The way we die is the most important conversation Americans are not having. Talking about death is not easy and we’re not used to it, but we believe that this conversation ultimately helps us appreciate the fullness of life.

We have gathered rabbis, theologians, and medical leaders to transform this potentially difficult conversation into one of deep engagement, insight and empowerment that everyone can be a part of. We welcome you to invite friends and family to fill a table. Whether you are a Jewish insider, on the margins or Jewish-adjacent, we welcome you to tap into some age-old Jewish wisdom around grieving and ritual, living and dying.

To bring the project to your larger community, visit our partner page we have ample resources and materials to help make that happen.

How death came to dinner

A couple of years ago at a REBOOT summit in the beautiful mountains of Park City Utah, we (Michael Hebb and Sharon Brous) sat down for a drink. Michael shared the story of a mysterious and unfamiliar feeling of connectedness he experienced the moment of his father’s death when he was a child, and Sharon, a rabbi, said that she had heard many such inexplicable stories from congregants and friends in moments of loss. Michael spoke about the project of his life – a collaboration with his partner Angel Grant – www.DeathOverDinner.org – an effort to facilitate conversations about death… over dinner. After launching the website in 2012, nearly 250,000 death dinners had already taken place across the world, empowering people – young and old, healthy and ill – to talk about the most important and difficult topic – death.

We talked for hours about the desperate need to speak frankly and soulfully about death, and the great void in our lives when this conversation is left until it’s too late. We both agreed that Jewish resources on death and dying were not easy to come by, and it was all too rare to find opportunities to talk about Jewish approaches to end of life matters, Jewish tools to hold grief and the survival of the soul.

The next day, we convened a session to see if others were as interested in this topic as we were. Participants filled the room, tears filled all of our eyes, and we collectively agreed that we needed to do something to help make it easier to have this critical conversation.

We and our team have spent the past year speaking with rabbis, theologians, doctors and palliative care experts, and curating the finest materials we could get our hands on for folks to read, watch and listen in preparation for their dinners. We thought about the best prompts from the Jewish tradition – Talmudic texts, Rabbinic wisdom, song lyrics and poetry – that would open up the conversation at the table. We designed this site to be the beginning of a conversation, not the end. We hope that your dinner will only open you up to deeper learning and engagement.

Why the dinner table? We have found that the dinner table is one of the most forgiving places for difficult conversations. The ritual of breaking bread slows us down, creates warmth and connection, and puts us in touch with our humanity.

So we raise a generous glass to you and your loved ones and humbly submit Death Over Dinner- Jewish Edition, a collaboration between Death Over Dinner, IKAR and Reboot. It is our hope that this project helps change the conversation about how we prepare for and spend our final days, and inspires us to live with more intention and gratitude.

Michael Hebb and Rabbi Sharon Brous

Photos by George Barberis

Advisors

We are grateful for the advice and support of our exceptional Advisory Committee. Our deep appreciation to all involved, and especially to Rabbi Ronit Tsadok and Becca Bubis for coordinating the research process.

Rabbi Sharon Brous

Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR, a thriving Jewish community that stands at the intersection of soulful, inventive spiritual and religious practice and a deep commitment to social...

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Michael Hebb

Michael is the Founder of Deathoverdinner.org, Drugsoverdinner.org, and Seder2015.org. He is a Teaching Fellow at the University of Washington Communication Leadership Graduate Program and a...

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Rabbi Aaron Alexander

Rabbi Aaron Alexander recently moved to Washington DC and joined the Adas Israel team as Associate Rabbi. Until now, he served as Associate Dean and Lecturer in Rabbinics and Jewish Law at the...

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Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson

Rabbi Dr Bradley Shavit Artson (www.bradartson.com) holds the Abner and Roslyn Goldstine Dean’s Chair of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and is Vice President of American Jewish...

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Dr. Erica Brown

Dr. Erica Brown is an educator and the author of ten books. Her latest book is Take Your Soul to Work (Simon and Schuster).

...

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Dr. Ira Byock

Dr. Ira Byock is a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care through the end of life. He serves as Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the...

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Chaplain Muriel Dance

A Board Certified Chaplain and Ph.D. in English, Muriel Dance serves as the Executive Director of the Sandra Caplan Community Bet Din, a membership organization of...

