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“I asked her, ‘Wouldn’t you visit the sick even if you weren’t a rebbetzin but simply a good Jew?’

“She said this was not for her and hung up. I have no idea if she married the rabbi.”


* * * * *

No article about Rebbetzin Shirley Lamm would be complete without a mention of the National Institute for Jewish Hospice. Rabbi Lamm was the founder and president of Jewish Hospice. He started it in 1985, the year they were leaving Los Angeles. He was the first Orthodox rabbi of the Los Angeles Federation, which gave him the seed money to look into whether a Jewish Hospice was necessary. Indeed it was, and that was the beginning.

“I worked for him and it grew,” says Shirley, “and today there are Hospice doctors, nurses, social workers, etc., from twenty states all learning how to care for the Jewish terminally ill.”

Today Shirley Lamm is the executive director of Jewish Hospice, running everything. “But it is my husband’s name that still keeps it going,” she proudly states.

What keeps her going these days?

“My dear husband, whom I owe everything to (after my parents). I am in awe of his writing. His book The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning has sold over half a million copies. I’m thrilled when I hear him speak. It gives me energy, especially his great will to keep going despite physical infirmities.

“I also live and breathe my eighteen grandchildren and twenty-six great-grandchildren, bli ayin hara, some of whom have made aliyah.

“For my 80th birthday last December, my granddaughter made a party for me at her home. During the festivities I looked up to heaven and said, ‘You see, Zaidie, every one of them is frum.’”


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Naomi Klass Mauer is the co-publisher of The Jewish Press.