The Community of Care

Just off the red-eye from Seattle, Washington. A beautiful city with wonderful people. I was in Seattle for some of my Union for Reform Judaism work on our project on aging and baby  boomers and spent Sunday with the Jewish Family Service speaking at a gathering that explored the “art” of care-giving. Several dozens of people gathered on a 70 degrees sunny day to talk and share issues and stories about their own journeys and how Jewish texts could provide a guide for this experience. It is truly amazing that this session brings out such powerful emotions amongst the attendees. Everyone has  a story and each story, while similar, is unique.

Rabbi Richard AddressThat fact came across again in great detail and is worth reviewing. The fact is the subjective or contextual aspect of this new life stage of care-giver. What seems to be “true” one year changes as the context of the care-giver relationship changes. How one defines what a person’s “quality of life” is can evolve and change as the contexts of life evolve. The “wild card” of medical technology is the driving force in this point of view. Many people right now, are faced with having to make decisions about levels of care while trying to balance this sometimes elusive value of quality of life. This conversation came up again at this conference, as it does at almost every session. We wish to preserve a person’s dignity and quality of life, and yet struggle when we see contexts change so that this dignity and quality seem to be hard to gauge. There is no hard and fast rule. Like life itself, change is the only constant.

What this also points out, and this again was trumpeted loud and clear, is the need for families to have “the conversation” about treatment and decision making as life ebbs. There are a multitude of resources out there now that provide forms and guidance which allow families to have this conversation. Increasingly, religious communities are sponsoring programs that guide a person or family on how to make decisions from their particular faith perspective. The ability to have a conversation that is not embraced in crises, can be a gift that families can give themselves. It is invaluable that we know what our wishes are and that our family members are clear on those wishes, even if some might disagree. This conversation can reduce stress and avoid intra family disputes at a time when such agitation is most counter productive. What also is important to remember is that, given the changing nature of technology and one’s own points of view on these issues, a regular review of the decisions becomes essential.

This is not easy. It is often painful to have this conversation, yet, as we learned again at this Seattle gathering, such conversations are now part of life.


Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min.



  1. As Baby Boomers, we are experiencing becoming caretakers and then unfortunately, dealing with the loss of loved ones. After my beloved Mother passed away, I found myself turning to the internet for help and then created a free resource to help “Sit Shiva.” provides informative articles and a “Shiva Registry” system to privately post funeral & shiva details to quickly and conveniently share with family and friends. It includes answers to who, what , where when and how many, family charitable requests, interactive directions, a calendar of food expected for each day and where to order shiva platters.
    Creating a personal “Shiva Registry” helps to coordinate the bereavement period and minimize unnecessary phone calls, confusion and wasted food. It maximizes the number of well-wishers who extend their condolences and make charitable contributions.
    All Hospices, Synagogues and Jewish Charities are welcomed to complimentary links to their websites to facilitate memorial donations and access to our “Shiva Registry” system.
    Please visit to learn more about using modern technology to help practice an ancient tradition.

  2. Dear Rabbi Address,

    Thank you for your vital work in this area. I think it should be noted that, even when “the conversation” is initiated, what is generally neglected is the entire realm of sacred decision-making for *levayah*–literally, how we “accompany” each other on the final steps of the human journey to return to the earth.

    “SACRED UNDERTAKING: Embracing Life by Caring for the Dead” ( seeks to bridge this gap in our communities of care. Participants will gain a practical and spiritual grounding in the powerful sacred traditions of honoring the dead–practices that console the bereaved, enrich the lives of those who serve, and strengthen the bonds of human connection across generations. Our goal is to gather both clergy and lay leaders from the many synagogues that seek to bring their caring community development to the next level, and to send them home with the knowledge and skills they need to move forward at their own pace.

    I hope that you will consider expanding your project on aging and baby boomers to help reclaim the sacred specifics of these choices–with their deep implications for kindness, justice, and sustainability of the earth itself. We would be grateful for your partnership.

    With deep appreciation and many blessings for the Season of Revelation and beyond,

    Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips, MSW, MPH

    “In cities of diversity…we sustain the poor…and visit the sick…
    and bury the dead…and comfort the bereaved…for these are ways of peace.”
    (Jerusalem Talmud, Tractate Gittin)

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