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Rabbi Nate DeGroot

Ordained in 2016 from the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College in Boston and an east coast native, Nate brings a love of community, a curiosity of form and structure...

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Rabbi Elliott Dorff

Elliot N. Dorff, Rabbi, Ph.D., is Rector and Distinguished Service Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University and Visiting Professor at UCLA School of Law. His book, Matters of Life and...

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Rabbi Ed Feinstein

Rabbi Ed Feinstein is senior rabbi of Valley Beth Shalom in Encino, California and an instructor at the Ziegler Rabbinical School of the American Jewish University. Formerly, Rabbi Feinstein served...

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Rabbi Laura Geller

Rabbi Laura Geller came to Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills in 1994. She was the first Reform woman rabbi to be selected through a national search to be the Senior Rabbi of a major metropolitan...

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Dr. Elana Stein Hain

Dr. Elana Stein Hain is the Director of Leadership Education at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, where she serves as a lead faculty member and oversees the content of the Institute’s...

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Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann

Rabbi Lizzi Heydemann is the Rabbi and Founder of Mishkan Chicago, a spiritual community engaging young adults, spiritual seekers of all ages, and others on the fringes of Jewish life through...

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Allison Kestenbaum

Allison Kestenbaum is the Director of Programs and a Clinical Pastoral Educator at the Center for Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary. She trains seminary students of all faith...

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Chaplain Dina Kuperstock

Dina Kuperstock serves as Staff Chaplain at the Motion Picture Television Fund, a non-profit organization which provides health care, social services, and residence...

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Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer

Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer is the President of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America and a leading thinker and author on the meaning of Israel to American Jews, the value of the Jewish past to the...

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Rabbi Noa Kushner

Noah Kushner received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University and was ordained by Hebrew Union College, New York. She then served as the Hillel Rabbi for Sarah Lawrence College and...

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Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie

Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie is the founding spiritual leader of Lab/Shul NYC and the founding director of Storahtelling, Inc. An Israeli-born Jewish educator, writer, and performance artist, he...

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Rabbi Melanie Levav

Melanie is passionate about helping people to talk more openly about death and dying in order to deepen their connections to Jewish tradition and to one another. A native New Yorker, Melanie most...

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Rabbi Joy Levitt

Joy Levitt is the Executive Director at JCC Manhattan. Prior to coming to the JCC, she served as a congregational rabbi on Long Island and in New Jersey. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from...

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Rabbi Stuart Light

Rabbi Light has served as the Assistant Head of School and Director of Judaic Studies for the past 9 years at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle. Prior to these responsibilities, he...

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Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels

Dr. Rabbi James Jacobson-Maisels is the founder of Or HaLev: A Center for Jewish Spirituality and Meditation and has been studying and teaching meditation and Jewish spirituality for over fifteen...

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Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh

Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh has served as Temple Israel’s Associate Rabbi since her ordination from HUC-JIR in 1996. Rabbi Missaghiehalso holds a BA in Art History and Women’s Studies from...

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Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum

On any given day, you might find Rachel meeting with new partners, preparing for life- cycle events, teaching Torah, pondering next year’s budget, or trying to keep her inbox below 1000 new...

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Rabbi Scott Perlo

Scott left the waves of his beloved Pacific Ocean for Sixth & I. Since California is his home, you’ll find him returning to surf or dive any chance he gets. His travels and experiences as a...

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Chaplain Deborah Schmidt

In 2010, Deborah realized how important it was for her to explore, actively and in-depth, what gave her life meaning, and she began a soul-journey. After having...

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Rabbi Mordecai Schwartz

Marcus Mordecai Schwartz currently serves as the Director of the Beit Midrash of The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In that role he also heads the Nishma summer program. Additionally, he...

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Rabbi Elie Spitz

Elie Kaplan Spitz has served as Rabbi of Congregation B’nai Israel, Tustin, CA for the past 28 years. He is the author of many articles and three books for Jewish Lights Publishing: Does the Soul...

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Rabbi Shira Stutman

Rabbi Shira Stutman, director of Jewish Programming at Washington, DC’s innovative Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, was named one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis” by The Jewish Forward in 2013...

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Rabbi Ronit Tsadok

Like many Angelenos, Rabbi Ronit Tsadok is an east coast transplant who came to LA for the sunshine, and also for the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, where she was ordained in 2012.  Through a...

