from the Nazi invasion of France, made his way to Spain, and ultimately to the United States via Portugal. In 1943, Rabbi Spirn enrolled in Yeshiva College, graduated cum laude in 1947, and received his rabbinical ordination from RIETS in 1951. Rabbi Spirn served various pulpits for 28 years, serving as a hospital chaplain as well. Rabbi Spirn was awarded a Ph.D. in French Literature from Columbia University In 1976; his dissertation was on Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
In 1979, Rabbi Spirn was appointed head chaplain of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Manhattan, and served there until his retirement in 1998. In addition to regular chaplain duties such as counseling and visiting patients, organizing prayer services and promoting the wellbeing of all patients, Jewish and non-Jewish, he also took steps to ensure that patients would be able to observe halacha properly. These included establishing a kosher kitchen and cafeteria (supervised by the OU), installing Sabbath elevators, making food available for Shabbat rituals, and establishing a "no discharge policy" for Sabbath observant patients on Sabbath or Jewish holidays.
Rabbi Spirn has received numerous awards and honors for his achievements both in the rabbinate and in hospital chaplaincy. His wife, Dr. Regina (Volovsky) holds a Ph.D. in geochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Together, they are the proud parents of a daughter, Batya, and a son, Rabbi Nahum Spirn, who is also a member of the RCA.