Putting Hope into Hospice: One Rabbi’s Mission

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Lubavitch News | March 28, 2016

Rabbi Mendy Levy works nine-hour days as a chaplain for VITAS, the nation’s largest hospice provider. As one of only a handful of Jewish chaplains in the system, he serves South Florida’s vast aging community with end-of-life care and bereavement counseling.

But he’s also a Chabad representative, so his care doesn’t end when his shift does. Levy’s ringer is never turned off: when families call in the middle of the night, he is ever-available, bringing comfort to the dying and their family members. For this young rabbi, death has no time clock.

“When people find themselves at the end of their lives, even if they were never spiritual or religious, they open up to G-d. On their deathbed, they know that they are getting closer to Him and they suddenly want to do things they have never done,” he shares. Many of these unaffiliated patients have no dedicated rabbi to sit at their bedside. So Levy’s their man, helping them with prayers and the listening ear they need as they reflect on their lives.

A steadying presence for family members as well, he provides anticipatory counselling and bereavement groups. One popular offering is “Tefillin Therapy.” Men who haven’t put on phylacteries since their bar-mitzvahs, or ever, now want to don these black boxes. Their male relatives, eager to help the spiritual cause, also gravitate to the mitzvah.

Hospice patients know they are living on borrowed time. Most are given a prognosis of six months to live.

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