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Shoshana Ungerleider, MD

Shoshana Ungerleider, MD is a an internist practicing hospital medicine at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She received her medical degree from Oregon Health & Science...

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Rabbi Jason Weiner

Rabbi Jason Weiner, BCC, serves as the senior rabbi of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and manager of its Spiritual Care Department, where he is responsible for the chaplaincy team and all aspects of...

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Rabbi David Wolpe

Named the most influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek Magazine and one of the 50 most influential Jews in the world by the Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles...

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Library

Read Watch Listen
  • A New Vision for Dreams of the Dying

    Dreams and visions of the dying have captivated cultures for thousands of years, including numerous accounts throughout Rabbinic literature. Explore what anthropologists, theologians, and sociologists have learned from from these “deathbed phenomena”.

  • Becoming a Friend to the End

    The greatest kindness (hesed) we can offer is to participate in the burial process. But we can also bring holiness and comfort to someone approaching death. A story of an unlikely friendship.

  • In Search of a Good Death

    In order to honor a dying person until the last moment, it helps to know what that process will look like. Jane Brody describes the potentially confusing final hours or days when a person is “actively dying”.

  • Jewish Burial Equals Green Burial

    Each year, more than 90,000 tons of steel and over 2700 tons of copper and bronze are made into caskets. That’s enough metal to build a Golden Gate Bridge. But Jewish burial, like green burial, fosters returning to the earth as naturally as possible.

  • A Ritual to Remove a Wedding Ring

    The process of removing a wedding ring after the death of a partner is a significant milestone in the journey of grief. This Jewish ritual draws on traditional liturgy to make that moment meaningful.

  • How Millennials Mourn

    Was shiva ever meant to be sat alone? A twentysomething with no kids, no partner, and few adult obligations reflects on coping with parental loss without a conventional family structure in place.

  • Ghosts in the Machine

    A profound and unanticipated side effect of technology is that death no longer obeys any laws of finality. Funneled through social media, death lingers longer than a traditional Jewish mourning period of 30 days or 11 months might prescribe.

  • Prayer at the Funeral of Someone Who Committed Suicide

    When someone commits suicide, most people struggle to know what to say. Rabbi Joseph Meszler composed this prayer – the words we say when we have no words.

  • To Be Happier Start Thinking More About Your Death

    Every year, Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) pushes us to consider, “What if this is it? Have I made the most of my time?” Like Buddhist death meditation, these questions can help us reconnect with our existential goals. Arthur Brooks asks, if we applied the “last-year test” to our lives, how much less time would we spend doing bupkes and how much more would we nurture relationships or nourish the soul?

  • Turn Into A Tree When You Die

    From the earth we were created, and with these burial pods developed by Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel, to the earth we can truly return. You can even choose the type of tree your seed pod will nourish.

  • How Doctors Die

    The Torah instructs us to “choose life.” But is that referring to quantity or quality? Ken Murray, MD shares why most doctors choose little end of life treatment for themselves, and are able to die gently.

  • Dying With Dignity and the Final Word on Her Life

    In the book of Samuel, King Saul asked his armor-bearer to help him die mercifully. Jane Lotter writes her own raw and poignant obituary before using Washington’s Death With Dignity Act to die peacefully.

  • Waking Up To Your World

    When Rabbi Eliezer told his students to repent one day before they die, they asked the obvious question: “how do we know when that day is?” Of course, we never know how much time we have left to fulfill the potential of our precious human birth. Given this, Pema Chodron asks us to consider, what is most important?

  • The Bitter End

    The students of Rabbi Judah the Prince desperately prayed that he should be stay alive, but a handmaid saw his suffering and intervened to help him die peacefully. Sometimes, as Jesse Ellison describes with her 92 year old grandmother, the most graceful thing one can do with death is accept it. But is this possible in America’s health care system?

  • Ten Commandments for the Caregiver

    Rabbi Earl Grollman offers ten practical and compassionate commandments for concerned caregivers.

  • Reconsidering Kaddish: Four New Approaches to an Old Ritual

    Esther Kustanowitz interviews four people who are adding their own spin to the traditional practice of reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish.

  • It’s Time We Talk

    In this exceptional Yom Kippur sermon, Rabbi Ed Feinstein implores us to do the hard work – have the difficult conversations, draft wills, complete advanced directives – in order to leave gifts of peace, wholeness and gratitude in death.

