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The National Institute for Jewish Hospice Accreditation [met] on Nov. 10 at the Newark Airport Renaissance Hotel [and included] a multifaith audience of some 300 chaplains, social workers, and medical personnel seeking NIJH accreditation for their hospices in 15 states.

Fifty-three American hospices are currently accredited by NIJH. “Our organization trains professionals on how to care for the Jewish terminally ill,” said Shirley Lamm, its executive director. “Many hospices have no Jewish chaplains…”

Mary Jane Yoder is nurse liaison at the Martin and Edith Stein Hospice in Somerset, a Jewish facility that has an Orthodox rabbi as its chaplain but accepts people of all religions. She said potential end-of-life conflicts are discussed at weekly team meetings involving the rabbi as well as family members, physicians, and hospice staff members.

“There is a religious factor, I agree,” said Yoder. “Every patient is treated as an individual, and we have our rabbi to refer to.”

Despite the somber nature of most of the day’s discussions, the organizers of the conference told NJJN there can be joy in the final days of a terminally ill person’s life. “People tend to think that hospice is all sadness because few people die at home. Hospice is for raising the spirits. Hospice is for laughter,” said Rabbi Maurice Lamm, the president of NIJH.

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