A Death Over Dinner Shabbat + 6 Death and Dying Resources

On Friday, February 2nd, Honeymoon Israel Bay Area alumni held a Death Over Dinner Shabbat dinner, hosted by Nourish and nourished by OneTable. Inspired by her recent participation in the End Well Symposium and the Death Over Dinner project, facilitator Brittany Myers teamed up with host Kristin Eriko Posner of Nourish, and Lisa Motenko of Honeymoon Israel Bay Area- and got to work designing an unusual and thought-provoking Shabbat evening.

Aimed at inspiring an ever-growing community of people to talk about an often-not-discussed topic, death and dying, our Shabbat dinner opened with a powerful datapoint: “75% of Americans want to die at home, yet only 25% of them do” and the question – why don’t we talk about death in America?

In a modern update to the traditional Jewish kaddish, we started the evening with gratitude by going around the table and raising our glasses to a family member or ancestor who was no longer with us. It was especially sweet, since it happened to be the 100th birthday of Kristin’s late grandmother and wedding anniversary of Lisa’s late grandparents. We discussed how understanding the beliefs of our loved ones will help us to better support their end of life wishes. To close the evening, we discussed our own mortality and end of life wishes. Our hope is that our Death Over Dinner and OneTable Shabbat is only the beginning of open and proactive conversation for our guests and their loved ones.

As people headed home for the evening, they each received a special memorial candle from Nourish. Following the dinner, we sent out a list of resources that we found helpful. If you’re interested in hosting your own Death Over Dinner, or simply would like to start a conversation with your loved ones, here are some resources we found helpful:

  1. BJ Miller’s TED Talk: What Really Matters at the End Of Life & Reclaiming The End Of Life As A Human Experience
  2. 5 Wishes: A helpful guide and documentation for end of life and health crisis wishes
  3. Go Wish Card Game: A game that helps you learn how to best comfort your loved ones (and vice versa) during serious illness or at the end of life.  
  4. Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal & interview on On Being. Atul Gawande is a surgeon, writer and public health researcher. Both the book and interview discuss the ultimate goal as not a good death- but a good life, all the way to the end.
  5. Stephen Jenkinson’s Orphan Wisdom: A fantastic resource for death, dying and grieving, Jenkinson believes that what modern people “suffer from most is culture failure, amnesia of ancestry and deep family story, phantom or sham rites of passage, no instruction on how to live with each other or with the world around us or with our dead or with our history.”
  6. An interview on grief and loss with hospice nurse and healer Melissa Forde on the Nourish blog. If you’ve ever wondered what to say, do and get for a grieving friend, this is a great resource.

About Nourish
Nourish helps people come together, to heal, connect to their lineage, and remember their rituals- whatever they may be and however they may need to evolve as the world evolves, through inspiring story-telling, home cooking, interior design and hosting gatherings that will be remembered for generations to come. ​

About Honeymoon Israel
Honeymoon Israel provides immersive trips to Israel for locally based cohorts of couples that have at least one Jewish partner, early in their committed relationship, creating communities of couples who are building families with deep and meaningful connections to Jewish life and the Jewish people​.

OneTable empowers people who don’t yet have a consistent Shabbat dinner practice to build one that feels authentic, sustainable, and valuable. The OneTable community is funded to support people (21-39ish), not in undergraduate studies, and without an existing weekly Shabbat practice, looking to find and share this powerful experience.

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