  • Sabbath

    In his deeply personal style, neurologist Oliver Sacks traces the ways in which the Jewish Sabbath helped instill a sense of purpose and peace in his life, even and especially in the face of death.

  • The Space Between Mourning and Grief

    Jewish tradition tells us we must mourn in community, but it likely never anticipated the complexities of mourning in an age of social media. Claire Wilmot explores how to grieve empathically in the digital world.

  • Getting Dead Loved Ones #Offline

    At Jewish funerals, dirt is tossed on the coffin to symbolize the finality of a life lived. But with social media today, further steps are required to ensure the finality of one’s digital footprint. This practical guide offers instructions on what to do with the online accounts of a loved one who has died.

  • Forever Letters

    Writing ‘forever letters,’ Elana Zaiman says, brings people face to face with their values and what they’ve learned through the years.

  • The Unique Loneliness of Grief

    With loss, immense loneliness and isolation often follow, Perhaps that is why Judaism has laid out such a detailed and structured mourning process. This secular article expands on the loneliness precipitated by the death of a loved one and offers some thoughts on how best to navigate that trying time.

  • The Moral Bucket List

    Upon our arrival at the gates of Heaven, Judaism tells us that our entry is determined by the content of our character rather than our achievements. David Brooks asks, by what values are we living our lives, and are they what ultimately matter in life?

  • Grief Landscapes

    Here, an artist captures personalized grief through photography, as a source of healing for those experiencing loss.

  • What to Do When A Loved One is Dying: Jewish Resources

    In addition to the medical issues that arise as someone is dying, we are often worried about what we should say and do. Regardless of how religious the dying individual is, there is often comfort in traditions that have been Jewish practice for centuries. This article offers some Jewish traditions and resources to help guide you through this difficult time.

  • My Mother’s Death and Why Writing an Ethical Will is Important

    After the deaths of his parents, Rabbi Jon Rosove reflects on how he wishes they had left him an ethical will.

  • Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

    Poet Dylan Thomas offers a hypnotic composition about the dying process. His chutzpadik charge rails against more conventional approaches.

  • Top Five Regrets of the Dying

    So long as we are living, we are capable of reflection and growth. Having worked for many years with patients in the final weeks of their life, Bronnie Ware shares the five most common regrets she encountered and the life lessons gained from facing one’s own mortality.

  • Traditional Jewish Mourning Practices

    The Kavod v’Nihum society explains the stages of mourning in the Jewish tradition, from the moment of death through the yahrtzeit, the annual anniversary of death.

  • Good Grief: Is There a Better Way to Be Bereaved?

    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously changed the conversation around grieving when she articulated the stages of grief, yet in Western cultures, we don’t know how to grieve anymore. Meghan O’Rourke says we understimate the power of ritual and community in the grieving process.

  • An overview of The Conversation Project

    Dr. Kate Lally discusses Care New England role as a pioneer sponsor of The Conversation Project as well issues around end-of-life care, palliative care and hospice. The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care. This nationwide campaign is focused on starting that conversation early so that they can take place at the dinner table, not in the intensive care unit. In order to become conversation-ready, Care New England has developed a conversation nurse model. That model consists of nurses that are employed and trained by Care New England to have these conversations with patients. After meeting with the patient, these nurses become advocates, and use their knowledge to consult on the patient’s case. Since its collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, The Conversation Project has been devoted to the improvement of care for all patients at the end of life.

  • New Ways to Think About Death

    For thousands of years, sacred space has played a central role in Jewish tradition. But when was the last time you considered the importance of where we die? In this short, provocative talk, architect Alison Killing looks at the buildings where death and dying happen, and asks us how where we die impacts how we die.

  • How Do we Heal Medicine

    Our medical systems are broken. Doctors are capable of extraordinary (and expensive) treatments, but they are losing their core focus: actually treating people. Doctor and writer Atul Gawande suggests we take a step back and look at new ways to do medicine — with fewer cowboys and more pit crews.

  • A Strange Relativity: Altered Time for Surgeon-Turned-Patient

    The Jewish calendar challenges us to sanctify and mark the passage of time. In this video, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, MD, describes how his perception of time as a neurosurgeon, cancer patient and new father changed when he was diagnosed with lung cancer in his mid-30’s and had to face his own mortality.

