HAMAQOM | The Place (formerly Lehrhaus Judaica), the Gamliel Institute, Sinai Memorial Chapel, and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center present “Walking in the Valley of the Shadow … and Not Being Afraid,” a series of discussions about the challenging issues surrounding death and dying. Sessions focus on advance directives and final wishes; Jewish laws, customs, and traditions concerning the body and burial; the art of comforting the sick and the bereaved; mourning and grieving; and Jewish perspectives on the afterlife.
This will be an inclusive environment where people of all ages, sexualities, gender identities, nationalities, ethnicities, and religious backgrounds are invited to join the conversation. We also encourage individuals from the former Soviet Union, Israel, intermarried families, and Jews by choice to attend. Many in our community are “born there and die here,” and differences in customs and manners can be confusing and frustrating, all the more so during times of grief.
Participants can register for any class and can pick and choose any number of sessions. Sessions are $10 each and do not have to be taken in order. Registration is open until the day before the session.
To register, click on the session you want to attend on the grid below.
Questions? Please call 510.845.6420 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Walking in the Valley sessions have been moved online.
Once you register, the facilitator will send you the link for the Zoom session.
The Other Conversation: Talking With Your Family About Your Final Wishes
This session will address the best ways to talk with family about personal preferences for final wishes and suggestions on how to navigate scenarios where there might be differing beliefs. Topics include funeral planning, choosing a cemetery, picking a plot for cremains, stillbirths, and interment, financial planning and the money conversation, and issues facing interfaith/intermarried families.
Making Choices: Advance Directives and Final Wishes
This session will demystify advance ethical wills, planning, and ethical dilemmas such as extending life, organ donation, genetic testing, abortion, autopsy, stem cell usage, and the differences between a DNR and a POLST. This course also has a practical aspect where actual forms will be examined and explained.
Dying / Death / Burial: What Jews Do
In this session, you will become confident and comfortable with Vidui (the Jewish way of last words), Jewish laws, customs, and traditions about dying, performing tahara (preparing the body), the funeral service, and issues concerning burial and cremation.
The Art of Comfort
Judaism provides much needed guidance for family, friends, and caregivers when visiting the sick and consoling the bereaved. This session aims to support caregivers and mourners surrounding topics like sitting shiva, conversational etiquette (what to say and what not to say), and how to comfort the self.
Mourning and Grief: After the Death
This session will address Kaddish basics, what the Jewish tradition says about mourning, grief, and memory, and how to gather community support. We will create a safe place to share special cases of death such as stillbirth, neonatal, suicide, physician-assisted death, sudden, and traumatic death. The customs of the first year of mourning (sheloshim) will also be discussed.
When Life Is Over: Where Is Your Soul? Jewish Perspectives on the Afterlife
We will survey the diverse range of Jewish conceptions of the soul, the afterlife, resurrection, and reincarnation, and reflect on the big questions at the end of life.
Samuel J. Salkin is the executive director of Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco and has extensive managerial and leadership experience in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors. He received his BS and MS from Cornell University and is a licensed funeral director. Sam also self-published a book in 2018 entitled, Reflections on Jewish Death and Mourning, a collection of 23 essays by contemporary Jewish thinkers, many of them in the Bay Area.
Edna Stewart is a member of the Gamliel Institute and the coordinator of the multi-part Taste of Gamliel webinars. She has been an educator for over 30 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Columbia University in Public Health Administration. A member of Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, CA she is the co-chair of the Chevra Kadisha and holds “Death Cafes” and a series of classes called, “The Elephant in the Room,” which focuses on Jewish end-of-life practices.
Rabbi Stuart Kelman
Rabbi Stuart Kelman has served as the Dean of the Gamliel Institute, which he created with David Zinner to train leaders in the Chevra Kadisha movement in North America who are focussed on reclaiming the mitzvot of k’vod hameit (respect for the dead) and nihum aveylim (consoling the bereaved). A graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary, he holds a PhD in Sociology of Education from USC. Rabbi Stuart also served as an assistant professor of Jewish Education at HUC in LA and was one of the founders of the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education.
Abra Greenspan is the Director of Learning at Congregation Etz Chayim in Palo Alto and has worked in Jewish education for over 30 years, including 12 years as the Director of Youth Education at Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco. She holds a BA in Religious Studies, an MA in Japanese Language and Literature from Stanford University, and an MS in Jewish Education from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago. Abra is also the recipient of the 2018 Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan
Rabbi Wolf-Prusan is currently the Chief Program Officer and Senior Educator at HAMAQOM, where he focuses on community education for the Bay Area through conferences, retreats, tours, and text circles. From 1990 to 2010, he served Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco as Rabbi and Educator and in 2002, he was awarded the Covenant Award in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the transmission of Jewish knowledge, values, and identity. Rabbi Wolf-Prusan received his MAHL and Rabbinic degrees at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Dan Fendel is the men’s chair and co-founder of the Chevrah Kadisha in his own congregation, Temple Sinai in Oakland, and has been a member of the Chevrah Kadisha of Beth Jacob Congregation in Oakland for more than 15 years. He was in the first cohort of the Gamliel Institute, and is now Dean of Students for Gamliel. Dan also did volunteer grief support work for the Shanti Project and Namaste in the San Francisco area for 20 years and is now a Spiritual Care Volunteer at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.
Rabbi Elliot Kukla
Elliot Kukla is the first openly transgender person to be ordained by the Reform Jewish seminary Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles and is currently the rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco, providing spiritual care to those struggling with illness, grieving, or dying. Elliot trained in chaplaincy at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, specializing in mental health at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. Before moving to San Francisco, he served congregations in Toronto, Canada, West Hollywood, CA and Lubbock, TX.
Rabbi Me’irah Iliinsky
Rabbi Me’irah Iliinsky is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA. She is currently Community Rabbi at Rhoda Goldman Plaza in San Francisco and teaches Parashat ha Shavua at the JCCSF. Iliinsky was the illustrator of the National Jewish Book Award Winner, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, published by the URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ). Rabbi Me’irah has worked as a clinical social worker, congregational rabbi, teacher, artist, and a hospital and hospice chaplain.
Additional support for “Walking in the Valley of the Shadow … And Not Being Afraid,” provided by Drs. Richard and Tricia Gibbs.