Skirball Hospice Service a Bridge from Memory to Blessing

Connections to Care Mobile Hero
Home / News & Events / Newsletter

Skirball Hospice Service a Bridge from Memory to Blessing

Mar 17, 2020

In the days and months after their patients pass away, the Jewish Home's Skirball Hospice remains in the lives of their patients' families and loved ones. They offer bereavement support in the form of one-on-one counseling, personal letters and phone calls.

Since 2014, Skirball Hospice has hosted a memorial service to honor the memory of the patients in their care who have passed away throughout the year.

"Families and loved ones can often feel alone because they think no one else is feeling what they're feeling," says Ashley Teal, executive director of Skirball Hospice. "The memorial service provides people with an opportunity to sit and grieve together—to be with people who understand that their worlds have changed and reflect on that."

This year's service was held in March at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Bereavement Coordinator Alice Lynn, who organized the service, introduced the program: "Today, we gather as a community comprised of families, friends and Hospice team members. Today we celebrate those who have passed. We remember the love, laughter and priceless memories you may have shared."

During the program, Skirball staff and volunteers lit candles, performed music and shared readings. A moving ritual of building a matzevah, or altar of stones, to represent the individuals being remembered was also part of the program. As each patient's name was read, a stone was placed in their memory. Family members and loved ones were then encouraged to share their stories and memories.

For Mitzi Schwarz, the memorial service was especially poignant.

Schwarz is one of Skirball Hospice's spiritual counselors. She works with patients and their families "bearing witness," she says, to what they are going through during the end-of-life stage. In this capacity, Schwarz had attended and performed at three Skirball memorial services. However this year, she was grieving her own father, who had been a Skirball patient.

"It was a blessing for me," Schwarz says of her father's time as a Skirball patient. "To be supported by the Skirball Hospice team felt like I was being supported by my family. No one was a stranger."

At the memorial, Schwarz says she felt comforted by being in the presence of her fellow mourners. "I was able to just let my emotions flow," she recalls. "Being with other families whom I had helped throughout the year deepened the experience."

For more information on the Skirball Hospice program, please call 818-774-3040 or visit

Sign up for the LAJHealth Newsletter, Connections.

Recent Articles

May 8

In Conversation: Mayor Karen Bass and Dale Surowitz

In Conversation: Mayor Karen Bass and Dale Surowitz In Conversation with Mayor Bass and Dale Surowitz Tuesday, June 4th, 8:15AM Valley Beth Shalom - 15739 Ventura Blvd. Reservations required | $55 per person REGISTER HERE
Read More
Apr 30

Passover 2024 a Time of Thoughtful Celebration at Los Angeles Jewish Health

During Passover this year, we were mindful of the instability around the world, vulnerability in Israel and unrest across our nation’s university campuses. Perhaps pulling at us the most is the status of hostages taken so many months ago. It could have been tempting to alter Passover Seder plans this year. Instead, as the Jewish People have done for millennia, including those who call Los Angeles Jewish Health home, we recognized that the best way to honor the hostages and everyone suffering for their beliefs, was to conduct Seder in part as a tribute to those who continue to strive for freedom from oppression. As we started Seder remembering our brothers and sisters in Israel, this was another opportunity to actively demonstrate our beliefs. These sacred traditions provide us with an anchor to hold onto and give us stability during these tumultuous times. As we share just some of the many images of Passover at LAJH this year, imagine the warm and wonderful music and prayer that wrapped the seniors like a blanket of safety, stability and joy thanks to our wonderful rabbinical leaders, Chief Mission Officer, Rabbi Karen Bender and Rabbi Ronald Goldberg. CLICK HERE FOR PASSOVER PHOTOS
Read More
Apr 30

Rabbi Karen Bender Reflects on Mission to Israel

Rabbi Karen Bender, Chief Mission Officer of Los Angeles Jewish Health, recently returned from a mission to Israel. She was there to express solidarity with our Israeli brothers and sisters, demonstrate to them that they are not alone but rather that our hearts beat as one, bear witness to the massacres, lift up soldiers and family members of hostages, and volunteer by way of farming. Rabbi Bender describes that being there was in some ways like a shiva visit and in other ways like bikkur cholim, visiting the sick. In the Talmud the rabbis state that when you visit someone who is ill, you remove 1/60 of their suffering. Rabbi Bender hopes and prays she took away some of the Israelis' suffering by piercing their feelings of isolation, despair and grief. On the flight home she wrote the following poem. Her reference to the strand of turquoise alludes to an ancient Jewish practice of adding a blueish strand to the tzitzit fringes of the prayer shawl. In those days, one would know that the sun had risen enough to say the morning Shma prayer if there was enough natural light to see the difference between the blue and white strand and the blue and white in the sky. The Diameter of the Massacres*by Karen Bender - April 2024 The diameter of the massacreswas the length of Israeland the depth of the universe.It stretched to every continent,college campuses and social mediaIt spread information and disinformationTwisting and distorting moralityAnd redefining madnessIt wreaked havoc and wrecked livesIn Israel and GazaIn kitchens and living roomsIn bedrooms and porchesIn souls and hearts. The diameter of the visitwas the length of Israelthe distance to Californiaand everyone and everywherewe will speak of it.The mission stretchedour compassion and mindsand challenged our faithin human nature.It struck us with awein every cell of our beingas we saw the resiliency of our peopleand as we strove together to answerthe unspoken question:Where shall we place all the pain?We were messengers and witnesses,representatives with wishes to helpand we did and we will. The diameter of the hugsis the length of an Israeli flagand the width of a tallit large enoughto enwrap every Israeli who hurts right nowand therefore every Israeliwith the comfort of our loveand with a strand of techelet turquoisein the tzitzit to remind us all thatthe morning will come andwe will say the Shma someday with one voice. *A reprise of Yehudah Amichai’s poem, “The Diameter of the Bomb” Rabbi Karen Bender placing letters from residents in the Western Wall Letters from residents put in the Western Wall Sample letter given to Israeli soldiers
Read More