On Dec. 20, the hospice unit at Sinai Hospital dedicated its new kosher kitchen to the late Laure Gutman, a local nurse, longtime volunteer and passionate advocate for end-of-life care.
Sinai only opened its inpatient hospice unit a little more than one year ago, and it is managed by Seasons Hospice and Palliative Care, a large hospice company owned by a Jewish family in Chicago. The unit at Sinai has 12 patient rooms, and Dr. Gary
Applebaum, nat-ional medical director of Seasons, said that, like the
hospital, 10 to 15 percent of their patients at any given time are Jewish.
“The key of the hospice unit is for it to be supportive and comfortable for patients, as well as family,” he said.
With that in mind, the Sinai hospice has had plans for a kosher kitchen from the beginning (the space already has a regular kitchen area), but it only came to fruition recently. As they were beginning the process, Applebaum said, he was introduced to Gutman, and she was integral in its construction.
The dedication was a way to honor her legacy, of course, but it was also seen as a way to combat the stereotype among some religious communities, including sometimes in the Orthodox community, of hospice care as “giving up,” said Applebaum.
Gutman was never one to toot her own horn, says her daughter, Ariella Gardyn, but “this was the one thing she never argued against.”
Along with Gardyn and Applebaum, the dedication included Gutman’s sister — who came from Israel and created a painting to hang in the kitchen — Rabbis Yissocher Frand, E.B. “Bunny” Freedman and Daniel Rose and other LifeBridge Health officials.
After a few people spoke, blessings were recited over two mezuzahs, which were hung on the doors of the area, and a plaque was unveiled. It read, “Kosher Kitchen: Dedicated in loving memory of Laure Gutman, a Seasons Hospice volunteer. She graced us all with her selfless devotion to her family and our entire community, using her strength and faith to make the world a more beautiful place.”
“It just feels good on my end that we did it for her, to honor her,” Gardyn said. “It was the last project she didn’t finish.”
The kitchen will be available to patients and families in the hospice unit and some food will be provided by Bikur Cholim of Baltimore, a volunteer organization that helps Jewish families facing medical challenges. Gutman was also an active member of that group, which also provides food for the kosher pantry at Sinai.
For Gutman, her Jewish faith was tied up in her desire to help people.
“She had amazing, amazing faith and amazing trust and belief,” Gardyn said. “I was lucky to be able to grow up with her.”