RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • Having “THE” Conversation

    Posted on April 7th, 2013 Special Contributor No comments
    Share

     

    The longevity revolution has sparked many a new reality. One of them is the growing need for families to set up a time to engage aging parents (and themselves) in a conversation about wishes at the end for life. The advances in medical technology, coupled with the expanded life expectancy of baby boomers and their parents, have made these conversations ever more necessary. I am often asked to do on this issue, as well as on the subject of care-giving , I stress the importance of congregations having an annual session on how Judaism looks at end of life issues. This includes not only the texts that inform these discussions, but an overview of State or Provincial laws that will impact these decisions. With a growing number of states in the USA passing or considering “Death With Dignity” laws, this issue will only grow in relevance.

    April 16 has been dedicated as National HealthCare Decision Day. That week would be a perfect time to develop a program, a sermon, or convene a conversation that will raise the issue from within Jewish values and texts. This is a delicate subject to raise with our parents. Maybe even more so with our own spouse. Yet, as many of your know, having the conversation and documenting that conversation via an Advanced Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney, can reduce a significant amount of stress in moments of crises and help to alleviate potential guilt.

    Author: Rabbi Richard Address

    Congregations can be a excellent source of strength and support for families having to make these decisions. The role of the relationship developed and maintained over years, can be a foundation for a person and family feeling cared for and supported. By having the congregation initiate these conversation, it can also provide a sense of meaning to congregations who might otherwise be bereft of adequate knowledge in these areas.

    Having the conversation about one’s wishes for the final phase of life requires some time and planning.

    Make sure that the parties involved agree that they will be having this converation: no surprises! Create an environment that is supportive to this conversation. Take your time. Sometimes the conversation may go off into memories and moments that may bring tears and/or laughter. This is part of the conversation and is very important. Raise issues that we know can cause some concern; i.e. what are your wishes if the medical condition is such that there is nothing more that can be done? It is often helpful to use a template on which to base the conversation. There are numerous books and forms available from hospitals, doctor’s offices, religious groups, etc. It may be advisable to discuss one’s religious views regarding end of life care and be aware of the views of the person’s faith.It is also helpful to be familiar with local options for Palliative Care and Hospice Care. It is important to understand these terms and how they can be of benefit in certain circumstances. Additionally, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state.

    Sometimes these discussions may be met with defensiveness. Try and approach this discussion from a perspective of family unity. “We want to make sure your wishes are honored and that there is no confusion, should the case arise that decisions have to be made.” Remember that as important as an Advanced Directive may be, equally important is the Power of Attorney for Health Care. This document allows a designated care-giver to make decisions for someone if that person is unable to speak for themselves.

    And again, please remember to re-visit these documents every few years as people’s minds, life circumstances and medical technology can and will change.

    Rabbi Richard F Address, D.Min is the rabbi at M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ and the founder of Jewish Sacred Aging.

    Share
  • Advice for Jewish Professionals: What Every Grad Should Know 6

    Posted on February 1st, 2012 Ruth Abusch-Magder No comments
    Share

    Inspired by last week’s posts on advice to those searching for jobs as Jewish professionals ahead of graduation, a few of the rabbis of the Women’s Rabbinic Network added a few gems that have been helpful to them as they have moved forward in their careers. Thanks to everyone for sharing! Short and sweet, this is a list not to be missed!

     

     

    Rabbi Barbara Metzinger who is currently doing CPE training: I was told to memorize the Hebrew of the 23rd Psalm. Invaluable.

     

    Robin Leonard Nafshi Similarly, I was told to memorize the Hebrew of Birkhat HaKohanim

     

    Alona Lisitsa I was taught that there are many ways to be successful.

     

    Lisa Levenberg Always have a few sentences in your head to say about the parsha.

     

    Elisa Koppel For that matter, Lisa…make sure you always know what the parashah is. :)

    Always know the official names of rooms in the synagogue. The person for whom it is named got that honor for a reason.

    Make a point to thank other staff (especially support staff) publicly and regularly.

    Carry a copy of the Rabbi’s Manual in the car.

     

    Toby Manewith Building from what Lisa said: always have a few words suitable to event you’re attending. You never know when the person scheduled to give the invocation, etc., will be late. Learn something about every member of the staff with whom you work. Find something to connect over – music, kids, sports, food, books, television…. Take time to connect with everyone for a few minutes every week.

