On March 18 — the same night more than 100 people came out to honor her for one generous act — Long Branch philanthropist Ruth Hyman performed another.
Extolling Hyman for her 2014 gift enabling the VNA Health Group to launch hospice efforts consistent with Jewish tradition, Karen Rafiqi, VNA’s director of major gifts, also praised Hyman for yet another “major league donation.”
Calling the unspecified new gift “one of the largest ever received by VNA in its 103-year history,” Rafiqi said it would provide the impetus for the association to develop an advanced care institute.
In gratitude, the Red Bank-based VNA, formerly known as the Visiting Nurse Association, has named both initiatives for Hyman: The Ruth Hyman Spiritual Support in the Jewish Tradition Hospice Program and the new Ruth Hyman Advanced Care Institute.
Hyman, the owner of Ruth Hyman Fashions, is a member of Congregation Brothers of Israel in Elberon and served for decades as president of Long Branch Hadassah. She had been a lay leader of a number of area Jewish organizations, including Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County, and the Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ. Among the other organizations she has supported are American Red Magen David for Israel, Daughters of Miriam, AMIT, Israel Bonds, and the Central Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged.
The highlight of the March 18 Celebration of Life event was the dedication of a Tree of Life Gifts of Remembrance Donor Wall displayed in the VNA lobby.
Focusing on the hospice activity, VNA president and CEO Steven Landers saluted the team that does such difficult work and praised Hyman for supporting their labors.
“The United States will soon have 80 million senior adults, and this presents great challenges to organizations like VNA,” said Landers.
He disputed the notion that going into hospice means all hope is gone. “We should look it as a time for reframing our life experience,” he said.
On hand to honor Hyman were more than a half-dozen area rabbis, including Rabbi Nathan Langer, VNA’s full-time Jewish spiritual care counselor.
“VNA staff members receive in-house training in Jewish death and dying, and mourning practices from the Jewish chaplain and other staff members who have attended training given by the National Institute for Jewish Hospice,” said Langer.
“When staff members have questions with reference to Jewish patients and/or their families, they are referred to the Jewish chaplain. The goal is to have a Jewish chaplain assigned to Jewish patients.”
Rabbi Binyomin Newmark, director of Batya, a youth group for teenage girls, said no matter how observant or nonobservant an individual has been over the years, he or she frequently wants to be comforted in the final days of life by something familiar and traditional. He praised Hyman for providing much of the funding needed to set up and run VNA Group’s Jewish-accented hospice care alternative.
Also honoring Hyman were Rabbi Nasanayl Braun of Congregation Brothers of Israel and Rabbi Yosef Carlbach of Chabad at Rutgers and Congregation Sons of Israel, Ocean Township.
Rabbi Yaakov Greenberg, who serves at Chabad of the Shore in Long Branch and Chabad of Monmouth University in West Long Branch, said, “I have known Ruth since I was three years old, running up and down the aisles at Congregation Brothers of Israel.”
In a release that came out when the gift was first announced, Hyman said, “I contribute to many causes, and the care that the VNA Health Group hospice program provides is extremely worthwhile.
“It does my heart good to support a program that helps so many people.”