  • Before I Lost My Hair

    In this heartwrenching interpretation of the Psalm 90, Rachel Lopez Rosenberg reflects on her cancer treatments.

  • A Good Goodbye

    Certified thanatologist Gail Rubin delivers a humorous but insightful Jewish approach to mortality and end-of-life planning.

  • Having a Child Diagnosed with a Life Limiting Illness

    Jewish tradition offers a meaningful process for mourners after someone dies. But what about the grief that inevitably comes when a loved one is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and particularly when it is one’s child?

  • Mushroom Burial Suit

    Jewish burial seeks to return us simply to the earth. Artist Jae Rhim Lee wants us to go further: can we commit our bodies to a cleaner, greener Earth using a special burial suit seeded with pollution-gobbling mushrooms?

  • Before I Die I Want To…

    It’s the greatest Yom Kippur exercise ever. In her New Orleans neighborhood, artist Candy Chang turned an abandoned house into a giant chalkboard asking a fill-in-the-blank question: “Before I die I want to ___.” Her neighbors’ answers — surprising, poignant, funny — became an unexpected mirror for the community.

  • The Coffinmaker

    For Marcus Daly, building coffins is his avodah, his sacred service, a deeply personal and religious craft of love.

  • The Grieving Process: Coping with Death

    This highly accessible guide to mourning gives advice that we all could stand to be reminded of, whether we are the bereaved or in the role of comforter.

  • Find a Place of Rest

    Frank Ostaseski, Founder of the Metta institute, discusses the power of finding a Shabbat-like place of rest amidst chaos and activity, and in this case, right on the cusp of death.

  • Can We End Aging?

    If you could maintain optimal health up until the day you die, would you? Or is that playing God? Biomedical gerontologist Dr. Aubrey de Grey makes the case that aging is a disease that we can and should try to cure.

  • Jewish Mourning Rituals

    Jewish mourning rituals are a powerful guide through the darkest days. Learn the basics of the traditional Jewish mourning process in this short animated video from BimBam.

  • When Should Dying Patients Stop Treatment?

    In the mi sh’berakh – the prayer for healing – are we creating false hope? At what point should we stop asking for healing and focus instead on the end? In this video, Dr. Atul Gawande has a candid and intimate conversation with the widower of a deceased patient and apologizes for avoiding the reality of the imminent end.

  • Taking Comfort in Ancient Wisdom – A Jewish Mourning Story

    When Jana’s father passed away, she was worried that her connection to Judaism and spirituality would disappear. Instead, the traditions of shiva, the traditional seven day period of Jewish mourning, brought her that much closer.

  • Death Rituals: Creating Jewish Life

    Jamie Sarche, a funeral director, tells us how her knowledge and comfort around death led her to connect to her Jewishness through one of Judaism’s heaviest and most difficult rituals.

  • The Angels Everywhere

    Rabbi Ed Feinstein shares how his personal experience with cancer shaped the way he sees others.

  • Saying Goodbye with Poetry

    When Susan’s husband, Morton, passed away, a group at her synagogue stepped up and offered support during an incredibly difficult time.

  • A Video Game to Cope With Grief

    When Amy Green’s young son was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, she made up a bedtime story for his siblings to teach them about cancer. What resulted was a video game, “That Dragon, Cancer.” In this beautiful talk about coping with loss, Green brings joy and play to tragedy.

  • What is the Kaddish?

    While to many Jews, the Kaddish is known primarily as the prayer recited at funerals, that wasn’t always the case. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg offers some background.

  • What Really Matters at the End of Life

    At the end of our lives, what do we most wish for? For many, it’s simply comfort, respect, love. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician who thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients. Take the time to savor this moving talk, which asks big questions about how we think on death and honor life (TED Talk).

  • Death Questions from Kids

    Caitlin Doughty, from Ask a Mortician, fields questions from kids about death and dying.

  • Death Shall Have No Dominion

    Judaism asserts that death is not the end, since the memory of the deceased lives on as a blessing in the world. In this eerily beautiful poem, Dylan Thomas explores the mysery of eternity, adamant that death does not have the final say.

  • The Town Where Everyone Talks About Death

    In this community, talking about death is a comfortable conversation — neighbors kibbitz about who on the block hasn’t filled out their advance directive.

