Jewish Chaplaincy Program at JFS formalizes partnership with KC Hospice
For more than a decade, The Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program has provided compassionate pastoral care for Jewish people at various hospitals and elder care facilities. Among the regular “stops” Jewish Community Chaplain Rabbi Jonathan Rudnick makes is at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care’s facility in south Kansas City. Rabbi Rudnick has made scores of calls providing individuals and their families with pastoral counseling as they cope with health and end of life issues.
Now the two organizations have formalized their partnership.
“Formalizing our relationship will strengthen and deepen our collaboration as agencies serving people at critical points in life, ensuring relevant and meaningful Jewish spiritual care for Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care patients, families, and staff well into the future,” Rabbi Rudnick said.
David Wiley, President and CEO of Kansas City Hospice, supports the community collaboration. “Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is pleased to have a strong relationship with Jewish Family Services to further enhance training to our staff, to provide important access for our Jewish patients, to the community chaplain and to partner with JFS on programming for the community,” said Wiley of the formalized agreement.
Housed at Jewish Family Services, the Chaplaincy program began in the 1990s with the mission to be the central spiritual care address for any Jewish person in the community and their loved ones regardless of denomination or affiliation.
“What we try to accomplish when we visit is to connect patients and their families to the greater Jewish community and Jewish tradition,” the rabbi said. “When we visit, the expression is you’re connected to the community, you’re not alone and the community cares about you.”
“Kansas City Hospice was the first hospice in the Kansas City area to be accredited by the National Institute of Jewish Hospice approximately fourteen years ago, and we have remained the only area hospice to keep that designation consistently,” said Stevie Shuchart, a Jewish social worker at KC Hospice. The Kansas City Hospice team received its initial Jewish training from Rabbi Maurice Lamm, who founded the Jewish hospice movement and the National Institute of Jewish Hospice (NIJH).
The relationship with KC Hospice actually began in 2006. Once accredited, it was Shuchart who reached out to Rabbi Rudnick (who had recently begun serving as Jewish Community Chaplain) about visiting Jewish patients at the facility on Wornall Road. Shuchart felt it was critical in patients’ care to have a Jewish presence available.
Kansas City Hospice also turned to Rabbi Rudnick to provide ongoing training and sensitize staff to Jewish patients’ needs. Having a rabbi to facilitate staff education is not a requirement of NIJH; however the Kansas City Hospice team feels a local rabbinic pastoral connection in Kansas City is crucial to delivering care.
“Rabbi Rudnick has special expertise in hospital settings, hospice and palliative care,” Shuchart said. “He communicates to our staff what they need to know about caring for patients, both observant and secular, with sensitivity and respect for spiritual and cultural variations. He has actively participated in the development of our educational materials and been a resource for our staff when we have had specific patient concerns,” she said.
Among those Rabbi Rudnick works closely with at Kansas City Hospice is its Chaplain Joel Carmer. The two men first became acquainted when they trained together in Clinical Pastoral Education at Research Medical Center.
In addition to his spiritual counseling services at Kansas City Hospice, Rabbi Rudnick is a resource to families going through what is often a difficult phase of life — losing a loved one.
“We can provide additional referrals to a funeral home, grief support offered at JFS both in an individual and group setting and provide ongoing spiritual care,” the rabbi said.
“JFS’s mission is to help people facing some of life’s biggest challenges, which would naturally include illness and death,” said Don Goldman, JFS Executive Director and CEO. “The Chaplaincy program is a crucial link in helping families during the most difficult times. Because of our relationship with KC Hospice, we are one step closer to families who need our support.”
For more information about the Jewish Community Chaplaincy program, please visit the web site www.jfskc.org/chaplaincy or call (913) 327-8250.
About the Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program
From its inception to the present, the Jewish Community Chaplaincy Program is the central address providing spiritual care for any Jewish person in the Greater Kansas City area, regardless of their affiliation with a congregation. The program is committed to the spiritual health and connection of all human beings.
The Chaplaincy program is based at Jewish Family Services and its core values are connection, inclusion, community, tradition, compassion and wholeness. The program’s goals are to:
- Deliver meaningful spiritual care (that strengthens Jewish connections for individuals and families in need)
- Strengthen relationships with the healthcare community and organized Jewish community
- Develop spiritual care volunteers to assist in reaching members of the community.
Over the years, the Chaplaincy program has expanded, adding Spiritual Care Volunteers who assist in providing pastoral care. This group of dedicated lay people is an integral component of the Chaplaincy program. Volunteers receive extensive training from the Community Chaplain to work in the healthcare community serving the spiritual needs of patients in area hospitals and eldercare centers, providing connection and support. These volunteers graciously fulfill the mitzvah of “bikkur holim”, visiting the sick in the community. Volunteers are placed at seven area hospitals, seven eldercare centers, and one correctional facility. Health care partners: include the Saint Luke’s Health System, University of Kansas Hospital, Advent Health (formerly Shawnee Mission Health), the HCA system and Children’s Mercy Hospital. Many in the Jewish community have been touched by the program; in 2018, more than 2,220 spiritual care visits were made by the Community Chaplain and Spiritual Care Volunteers.
Through the Chaplaincy program, community clergy have participated in post-graduate training with the Jewish Community Chaplain.
Menorah Heritage Foundation, Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City, the Jewish Community Foundation and a group of local hospitals and healthcare partners, generously support the Chaplaincy Program.