     

    Ilana Greenfield Baden offered two pieces of advice. -From a somewhat weary rabbinic mentor: If you want to be a rabbi, you have to love the Jewish people; and the Jewish people can be a very difficult people to love… From a more optimistic mentor: Always have at least three routes from your home to the temple – just in case there is traffic or weather…

    Ilyse Glickman and a few of her classmates from HUC-JIR NYC remembered a particularly witty song written and preformed by Reni Dickman at the annual fundraiser for the soup kitchen run by the students. The original version of the words seems to be lost to history but Lisa Levenberg remembered the chorus. Everyone agrees the advice is spot on!

     

    “always get directions to the cemetery plot

    especially when the day is blisteringly hot.

    If you’re traveling alone

    make sure you’ve got your cell phonnnnnne

    so you can always get directions to the cemetery plot!”

     

    Share
  • Advice for Jewish Professionals: What Every Grad Should Know 5

    Posted on January 27th, 2012 Ruth Abusch-Magder 1 comment
    Share

    What advice has helped shape your career? What advice would you give new grads? Across the country and the graduating class of 2012 is thick in the depths of searching for jobs.  Each day this week, different alumni of the college will be sharing advice for the class of 2012, as a way of welcoming those who will soon join our ranks.

    Join the conversation. What has been essential to your success? What do you wish you had known? Please add your own advice to any or all of the posts!

    As we close in on Shabbat, we offer two different rabbinic perspectives

    by Rabbi Judith Abrams of Maqom

    The instructions are always the same: figure out what God wants you to do, then go do it.  If you’re still alive after completing your mission, God will give you another one.  And don’t be afraid of not making enough money.  God will always make it possible for you to make a living while you’re doing your mission.  You may not live in a mansion, but you’ll be ok.  How do you know what God wants you to do?  Find your bliss….that’s where the mission is.

    Author Judith Abrams

    What happens when you finish a mission?  You have to learn to let go of the trapeze bar you’re on and fly through the air to catch the next trapeze bar.  The next bar always appears.  And if you insist on hanging to your present bar, you’re not just messing up your own life, you’re clogging the works for everyone else.  The bar you’ve outgrown is the perfect bar for someone else.  They can’t move forward until you let go. And if you insist on holding on to that bar…woe betide you.  First God will gently tap your fingers.  If you don’t move, God will make the stimulus more painful and ever more painful as you persist in your stubbornness.  Finally, it will come to a choice of so much pain that it will kill you or you finally fly.  Once you finally fly, you’ll soar over that bit of space where you were stuck for so long.  And you’ll marvel that, instead of falling, you’re flying.

    The first time that you fly through that space between the two bars you might feel frightened but once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll actually enjoy that sensation of flying.

    And finally, never, ever believe your own press.  Nothing contaminates spirituality, art and your mission more than ego-contamination.

    by Rabbi Geoffrey Mitelman

    Know your strengths and weaknesses — and I don’t mean “what you’re good at” and “what you’re bad at.” Marcus Buckingham, author of the outstanding book “Go Put Your Strengths to Work,” defines a strength as “something that energizes you” and a weakness as “something that drains you.” In other words, a strength is something that makes you feel strong, and a weakness is something that makes you feel weak.

    Author Geoffrey Mitelman

    So as you explore your strengths, think about these questions: What are your natural talents? What gets you passionate? What are the kinds of things that would be enjoyable challenges for you? What are the kinds of things you’d be excited to learn more about?

    And as you explore your weaknesses, think about these questions: What are the kinds of things that, if you never had to do them again, it would be too soon? What activities do you find putting off because you don’t want to do them? What do you find emotionally exhausting?

    Your goal should be finding a job that allows you to maximize your time using your strengths, and minimize your time using your weaknesses. Since the rabbinate is not a typical job, if you can find a position where you can frequently say, “I can’t wait to do this!” and infrequently have to say, “Ugh, I have to do this?!”, then you will find tremendous energy, fulfillment, and joy in your work.

    Share
  • Advice for Jewish Professionals: What Every Grad Should Know 4

    Posted on January 26th, 2012 Ruth Abusch-Magder No comments
    Share

    What advice has helped shape your career? What advice would you give new grads? Across the country and the graduating class of 2012 is thick in the depths of searching for jobs. Each day this week, different alumni of the college will be sharing advice for the class of 2012, as a way of welcoming those who will soon join our ranks.

    Join the conversation. What has been essential to your success? What do you wish you had known? Please add your own advice to any or all of the posts!

     

    by Cantor Erik Contzius of Temple Israel of New Rochelle, New York

    Remember that as klei kodesh we serve the Jewish people. Sometimes that service leads us to places we never expected when we entered the Seminary. My first pulpit was in Omaha, Nebraska–not a place I had ever in my life I expected to visit, let alone live. It was a wonderful and enriching experience. Sometimes that service leads us to do things far beyond our comfort zone. This is the demand of being a “Professional Jew.” This is a career and a calling of service.