  • Contemplating Mortality

    Dr. Ira Byock is a leading figure in palliative care and hospice in the United States. He says we lose sight of “the remarkable value” of the time of life we call dying if we forget that it’s always a personal and human event, and not just a medical one. From his place on this medical frontier, he shares how we can understand dying as a time of learning, repair, and completion of our lives.

  • Death is Harder Than it Has to Be

    In his book The Best Care Possible, Dr. Ira Byock argues that the way most Americans die is a national disgrace — an ethical, moral and economic crisis that will get a great deal worse as the baby boomers age. How can we transform end of life care?

  • The Amen Effect

    Why can’t you say Mourner’s Kaddish alone in your living room? Rabbi Sharon Brous argues that the word “Amen” is one of the most powerful healing agents in the grieving process, and saying Amen to someone else’s Kaddish could very possibly change both of your lives.

  • Cliffhangers

    The great lesson of Yom Kippur is that we are standing at the edge of the abyss – something we could use to be reminded of even without a diagnosis. This could be paralyzing or liberating – let’s let it free us to become who we can be.

  • The Inevitability of Death

    When the death of a loved one reminds us of our own vulnerability and mortality, how do we choose life?

  • Funeral Exercise

    Dr. Stephen Covey asks us to visualize our own funeral, as a reminder of what’s most important in life.

  • Heaven and Earth

    On Yom Kippur, the line between this world and the next is as fuzzy as it will be all year, especially during Yizkor, the memorial prayer. How can we touch the closeness?

  • The Show Must Go On

    Singing of his furious desire to live in spite of diminishing strength, this Queen song is an ode to Freddy Mercury’s terminal battle with HIV/AIDS, and resonates with the Jewish charge to “choose life!”

  • Bedside Manner

    It is still beyond human capability to predict when a person will die. So for doctors who must deliver that fatal news to patients, it can be a difficult and complicated conversation. Dr. Pauline Chen discusses.

  • What Doesn’t Kill You

    Tig was diagnosed with cancer. A week later she went on stage in Los Angeles and did a now-legendary set about her string of misfortunes.

  • Finding the Lesson in Loss

    Shiva and the Jewish mourning process is meant to help us grieve healthily. Actor Alicia Coppola describes the challenges and importance of grieving for herself after the death of her father.

  • On Suffering, Beliefs, and Dying

    Author Christopher Hitchens, diagnosed with cancer and chronicling his illness, reflects on prayer, solidarity and the cosmos.

  • Don’t Freak Out About Dying

    To everything there is a season. For 89 year old rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, entering “the December of his years” means thinking deeply about this final stage, and sharing his wisdom with the rest of us. Start at 8:50.

  • Culture of Dying

    With speech, the world was created. But if language is so important, why are we as Americans afraid to call death by its name? Stephen Jenkinson explains what this fear is doing to our culture and how we can change it. Listen from 8:30 – 25:00.

  • Congratulations You Gonna Die

    British philosopher and Zen Scholar Alan Watts delivers a series of humorous yet thoughtful musings on death with a particular dry and lucid wit. Nothing particularly Jewish here, except for the idea that a death dinner ought to make you laugh.

  • Breaking the Taboo Against Talking About Death

    Michael Hebb, founder of Let’s Have Dinner and Talk About Death, says how we want to die represents the most important and costly conversation Americans aren’t having. He explains how this project gives people the tools to move through these conversations.

  • In the Valley of the Shadow of Death

    Rabbi Sharon Brous reminds us that talking about dying, death, grief and what comes after can imbue our lives with meaning, purpose and love.

  • Green Burial in Judaism and Catholicism

    Rabbi Stewart Kelman and Father Charles Morris discuss the place of religion and spirituality within the green burial movement. From the Chevra Kadisha Society’s annual conference.

  • Ashes

    How writer David Sedaris and his family reacted when Sedaris’s mother—a lifelong, unrepentant smoker—developed lung cancer. After a lifetime of barbed, funny remarks, no one in the family is prepared to talk about their feelings.

  • What is a Death Doula?

    Emily Pinzur discusses how, as a Death and Mourning Doula, she supports people during or after the death of a loved one. On the Jewish Sacred Aging Podcast.

  • Kodak Moments of the Dead

    Ira Glass explores how technology might evolve how Americans typically do funerals, which haven’t changed much since the Civil War.

