VITAS Serves the Jewish Community
VITAS Is Accredited to Serve Jewish Patients
A large number of VITAS programs are accredited by the National Institute for Jewish Hospice (NIJH) to ensure that hospice care adheres to Jewish ideals as they care for patients and their families. All VITAS patient care teams and volunteers are trained in the beliefs, customs, philosophies and ethics of both practicing and non-practicing Jews.
VITAS Understands Jewish Beliefs and Customs
Reform, Conservative and Orthodox traditions differ in observances and laws as they relate to end-of-life care and hospice care for the Jewish faith, burial preparations and support for the bereaved. It is essential, therefore, for hospice programs and caregivers to be adequately prepared and educated in the Jewish way in death and mourning.
Jewish practice, for example, requires someone to remain with the deceased from the time immediately following death until burial to ensure no desecration occurs. Since the body is considered sacred, families who want to follow Jewish customs usually choose a Jewish funeral home to prepare their loved one’s body for burial.
VITAS’ certified Jewish hospice programs train staff and volunteers in these faith-based beliefs and customs, along with Jewish ethics related to medical futility and the care of the terminally ill. With the support of staff specially trained in Jewish culture and traditions, VITAS patients and families representing all faith traditions within the Jewish community can face death or the loss of a loved one knowing their faith, tradition and values are understood and respected.
Hospice and Judaism are Compatible
Jewish tradition, heritage and literature stress the premium of life and a Jew’s “duty to live, not only the right to live.”¹ With this in mind, is Judaism compatible with hospice? Indeed it is.
Key VITAS medical officials, including a VITAS medical executive, have written extensively on end-of-life care within the Jewish tradition. They include Joel S. Policzer, MD, FACP, FAAHPM, senior vice president of medical affairs, and retired chief medical officer Barry M. Kinzbrunner, MD, FACP, FAAHPM. Dr. Kinzbrunner, also an ordained Orthodox rabbi, coauthored “The Jewish Hospice Manual” with Rabbi Maurice Lamm, DD, founder and president of the National Institute for Jewish Hospice (NIJH). Drs. Policzer and Kinzbrunner have spoken extensively about hospice and Jewish traditions.
“From care of the sick to the mourning practices of those who are left behind, Judaism provides a profound way for its followers to mark the passing of a loved one, while still honoring life itself,” they write. “And trained hospice workers can aid Jewish patients and their families as they follow the ancient way.”
¹Lamm, Maurice, and Kinzbrunner, Barry M. The Jewish Hospice Manual. Miami: VITAS Healthcare Corporation, 2016. Print.