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Press Releases

Jo Anne, Bertram and Shawn Siegel Donate Star of David to Holy Name Medical Center's Villa Marie Claire

Date: 11/18/2011

Family assists in advancing the interfaith focus of residential hospice

Teaneck, NJ - "Brilliant" is how Bertram Siegel describes his wife Jo Anne's decision to admit her terminally ill mother to Holy Name Medical Center's Villa Marie Claire residential hospice.

When it became apparent to the Siegels that Shirley Harris would no longer benefit from hospital therapies aimed at treating her illness, they knew Mrs. Siegel's mother would need a different kind of care. But the Siegels weren't sure of how to proceed, until a physician and social worker at The Valley Hospital directed them to Villa Marie Claire in Saddle River.

"I hadn't heard of the Villa," says Mrs. Siegel, who is Jewish. "I was nervous about the name, nervous when I pulled up to the door."

But any religion-based anxiety she felt was quickly replaced with relief. "It was a new, beautiful, immaculate home," says Mrs. Siegel, who resides with her husband in Woodcliff Lake. "The staff treated my mother with respect, dignity and sensitivity-like a queen. Our family was made to feel welcome."

Villa Marie Claire is a program of Holy Name Medical Center's Hospice and Palliative Services division. And while the Medical Center is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, a Roman Catholic congregation, its appreciation for and sensitivity to all religions and faith-based practices prevails throughout all departments and affiliated facilities. Staff at the Villa are trained to embrace religious and cultural diversity, and encourage patients and their families to exercise their religious traditions. The Villa is also accredited by the National Institute for Jewish Hospice.

A beloved Jewish symbol in the Interfaith Sanctuary

During Shirley Harris' 21-day stay at Villa Marie Claire, the Siegels were highly satisfied with the care she received, and Mr. Siegel shared what he called "a simple but beautiful example of the quality of care." He spoke of how the Villa's nutritionist would review the next day's menu with Mrs. Harris every evening. "Near the end, when she couldn't communicate and no one could communicate with her," he recounted, "the nutritionist would still go and speak with her."

The only thing missing from the Villa, Jo Anne Siegel determined, were tangible Jewish symbols "to give families added comfort and strength." So, on November 11, less than four months after Mrs. Harris transitioned*, about two dozen Siegel family members and friends assembled at Villa Marie Claire to present Holy Name's President/CEO Michael Maron and Jean Leone, RN, BS, MS, CALA, Executive Director/Administrator, Hospice and Palliative Services and Villa Marie Claire, with a bronze Star of David, engraved in memory of Shirley Harris. Immediately following the presentation, the star was hung upon the wall in the vestibule of the Villa's Interfaith Sanctuary.

Passionate about the Villa's interfaith philosophy, Ms. Leone said that while the sanctuary has been interfaith in spirit and practice, she looks forward to introducing more visible manifestations of Holy Name's commitment to religious and culturally sensitive care. She told the Siegels, "We are creating an interfaith chapel with symbols of other faiths, and we are starting this dedication, thanks to you."

Rabbi Steven Kapnick, a spiritual counselor at Villa Marie Claire, discussed how the Villa "strives to provide patients with excellent and appropriate care in the twilight years as they continue their journey... The Star of David will enable us to extend an added comfort for our Jewish residents, as we do for all our residents." The rabbi read from the Book of Proverbs, likening Mrs. Harris to the wife and mother about which King Solomon spoke. "Her worth," he quoted, "is far beyond pearls...she is clothed in strength and dignity..."

Rabbi Ben Shull from the Siegels' synagogue, further explained that Mrs. Harris personified the essential traditions of Judaism, as symbolized by the Star of David. He noted her "commitment to life-long learning" and her inquisitive nature, "always questioning, looking to find out why, why, why."

Mr. Maron concluded the ceremony, noting, "People often ask why a Catholic organization would embrace Judaism as much as we have. We strongly believe that, to acknowledge people of other faiths makes all of our lives better. The principles of faith, we all share. We are all God's children. There is no greater tribute to who we are and what we stand for than this Star of David."

Death as a natural part of life

Villa Marie Claire is a residential hospice like no other in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area. Everything about the Villa-its family-focused philosophy, the interfaith/interculturally educated healthcare team, welcoming overnight accommodations for loved ones-speaks to a profound belief that quality can be achieved at every stage of life, no matter an individual's medical diagnosis or physical and cognitive abilities.

The Villa advocates "living the journey" by providing resources, tools and a compassionate presence to residents and families. Hospice frees patients from intrusive medical interventions, repeated ER visits and unnecessary hospitalizations, allowing them to be present in the moment and live for today. The goal is to create an environment in which this chapter of life's journey may be spent with dignity and comfort, with patient, caregivers and loved ones functioning as partners.

A key aspect of patient care focuses on fostering a pain-free existence through symptom management and supportive therapies. In conjunction with pain and symptom management, the Villa offers a broad range of integrative therapies-such as massage, art therapy, pet therapy and music therapy-to instill physical, emotional and spiritual well-being and allow patients to experience pleasure and comfort.

For more information about Holy Name Medical Center's Villa Marie Claire, kindly contact 201-833-3188 or email Persons interested in making a charitable donation or a gift in honor of a loved one may call the Holy Name Health Care Foundation at 201-833-3105.

* Hospice staff refer to death as "transition" to characterize the natural passing from one stage of life into the next.

From left to right: Shawn Siegel, Bertram Siegel and Jo Anne Siegel with Jean Leone, Executive Director/Administrator, Hospice and Palliative Services and Villa Marie Claire; and Michael Maron, President/CEO, Holy Name Medical Center.

Jo Anne Siegel positions the Star of David on the wall adjacent to Villa Marie Claire's Interfaith Sanctuary. The star is engraved in memory of Jo Anne Siegel's mother, Shirley Harris. Holy Name's Michael Maron, President/CEO; and Villa Spiritual Counselor Rabbi Steven Kapnick are at right.