  • The Kibitz Podcast Episode 27- Death

    Is there something peculiar to Judaism that makes us think about death differently? With no proscription for a definitive heaven or afterlife, how does that affect how we live our lives and think about death? Are Jewish rituals an effective way of dealing with grief? Are there better ways to think and talk about death with friends and family? In our final episode from season 2 we address these questions with British comedian David Baddiel (who you might remember from this season’s atheism episode), Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie from NYC’s Lab/Shul, founder of Death Over Dinner and DoD Jewish Edition Michael Hebb and Dan Crane’s 97-year-old nana.


Press

Stories

We love hearing stories from all of you out there who have survived a death dinner! The beautiful collection we've gathered so far are shared here - feel free to take your time and peruse. If you'd like to add your story to our anthology, share it with us or tag us with #deathdinner. If you haven't had your dinner yet, get started below.

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After Dinner Tools

While the power of participating in a dinner stands on its own, we want to use the momentum of these engagements to encourage people to formalise their end of life plans and access State and Territory resources. A recent survey found that 82% of people believe that it is important to put their values and wishes in writing, yet only 23% have followed that task through to completion. We are thrilled to be collaborating with these organisations that will give you the tools to put your wishes in ink!

MyValues

MyValues is a set of specially constructed statements designed to help you identify, consider and communicate your wishes about the medical treatment you would want in the later stages of life. After answering a series of questions, a MyValues Report is generated. You can share this report via print or email so your wishes are understood and respected. A MyValues Report is a personal document that, once lodged, becomes something that your family and medical staff should take into account when treating you in the event that you are incapable of communicating your wishes.
https://www.myvalues.org.au/

Advance Care Planning Australia

Advance Care Planning Australia will help you to think about your future health care choices and help you to write your wishes down. Making decisions about your future health care is called advance care planning. It can help those closest to you to make health care decisions on your behalf if you became too unwell in the future to make decisions for yourself.
http://advancecareplanning.org.au/

State / Territory Resources

Across Australia, every competent adult has the right to consent to and to refuse medical treatment. This right is the fundamental basis of advance care planning. In Australia, the law comes from two sources: decisions made by the courts (Common Law) and laws passed by Parliament (Statute Law). All States and Territories have statute laws regarding guardianship. All have statutes enabling the appointment of a substitute decision maker for medical treatment. All, except Tasmania, but with significant variations, have statutory documents regarding advance care directives or refusal of medical treatment. Find information and documents relevant for your State or Territory.
http://advancecareplanning.org.au/contacts-and-links/

Dying to Talk

Palliative Care Australia has created an easy step-by-step guide to reflect on your discussion and provides activities to support further End of Life Care planning. This includes writing down your wishes for End of Life Care. It also covers topics like organ donation and planning for what you want done with your social media accounts. Any early planning you do will make that difficult time easier for your family. Download the Starter Kit below, and jump in.

CareSearch

Funded by the Australian government, CareSearch is a palliative care knowledge network. It brings relevant evidence and quality information to palliative care.
http://www.caresearch.com.au/

Books and other resources

Resources will be regularly updated –

To be informed of all updates please subscribe to our mailing list and join us on Facebook and Twitter

Founders

Death Over Dinner

Death Over Dinner was originally designed in the U.S. by Michael Hebb and Angel Grant to encourage people to have conversations about end of...

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Reboot

Reboot affirms the value of Jewish traditions and creates new ways for people to make them their own. Inspired by Jewish ritual and embracing the...

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IKAR

IKAR launched in 2004 in an effort to reclaim the vitality and relevance of Jewish religious practice and reimagine the contours of Jewish community. IKAR is seen as a positive and proactive response to shifting trends in affiliation and communal engagement...

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Partner With Us

Partner with Us and Create Dinners with Your Community

For those looking to engage larger groups and activate a community-wide transformation, we invite you to sign up as a Community Partner to access our DIY toolkit where you’ll find best practices and programming suggestions. We have beautiful, expertly-created Conversation Cards to frame your event and get you started!

Death Over Dinner-Jewish Edition has already partnered with fifteen unique organizations and communities to use this platform to engage in discussions around the way we die – end of life decisions, death rituals, what happens after we die, the most important conversation Americans are not having.  We’re excited to share this program and our resources with your community!

