Judaism Your Way



I’m Afraid to Die.

I’m Afraid to Die.
By Rabbi Amanda Schwartz

I’m afraid to die. What will be my legacy after I’m no longer living? What should happen to my body after I’m no longer using it? These deeply human feelings and questions all come up for Abraham, one of the Jewish patriarchs, in the Torah reading assigned to this Shabbat. Considering that many of us think about these issues frequently, it’s no surprise that our ancestors did as well. In fact, given the number of conversations that have come up with Judaism Your Way community members over the past year about end-of-life issues, it is clear that our community members are asking the same types of questions as our ancestor Abraham in this week’s Torah.

Luckily, Judaism has a lot to say about death and dying. In fact, I believe that Jewish traditions around end of life are some of the most moving and profound in all of Judaism.
The word in Hebrew for funeral is “Levayah,” which means to “escort” or “accompany.” In the coming year, one of the areas that Judaism Your Way will be exploring is how we might best “accompany” our community members who are exploring end of life issues or who have lost loved ones. And while there is a deep well of Jewish traditions to guide us in this week, we believe in doing Judaism OUR Way and want to make sure we are offering support in ways that are the most helpful and meaningful to our community. We already have a few programs planned, which I’ll mention in a moment, but we need your creativity and heart to help us. We will be holding a brainstorm around this topic on November 21 and hope that you will come. If you would like to attend, please email me at Amanda@JudaismYourWay.org.

On October 28, we will be partnering with Dr. Kimberly Fisher and Feldman’s mortuary to for an important and loving conversation about how we want to live at the end of our lives. You will learn how to talk to the people in your life about what you want to happen if you can no longer make medical decisions for yourself. You will walk away with tools to share your wishes calmly and clearly with your people.

To learn more and register, visit: www.judaismyourway.org/care-planning

This past year, Jamie Sarche from Feldman’s kindly joined a class I was teaching on ritual, to share about end of life rituals. The class had so many questions that it became clear that one session was not enough! Jamie and I will be co-teaching a class this winter on Judaism, death and dying rituals so stay tuned for more info on that.
One of my first jobs out of college was working at a large synagogue in NYC and managing their Hevra Kaddisha, a group of volunteers who helped to care for synagogue members who had died or who lost loved ones. The phrase “Hevra Kaddisha” literally means “Sacred Community.” Though there are so many fears and questions around end of life, this time truly can be sacred. We hope you will join us as we create community around this sacred moment.

Amanda Schwartz, Rabbi