Finding Light in Dark Days

We are in midst of celebrating Hanukkah. The Jewish custom is to start the holiday by lighting one candle the first night and then to add one additional candle each night until the eighth night, when eight candles will be lit. Originally, the custom of adding one candle a night was debated by the Rabbis during the first centuries of the Common Era. The Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 21b) describes an argument that occurred between two early Jewish schools of thought, the schools of Shammai and of Hillel, regarding the order of lighting the Hanukkah candles. According to the school of Shammai, the lighting of these candles is done as a countdown, starting from eight candles on the first night until we get to one candle on the last night of the holidays. The school of Hillel disagreed and taught, one candle is lit the first night and then for each night of Hanukkah one candle is added until eight are lit the final night. The school of Hillel reasoned that for matters of ritual, it was appropriate to elevate spiritually, through adding, and not downgrade it by subtracting one candle each night.  The current practice is to follow the School of Hillel’s opinion.

The lights of Hanukkah symbolize hope and positive energy in our lives. By adding a candle each night, we are symbolically adding more positive energy and light into the world. Yet, when we look at a candle, we also see vulnerability. A flame flickers and eventually goes out.  As we continue to add a flame each night, the candles become more vulnerable, as the heat emanating from each new candle causes the candles to melt faster each night. Hence, on the eighth night, when the Hanukkah menorah is shining brightest, it is also burning away the fastest.

In life, we strive to grow spiritually. However, as we become closer to our spirit, we are increasingly vulnerable to periods of darkness. As we gaze upon the lights of the Hanukkah menorah, may we be able to remember the light that shines forth from all of us and be able to focus on continued growth during this holiday season.

Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner is campus chaplain of The Oscar an Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, which is comprised of Stein Assisted Living and the Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport and The Foundation at the Wilf Campus. For more information, call 732-568-1155, email or visit


November is Hospice and Palliative Care Month

This past April, following a series of hospitalizations for chronic lung disease, and after consulting with her family and doctors, it was announced that Former First Lady, Barbara Bush decided not to seek additional medical treatment and focus on comfort care. She died peacefully and comfortably, surrounded by her loved ones, on her own terms.

Senator John McCain’s openness in sharing his journey with brain cancer and his final decision to end treatment highlights the importance and value of talking with family members about our final wishes before the end of  life.  He died, surrounded by family, peacefully and comfortably, on his own terms.

The words “no longer receiving medical treatment” are actually incorrect. What both of these memorable, public figures had announced is what the medical profession calls, a change in “Goals of Care.” What it means when a person changes their Goals of Care is that instead of continuing with treatments that can cure and prolong one’s life, they transition to Hospice and Palliative Care that helps alleviate suffering. It is not a discontinuation of medical treatment. It focuses on the actual problem of being terminally ill and of dying even if we wish the problems were different.

As a person ages, or disease progresses, Goals of Care and treatments may change. Hospice care can become the focus of treatment for comfort care. The goals for Hospice and Palliative Care is to improve quality of life for the patient and family.

Advance Care Planning is a lifelong process and should start with a conversation with family or a healthcare provider. It’s important that these wishes be documented with a Goals of Care note, or an Advanced Directive, Fives Wishes or POLST form. By knowing and following a patient’s Goals of Care, healthcare providers care for the patient in a way that is timely, medically appropriate, and meets the patient’s values and wishes. It is also an organized way for care teams to communicate as a patient move between locations of care. Goals of Care are created just for the patient and their situation. They can change if the patient’s situation changes or if the patient would like to change something that they had decided earlier.

Having influential figures like Barbara Bush and John McCain make public their decision to transition to Hospice and Palliative Care continues to drive discussion around the importance of Advance Care Planning. They died with the dignity they were owed. It was not because they discontinued medical care, but because they accepted a kind of medical care that was appropriate for their condition.

Hospice is not about dying, it’s about living, and the Stein Hospice team helps our patients live their lives to their fullest.

To find out more about Stein Hospice, please visit our website at or call 732-227-1212.

A New Executive Director for Stein Hospice

The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living welcomes Rev. Yeong J. Bae as the Executive Director of Stein Hospice.

Yeong Bae is a social worker and a Presbyterian minister, and he has been directing hospice programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey since 2008. Prior to that, he had a long career in child welfare services, overseeing foster care and adoption services in NYC and in Pennsylvania.