Death Over Dinner- Jewish Edition is a meaningful program for any organization:

  • Moishe House
  • Synagogue
  • Hillel
  • Jewish community center
  • And other diverse institutions

Sign up using the form to access our digital tools today!

Questions? Contact us at partners@rebooters.net

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Stay In Touch

Who's Coming to Dinner?

Choose your own dinner adventure:

Our ready-made kit: With this link you’ll get a conversation curated and tested by our team.

OR

Curate your own dinner: Follow these steps to personalize your dinner conversation.


Your Intention

Which of the following best describes you and your interest in this discussion? Your selection will determine the content provided for you in the following steps.


Read/Watch/Listen

Please choose a short piece for you and your guests to watch, listen to, and read before coming together at dinner. Links will be sent in your dinner prep email.

Read
Watch
Listen

        Review and Edit

        Make sure you have selected the right intention and homework for your guests.

        Guests

        Edit

        Intention

        Edit

        Activate

        You are now ready to Activate your invitation! After you enter your email, click Submit. We will send you—and only you—a personalized email with invitation language to send to your guests, the read/watch/listen homework, post-gathering next steps, your conversational prompts, and a quick overview on hosting and moderating this important discussion.


        Partners

        We are building a network of partners who are interested in facilitating Death Over Dinner: Jewish Edition programming in their communities. Join these communities in this meaningful work by signing up here! Questions? You can reach us at partners@rebooters.net
        Partners

        Hosting Kit

        When it comes to End of Life Care, talking matters. Sharing your wishes for End of Life Care can bring you closer to the people you love. It is also critically important.

        We know that no single conversation can cover all the decisions that you and your family may face. What a conversation can do is provide a shared understanding of what matters most to you and your loved ones. This can make it easier to make decisions if the time comes.

        1 — Plan

        Planning ahead is helpful and is easier to do when you are well. Think about the type of healthcare you might prefer. Use the library in this website to consider your options.

        Take time. You don’t need to have the conversation immediately. It is okay to just think about it and review the resources on this website. Start by writing a letter – to yourself, a loved one, or a friend. Consider having a practice conversation.

        2 — Prepare

        Once you have decided what matters most to you, set a date, use this site to prepare for your dinner and send information to guests.

        We encourage you to invite, family, close friends and/or loved ones to break bread together, share a meal and have a conversation. You can tell them as much or as little as you like. Remember: this information will help them make decisions for you, if you are ever unable to speak for yourself.

        How you choose to set up your dinner is up to you. Some prefer to do all the cooking in advance, others like to cook with their family and friends or may ask guests to bring a plate to share.

        3 — Share

        Use this website to activate your conversation prompts to help you guide the conversation. Whether you have this conversation at a table, on a picnic or during a walk, remember:

        • Focus on what you value most
        • Even though you might find this discussion a hard now, it will make decisions less stressful later
        • Be patient. Some people may need a little more time to think
        • You don’t have to steer the conversation –  just let it happen
        • Don’t judge. A “good” death means different things to different people
        • Nothing is set in stone. You and your loved ones can always change your minds as circumstances change
        • Having the conversation may reveal that you and your loved ones disagree. It’s important to simply know this, and to continue talking
        • Having the conversation isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s the first in a series of conversations over time
        • Every attempt at the conversation is valuable.

        End on a positive note. Ask guests to go around the table and share something they admire about each person. Break from the table, lounge on couches, or walk outside, as a way to further sink into the connections and awareness experienced.

        Once you have had your dinner, we encourage you and your guests to visit our Stories page, where you can share your experiences and view other Death over Dinner experiences. Also, if you’d like to stay connected to our growing community, please join us on Facebook and Twitter or the mailing list.

        4 – Document

        Now that you have had the conversation, there are some legal and medical documents you should know about. Use the resources in this website to record your wishes and instructions so they can be honoured and respected.

        Sponsors

        Death Over Dinner-Jewish Edition is supported by generous grants from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles, the Diane & Guilford Glazer Philanthropies, and from the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco.  If you would like to help underwrite bringing Death Over Dinner – Jewish Edition programming to your community, please contact shane@rebooters.net

        FAQ

        Frequently Asked Questions


        The book inspired by the Death Over Dinner movement is now available!

        "Wise, poignant, compelling – Hebb tackles hard issues with honesty and good taste. This book is food for the soul"

        Ira Byock, MD, author of Dying Well