The conversation is growing. The fifth annual TEAM Shabbos was held on Shabbos VaY’chi, January 11, and rabbis in over 525 shuls and more than 225 communities across North America enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to discuss end-of-life issues. TEAM stands for Traditional End-of-Life Awareness Movement, and TEAM Shabbos, a project of NASCK (the National Association of Chevra Kadisha), encourages and empowers an estimated 100,000 people to have these difficult but essential conversations.
Rabbis from Teaneck to Toronto annually dedicate Parshas VaY’chi to addressing topics such as the inherent sanctity and value of life, the importance of making proper medical decisions, preparing wills in accordance with halachah, and encouraging all Jews to embrace traditional Jewish burial practices.
“TEAM Shabbos was a national success, with overwhelming positive feedback. Many of the rabbanim who presented shiurim on end-of-life matters were surprised at the positive and accepting attitude that their communities responded with,” said Rabbi Elchonon Zohn, the founding president of NASCK and creator of TEAM Shabbos. “I have heard from rabbis who participated that the prevailing sentiment in their k’hilos was ‘It’s about time we talked about this.’”
“TEAM Shabbos provides a very important venue for people to hear and talk about these sensitive topics in a neutral and responsible manner,” said one Brooklyn rabbi. “TEAM Shabbos opens the door to a safe space for talking about these difficult subjects,” says Rabbi Avi Billet, of Anshei Chesed in Boynton Beach, Florida, “especially for those in their retirement years.”
So, what’s next for NASCK and TEAM Shabbos?
“Not only will we continue to keep the discussion open and generate awareness of the inherent sanctity and value of life, we will encourage people to take action on these matters. Regardless of the age or demographic of your shul or community, the need for this program is real and significant, whether the information pertains to the shul members themselves or their relatives. One person may need to sign a halachic living will; another may need to speak to a nonobservant relative about the importance of burial rather than cremation. We have a wealth of material on the TEAM Shabbos website to support people in taking their next steps,” says Rabbi Zohn. “And, of course, we look forward to expanding participation in the TEAM next Parshas VaY’chi.”
To download a Halachic Living Will, visit www.nasck.org/1-2-3. After having filled out a Halachic Living Will, you can order EMES Cards, which ensure that your Halachic Living Will information is with you in case of an emergency. Contact NASCK at 718-847-6280 or visit www.nasck.org/1-2-3.
For help when opening a conversation about the importance of burial with people who are considering cremation, visit www.nasck.org/cremation-2 or call us at 718-847-6280.