It has been a busy few weeks. Two teaching weekends at congregations provided us with a lot of energy and great conversation. Many thanks to Isaiah in Fulton, MD and Sinai in Brookline, MA along with Rabbis Axler and Vogel. We covered a wide range of issues at these congregations; from new rituals to care-giving to a lot of discussions on end of life issues.
This issue continues to grow in importance with our generation. Perhaps it is the gnawing realization amongst many of us that we are actually mortal. So many of us have been or are active care-givers and that certainly has an impact. What is true, in increasing numbers, is that so many of us DO wish to have our wishes known regarding how we wish to live out our life. The Jewish texts and traditions are rich in providing guidance on this issue. Likewise, increasingly, organizations and agencies are providing opportunities to facilitate conversations around the challenges of making what we call “sacred” decisions.
On this recent trip to Boston, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Rev. Rosemary Lloyd. She is in charge of reaching out to faith communities for the Conversation Project. This organization, one of many, is dedicated to providing material to allow people to “have the conversation” about end of life issues. They have created “starter kits” that walk people though some challenging questions related to this delicate and difficult subject. This is a conversation that often takes time to mature. It is necessary to lay the groundwork, so to speak. This material helps do that. The success of books like Gawande’s “Being Mortal” has also helped break down the barriers of denial around this issue as has, in some ways, the rise in legislation that allows choices in dying. There is a wave that is ever so slowly building.
The need to discuss these issues with our families is crucial. To wait until a crises only heightens the stress and strain on families. There are so many issue that need to be addressed, including the various forms and laws that can and do impact the carrying out of wishes. The starter kit is available through www.theconversationproject.org and you can e-mail them, if you wish, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.