    Author Erik Contzius

    Be ready for the unexpected. While in Nebraska, through a very large series of events, I would up having someone accused of a white collar crime living in our apartment under house arrest for 3 1/2 months! For me, this was an issue of pikuakh nefesh–it was in the newspapers, some congregants were uncomfortable, but I had to do what I felt was the right and just thing. Hopefully you won’t go through that exact experience, but you never know.

    Get in therapy. Therapists see other therapists so that they can treat their patients better. We need to do the same. Our profession demands our constant presence for others. Heed Hillel’s words: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

    We are still people. Just because we are clergy or have a Masters Degree from HUC does not make us “above” anyone else. Sometimes congregants will put us up on unnatural pedestals. Don’t buy into the hype! We are all weak, all fallible, all human, everyone of us. Don’t forget it!

     

     

    Share
  • Advice for Jewish Professionals: What Every Grad Should Know 3

    Posted on January 25th, 2012 Ruth Abusch-Magder No comments
    Share

    What advice has helped shape your career? What advice would you give new grads? Across the country and the graduating class of 2012 is thick in the depths of searching for jobs. Each day this week, different alumni of the college will be sharing advice for the class of 2012, as a way of welcoming those who will soon join our ranks.

    Join the conversation. What has been essential to your success? What do you wish you had known? Please add your own advice to any or all of the posts!

    by Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz, The Community Synagogue, Port Washington, NY

    A few days before I started ulpan at HUC in Jerusalem I went to visit Rabbi Hank Skirball, who I had never met before (or since for that matter!). Our visit, however, was memorable because he gave me three sage pieces of advice about the rabbinate:

    - First, loving Judaism … that’s the easy part.  It’s loving the Jews that’s the hard work – and what matters the most. 

    Author Irwin Zeplowitz

     

     

     

     

     


    - Second, always take what you do seriously; just don’t take yourself too seriously.

    - Third, you are never as bad as they will tell you are, and you are never a good as they will tell you are, either.

    His words ring true over the decades – and are wise reminders about loving others, being passionate about the work we do, yet always being humble.  His wise counsel, it seems to me, is not just for rabbis, but for any graduate of HUC-JIR dedicated to a life of Jewish service


    Share
  • Advice for Jewish Professionals: What Every Grad Should Know 1

    Posted on January 23rd, 2012 Ruth Abusch-Magder No comments
    Share

    What advice has helped shape your career? What advice would you give new grads? Across the country and the graduating class of 2012 is thick in the depths of searching for jobs. Each day this week, different alumni of the college will be sharing advice for the class of 2012, as a way of welcoming those who will soon join our ranks.

    Join the conversation. What has been essential to your success? What do you wish you had known? Please add your own advice to any or all of the posts!

    Rabbi Paul Kipnes of Congregation Or Ami

    How We Create Boundaries and Maintain Perspective

    1.      Da Lifnei Mi Ata Omeid (Know before whom you stand). Remember that most issues are not really about you.

    2.    Encourage your congregation to call you before setting funeral times. Be actively in touch with families of those about to die to give them your contact numbers and to ask/instruct them to make you the second call after death.  If Rabbi (not the family) calls mortuary to set time, you have more control over your schedule and your life.

    3.      If you have a partner/spouse, involve your spouse/partner in setting times of funerals and baby namings, and of whether to accept weddings. (Honey, I have a funeral for Sunday and 11 am or 3 pm are available; what’s best for our family?)

    Author Paul Kipnes

    4.      Use your partner/spouse/trusted friend as a “boundary keeper” to strengthen you when you weaken.  When you are considering relaxing your boundaries, check by him/her for a “reality check.”

    5.     Tell your children/spouse/partner whenever you skip a meeting for them.  Skip meetings for them.  Schedule in kids games/events, sometimes in your calendar under assumed names.

    6.      Get thyself a therapist.  Who else is NOT nogei-ah b’davar (not touched by the issue)?  A therapist can help you think through the challenging issues that will arise.

    7.      Make it a policy not to attend any B’nai Mitzvah or Wedding receptions. Explain it to every family with whom you meet.  (“I cannot choose one family over the other; nor can I attend all receptions and still see my family.”)

    8.      Don’t waste time getting bitter.  Do what you have to do, and teach your congregation before next problem.  Every situation is an opportunity for education.

    9. Train your lay leaders to protect your vacations and conferences. Set up a clear process for handling synagogue needs when you are away. Send a detailed coverage plans email to staff/leadership whenever you will be away.

     

     

     

    Share