What Matters


Sally Kaplan

In his best-selling book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande urges us “to refashion our institutions, our culture, and our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.” In response, a new advance care planning initiative has been launched in the Jewish community of New York to enable individuals to think about, plan for, and take steps to ensure that when the time comes, their end of life wishes will be respected and honored.

What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life is a collaboration between the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, The New Jewish Home, and the Center for Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary, made possible by our founder, funder, and partner, Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, Inc. and support from UJA-Federation of New York. This initiative builds upon Respecting Choices, a program with proven success nationwide. In La Crosse, WI, where Respecting Choices began, 96 percent of the residents have an advance care plan; the national average is 25 percent.

This effort aims to heighten awareness about the importance of completing advance care directives and enable individuals to thoughtfully consider and document their end of life preferences—with opportunities to engage Jewish values as part of the process. Trained and certified facilitators walk individuals through the process and encourage them to discuss their wishes with family members, loved ones, and physicians.

Such conversations are already taking place at 15 program sites—11 synagogues, one community center, one communal organization, a rabbinical seminary, and a nursing home. Together, we’re building a more caring and compassionate New York Jewish community.

If you wish to learn more or to schedule a conversation about advance care planning, contact us at info@whatmattersny.org.


We will engage New Yorkers in compassionate, value-driven conversations about advance care planning, so they may live with the comfort of knowing their choices will be known, respected and honored by their health care agents, medical professionals and other important people in their lives.


Guided by Jewish values, we envision a community that embraces advance care planning, elevates health care decision making, and honors the end of life as part of the sacred life cycle.


Ten days before she died, acclaimed author Amy Krouse Rosenthal had a piece published in The New York Times' Modern Love section that was a heartbreaking play on a personal ad encouraging her husband, Jason, to find happiness after she died. The column instantly went viral, reaching over five million people worldwide. Jason discusses love, loss, and resilience, and his memoir, My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, in conversation with Jeannie Blaustein, founding board chair, Reimagine.


Made possible by our founder, funder, and partner, Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, Inc., and support from UJA-Federation of New York.

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Help us continue to ensure accessible programming for everyone. Please support What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan.