Rabbi Lamm to speak at Delmar Gardens


Although the rabbis on Pathways’ Jewish hospice advisory council felt hospice would be appropriate for people of the Jewish faith, some members of the Jewish community were unsure about it, says Pathways Director Yvonne Schwandt.

“We all felt there needed to be education to let the Jewish community know that there are resources available in this difficult time,” she says. That’s why Delmar Gardens and Pathways Hospice invited Rabbi Maurice Lamm, founder of the National Institute of Jewish Hospice and author of The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning and, more recently, Consolation, to present God Consoles, Man Comforts, at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Jewish Community Center auditorium. The program will be free and open to the public.

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“People die the same way chemically, physically, mathematically — but they do not die the same way in terms of religion, consciousness, hopes or fear,” says Rabbi Lamm. “All religions have different requirements in regard to death. Jewish people do death and funerals differently. They mourn differently. They are consoled by different phrases. And they are concerned about treatment of the body.”

For example, Rabbi Lamm explains there are differences between Christians and Jews regarding burial. “Christians can wait three or four days to bury the body, and they can go back to work quickly. In Judaism, we have to bury the body immediately but we wait seven days to go back to work,” Rabbi Lamm says. “We can’t say one’s right or wrong. They just are different.”

Because of these and many more requirements, he says, “We have to have a certification that the hospice knows how to handle Jewish patients and that’s what we do with our program,” he explains. “We train all of the leadership staff for four or five hours. And if an issue comes up, they can call us 24/7.”

The training, Rabbi Lamm says, includes handling of the deceased, the structure of the funeral, how to console in terms of Jewish tradition and life after death, “which so many patients want to know about,” he notes.

Dr. Barry Kinzbrunner, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer for VITAS Healthcare Corp., the largest hospice in the U.S., will accompany Rabbi Lamm in St. Louis. Together they published The Jewish Hospice Manual. “Dr. Kinzbrunner will speak on Jewish medical ethics, what Judaism will or won’t permit — which is not the same as Christian or Muslim beliefs — and how far you go to insist a life is a life and not merely living,” Rabbi Lamm says. “There are medical and ethical questions galore.” After the presentation, the speakers will answer questions from the audience.

One important benefit is that Pathways Hospice will be referred if the NIJH receives inquiries regarding Jewish hospice in St. Louis. “This happens every day, that we get calls from all over the country,” Rabbi Lamm says.

“We don’t accredit every hospice that asks,” he says. “But we know St. Louis needs a Jewish hospice and we know the people at Delmar Gardens. We know they are ‘good guys.'”