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What Matters: Caring Conversations about End of Life (Reprinted from the JCC Manhattan Newsletter)

In his best-selling book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande writes, “Our reluctance
to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm
we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.” He
urges us “to refashion our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities
for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.” In response, JCC Manhattan, in
collaboration with the New Jewish Home and the Center for Pastoral Education at
Jewish Theological Seminary, has embarked upon What Matters: Caring
Conversations About End of Life, an advance care planning initiative to enable
individuals in the Jewish community to think about, plan for, and take steps to
ensure that when the time comes, their end-of-life wishes will be respected
and honored.


This initiative, made possible through a generous grant from Plaza Jewish
Community Chapel, builds upon Respecting Choices, a program with proven success
nationwide. In La Crosse, WI, where it began, 96 percent of the residents had an
advance care plan; the national average is 25 percent.


This effort will heighten awareness about the importance of completing advance
care directives and enable individuals to thoughtfully consider and document
their end-of-life preferences—with opportunities to engage Jewish values
as part of the process.


Five pilot sites have been designated for the first phase of this program:
JCC Manhattan, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Central Synagogue, Kehilat Rayim
Ahuvim, and the New Jewish Home.


This initiative will create opportunities for people to connect, grow, and
learn. In the words of JCC Manhattan Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt,
“Thinking about the end of our lives provides us with an extraordinary opportunity
to speak with those whom we love about that which matters most—our hopes,
our values, what makes us happy, what makes us feel safe.” For more information,
email [email protected] Sally Kaplan, Program Director


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