End-of-life conference, training program announced
By JEWISH REVIEW
article created on: 2009-05-01T00:00:00
Portlander Michelle Caplan wants those interested in end-of-life issues to know about two excellent opportunities to expand their knowledge in those areas.
As member services director at Congregation Neveh Shalom, Caplan deals with the congregation’s two cemeteries and helps member families plan funerals and unveilings. Through that work she has become very involved nationally with two end-of-life programs.
Caplan is on the boards of the Jewish Cemetery Association of North America and Kavod v’Nichum and has worked on that organization’s creation of the Gamliel Institute. Kavod v’Nichum (Honor and Comfort) provides assistance, training and resources about Jewish death and bereavement practices. The Gamliel Institute is a new three-year online certification program in chevra kadisha (burial society) work.
Caplan hopes she can encourage Pacific Northwesterners interested in Jewish end-of-life issues to sign up for the institute or attend the Seventh Annual North American Chevra Kadisha Conference and Jewish Cemetery Conference being held on the West Coast in June. When the conference was held in Portland three years ago, Caplan helped plan the inclusion of a cemetery component for the first time.
This year’s joint conference returns to the West Coast, meeting in Berkeley, Calif., June 7-9. The conference provides volunteers and professionals with scholarly presentations, hands-on demonstrations, text study, panel discussions and networking opportunities ranging from serious illness, death and burial to grief and mourning.
“This conference is for anyone—lay person or Jewish communal professional—interested in cemeteries, the grieving process or chevra kadishas,” said Caplan, who plans to attend. “I’m encouraging more people from here to go since it’s so close.”
Caplan described her work with the cemeteries and bereaved families as “one of the most gratifying things I’ve done in my career.”
She said that each year she has attended the conference she has learned something.
“Every year I’ve gone, I’m amazed by the powerful intensity of the content of the conference,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to connect with others who really understand what I go through. I think it’s the greatest mitzvah to help families when they are at their most vulnerable.”
The conference will also be the first meeting of Gamliel students. Though learning will begin online in September, students will meet each year at the Kavod conference.
“It’s very exciting,” said Caplan. “It’s a very powerful program that doesn’t exist and is so important.”
The institute is the brainchild of Kavod v’Nichum Executive Director David Zinner. Rabbi Stuart Kelman will be the dean of the institute.
Kelman said organizers hope for about 10-15 students in the institute’s initial offering. And though no advertising has gone out yet, he said five students have already enrolled for the first class. He said he hopes to add a new class each year.