His loves are his family, sports, the outdoors and DIY projects. His wife, Wonjae, and his two young boys, William and Harrison, are elated that he has a new job! Yeong is looking forward to spending time with team members: listening, seeking understanding, and building strong relationships with colleagues and friends-to-be. He looks forward to engaging the Board and the Hospice team in visioning for the next chapter of Stein’s bright future. Together, he hopes to lead an expansion of Stein’s services in a variety of ways, including consideration of a second team in another part of the State, launch of a Heart Failure program as a precursor to a Palliative Care Practice, and deepening of Stein’s services in the Jewish tradition of hospitality and compassion.

We welcome Yeong Bae to the Wilf Campus family!

The Shofar, Change and Teshuva

By Rabbi Bryan Kinzbrunner
Campus Chaplain, The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living

The shofar is described as the instrument to wake us up from our slumber. The shofar reminds us that it is time for introspection and change as we walk before G-d, “like sheep before the shepherd.”  Does this really work, awakening within us the desire to improve, the desire to change? Or are we so desensitized to the sound that we remain asleep?

On the Shabbat before Rosh Hashanah, we read the following verses in the Torah: “Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor it is beyond reach. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?” No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it (Dev. 30:11-14).” While most commentaries consider these verses to be a general explanation regarding the Torah and its commandments, I would suggest that these verses can teach a lesson about change, about Teshuva. It often feels that when we try to change, change doesn’t happen. These verses suggest change is something always close by, ready to be undertaken.

These verses also explain the shofar’s message. The shofar is an instrument that operates on one’s breath alone.  The sounds come from the depths of a person. It acts as natural alarm, acting as a wake-up call from one’s humanness.

May we hear the sound of the shofar and feel the stirrings of our hearts for another year of joy, another year of life.

Everyone Needs a Vacation — Especially Family Caregivers!

Summer is here, and many people are looking forward to hitting the road or taking to the skies for a getaway. What’s your favorite vacation? A week at the beach? A camping trip to a beautiful wilderness area? Taking the kids to Disneyland? Exploring a city where you’ve never been before?

If you’re a family caregiver, you may be tempted to stop reading this article right now. “Vacation, what’s that?” you are probably saying. And it’s true that for people who are providing care for elderly or disabled loved ones, going on a trip may seem like a dim memory from the past.

But experts tell us a change of scene and time off benefit our health. People who take regular vacations have a lower risk of heart disease and other stress-related illnesses. Most employers today know that vacation time is important for employee wellness, and that workers return from their time off refreshed and with renewed energy. Employees get burned out—and so do caregivers!

If you’re a caregiver, set aside for a moment the idea that a vacation is not in the cards for you. Here are a couple of questions you might be asking:

“I feel so guilty leaving my loved one at home.” This can be a tough one. If the person you care for is your spouse, or perhaps a parent who relies on you alone for care, you might think that going away for a week will be very hard for them. But remember: by taking off this time and enjoying a change of scene, you’ll lower your stress level, boost your immune system, and come home with your emotional batteries recharged—all of which also can improve the care you provide.

“But who will take care of my loved one?” This is the big question, but it’s worth doing some homework and brainstorming. If your loved one lives alone, or with you but can be home alone, friends and family may be willing to step in while you are gone. If your loved one needs quite a bit of care and supervision, look into respite care.

Stein Assisted Living, at the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living in Somerset, NJ, offers short-term stays, which can provide a beneficial change of scene for your loved one. Your loved one can enjoy a 2-4 week stay with nutritious meals and enjoyable activities. Stein Assisted Living is a Jewish-based, non-profit community offering gracious, private accommodations. It also provides 24 hour/7 days per week nursing, social, fitness and educational activities, a beauty salon, housekeeping services, transportation and much more.  Most importantly, Stein Assisted Living provides peace of mind. Your loved one will enjoy all the benefits that the Stein Assisted Living caring community has to offer, and you will be able to enjoy your vacation, knowing that your loved one is well taken care of.

To find out more about respite stays, or Assisted Living in general, contact us at 732-568-1155 or

Stein Assisted Living, which includes Jaffa Gate Memory Care Neighborhood, is part of The Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living, which is also comprised of Stein Hospice, Wilentz Senior Residence, Wilf Transport and The Foundation.