What Matters


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 honored by loved ones and healthcare professionals.


Guided by Jewish values, we envision a community that embraces advance care planning as a natural part of life, where end of life decisions are known, respected and honored.

JCC Logo

Photo by Angelica Ciccone

A Note from Sally Kaplan, Program Director

In his best-selling book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande writes, “Our reluctance to honestly examine the experience of aging and dying has increased the harm we inflict on people and denied them the basic comforts they most need.” He urges us “to refashion our conversations in ways that transform the possibilities for the last chapters of everyone’s lives.”

In response, JCC Manhattan has embarked upon an advance care planning initiative to enable individuals in the Jewish community 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. Made possible through a generous grant from Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, What Matters: Caring Conversations About End of Life is a collaboration between JCC Manhattan, The New Jewish Home, and the Center for Pastoral Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

This initiative builds upon Respecting Choices, a program with proven success nationwide. In La Crosse, WI, where it began, 96 percent of the residents had an advance care plan; the national average is 25 percent.

This effort will 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.

Five pilot sites have been designated for the first phase of this program: JCC Manhattan, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, Central Synagogue, Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim, and the New Jewish Home.

This initiative will create opportunities for people to connect, grow, and learn. In the words of JCC Manhattan Executive Director Rabbi Joy Levitt, “Thinking about the end of our lives provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to speak with those whom we love about that which matters most—our hopes, our values, what makes us happy, what makes us feel safe.”

pilot sites

For more information, or to schedule a conversation, please contact info@whatmattersnyc.org or one of the following congregations or organizations:

Central Synagogue
Rabbi Marion Lev Cohen
123 East 55th Street NY, NY 10022
(212) 838-5122 ext. 1013

Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
Rabbi Sarit Horwitz
270 W. 89th Street NY NY 10024
Phone: 212-787-7600 x261.
shorwitz@bj.org or WhatMatters@bj.org

JCC Manhattan
Rabbi Brian Fink
334 Amsterdam Avenue NY NY 10023
bfink@jccmanhattan.org or whatmatters@jccmanhattan.org

Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim
Dr. Michelle Friedman
205 West End Avenue Suite 1A NY NY 10023

The New Jewish Home
Tammy Marshall
120 West 106th Street NY, NY 10025
Phone- 212-870-4663

Park Avenue Synagogue
50 East 87th Street, New York, NY 10128
(212) 369-2600 ext. 121
Rabbi Neil Zuckerman

West End Synagogue
190 Amsterdam Avenue, New York, NY 10023
(212) 579-0777 ext. 305
Janet Rosenberg

171 West 85th Street, New York, NY 10024
Wendy Handler

Lincoln Square Synagogue
180 Amsterdam Ave, New York, NY 10023
(212) 874-6100
Rachel Neumark Herlands
Sarah Robinson

Materials and Resources

sage voices

Sage Voices: A diverse group of rabbis and religious leaders speak to end of life issues and how they integrate Jewish tradition into their own teaching and care for others.

Made possible through a generous grant from:

plaza plaza

In collaboration with:
JCC LogoWhat MattersJTS

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new york, ny 10023 | 646.505.4444
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