Planning for end of life tough, necessary topic

By Ben Tinsley

FORT WORTH — It’s easily the most important conversation that no one wants to have.
Planning for death isn’t the cheeriest of topics. But preparing folks for it — pre-planning, time of death, mourning rituals and post-death family support — is one of the most sacred tasks of the clergy.
And it is for exactly that reason that the Advance Care Planning Committee of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has put together a symposium: “A Time To Talk: A Jewish Community Conversation about Advance Care Planning” for Nov. 15 at Beth-El Congregation, 4900 Briarhaven Road.
“This is a first for our community,” explained Cantor Sheri Allen of Arlington Congregation Beth Shalom. “It’s a groundbreaking effort because this is a subject people aren’t anxious to talk about. … We would do anything for our loved ones, and this is literally one of the most important things we could ever do for or discuss with them.”
People die unexpectedly all the time, and their passing catches loved ones off guard, both emotionally and financially, the cantor said.
“Sitting down and discussing what has to be done is not necessarily a gloom-and-doom conversation,” Cantor Allen said. “It’s something we need to reflect on.”
The planning committee for this event comprises members of four Tarrant County Synagogues: Ahavath Sholom, Beth-El, Beth Shalom and Beth Israel, she said.
Cantor Allen said the Jewish Federation of Fort Worth and Tarrant County has also played a major part in this planning, and has bequeathed a very generous grant to the process. (This event leads the Federation’s online list of suggested early registrations.)
“In addition, we currently have 10 sponsors, all from organizations who cover many aspects of elder care and advance care planning,” Cantor Allen said.
The symposium will host various guest speakers who specialize in issues relating to advance care planning — together with a clergy panel:

  • Rabbi Andrew Bloom of Congregation Ahavath Sholom;
  • Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger and Assistant Rabbi Jordan Ottenstein of Beth-El Congregation;
  • Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel; and
  • Cantor Allen.

Rabbi Mecklenburger said the symposium is designed to help a great many people with a very difficult subject.
“The Tarrant County Jewish community should be grateful to Cantor Sheri Allen, the Jewish Federation and the Advance Care Planning Committee,” Rabbi Mecklenburger wrote in an email. “Too many of us wait until the last minute to make end-of-life plans for our loved ones and ourselves. But Judaism and the synagogue world are always there to be supportive, and a little learning can alleviate a lot of stress.”
Members of the panel will be present to discuss and instruct on writing advance directives, making medical decisions within a Jewish framework, financial and estate planning, patient and caregiver support, and how Jewish ritual can help navigate this journey, Cantor Allen said.
“This is a sacred conversation about quality of life and what we can do to maintain it under any circumstances,” she said. “Advance care planning is about making important health care decisions for ourselves and our loved ones now, so we are prepared for the future.”
Further questions about the symposium can be directed to Cantor Allen at 817-229-5140 at
The Sunday, Nov. 15 event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. at Beth-El Congregation. The cost is $18 per person — $25 after Nov. 9.
The fee also includes a light breakfast, a boxed lunch, a workbook and a resource guide.

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