Reflection: A Lively Conversation About Death
You never know who you might meet at our annual Jewish Futures Conference. Suri Jacknis, Director of Educator Networks for The Jewish Education Project, recounts how she learned about the ways funeral professionals explain death to children.
At last year’s Jewish Futures Conference, I had the good fortune to sit next to Ms. Stephanie Garry, chief administrative officer of a valuable educational and communal resource, Plaza Jewish Community Chapel. Like some of you, I don’t live in the city, but had heard about the chapel on the radio and knew about its holy work as a place for Jewish funeral services in Manhattan. As I spoke to Ms. Garry I learned to appreciate Plaza as a unique communal resource that offers important opportunities to both our New York City congregations as well as to our learners in Westchester and Long Island. When she invited me to visit her in her office on the Upper West Side, I eagerly accepted.
Ms. Garry is a very welcoming person, with a wide smile and keen insights. She is passionate, compassionate, and community-minded—a person committed to expanding the role of Plaza as an educational resource. In addition to courses for clergy and a multi-congregation project called “What Matters? Caring Conversations about the End of Life,” Plaza Jewish Community Chapel is a destination for a field trip for b’nai-mitzvah-aged learners studying about life cycle and specifically end of life.
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The staff of Plaza Jewish Community Chapel is even willing to travel to your school, especially if you can bring together a cluster of learners from multiple institutions, for a variety of programs they offer to different age groups.
Rabbi Felicia Sol from Congregation B’nai Jeshurun offers this personal testimony of the great positive impact a visit to Plaza Jewish Community Chapel had on her classes:
“We at BJ are grateful for Plaza Jewish Community Chapel not only for providing a place of comfort for mourners and honor to those who have died but for creating a program inviting our bar/bat mitzvah students in to expose them to the mitzvot around death and mourning. By opening its doors literally and figuratively Plaza demystifies what happens when someone dies and how a family is held by Jewish community at that sensitive time- something that all b'nai mitzvah students know they will encounter if they haven't already.”
Kudos to Ms. Garry for continuing to develop Plaza Jewish Community Chapel as an important communal institution that provides multiple educational opportunities for a wide variety of learners.