Sholom’s new hospice program offers end-of-life care with Jewish sensitivity


When families face a loved one’s terminal diagnosis, services provided by Sholom Community Alliance’s new Johnson Hospice Care Agency (JHCA) can help. The agency is fully licensed and Medicare-certified to offer hospice services to patients throughout the Twin Cities in whatever living situation is “home” – at a nursing home, assisted living facility or private residence.

“Hospice is a program for patients with a terminal diagnosis of six months or less, when they are at a point in their life when they’re no longer searching for treatments,” said JHCA Clinical Director Jill Nance. “It’s not a place, it’s a philosophy of care, and we bring our services to you.”

And though services are available to anyone, JHCA is the only hospice with a rabbi on staff, who can offer specialized resources to Jewish patients and their families – including resources for Holocaust survivors, who may have their own unique issues when approaching death.

Hospice Care Agency Clinical Director Jill Nance (left) and Hospice Medical Social Worker Debe Freidson work to provide care to patients with a terminal diagnosis. (Photo: Erin Elliott Bryan Johnson)
Hospice Care Agency Clinical Director Jill Nance (left) and Hospice Medical Social Worker Debe Freidson work to provide care to patients with a terminal diagnosis. (Photo: Erin Elliott Bryan Johnson)

“The goal of hospice is really promoting quality of life and helping people to really have quality in their last days – however long that is,” said Debe Freidson, JHCA’s hospice medical social worker.

A big part of enhancing quality of life to hospice patients is pairing them up with a volunteer from the community. Volunteers, who offer spiritual support, companionship and an “extra eye and ear” for the staff, complete a comprehensive 16-hour training session to participate in the program.

The next training for hospice volunteers will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 27 at the Shaller Family Campus in St. Paul. Volunteers must attend all four sessions, which will include Jewish spiritual perspectives and practical guidance for visiting hospice clients. The training will be led by Rabbi Shalom Reznik-Bell, JHCA’s chaplain; Rabbi Amy Eilberg, and hospice staff.

“We have patients that have formed such strong connections with their volunteers,” Freidson said.

JHCA also partners with the Twin Cities Jewish Healing Program and has a lot of Jewish volunteers. Freidson said a need exists for more Russian-speaking volunteers as well as those from the St. Paul area.

Hospice care is directed by the patient’s primary care physician, but the plan of care is patient- and family-centered. The utmost care is given to empower individuals to live their last days with dignity.

“There’s a misconception on what hospice is; being on hospice does not mean that you’re going to die in a week, not necessarily,” Nance said. “We’re not really giving up on life, we’re just shifting our focus to comfort for that patient… By managing their comfort and symptoms, you’re going to promote quality for that patient.”

Freidson acknowledged that most families are not ready to accept that their loved one is ready for a hospice program. Both she and Nance work to educate families, care providers and the local community about the services JHCA can provide.

“We’re bringing a Jewish neshama [soul] to hospice,” Freidson said. “People that have lived their whole life practicing Judaism, and Judaism has been an important part of their life, it just makes sense that they’d also want that as part of their death experience.”


The hospice volunteer training will be offered 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27; 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Nov. 1 and 8; and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10 at the Shaller Family Campus, 740 Kaye Ave., St. Paul. To register, contact Judy Marcus at 952-542-4840 or:

For information about the Johnson Hospice Care Agency, call 651-328-2091 or visit: