What Matters: Caring Conversations About Advance Health Care Planning and End of Life

We offer a What Matters Workshop about every two months.

Our next workshop date will be announced soon.
Open to all who have not previously taken this workshop.

What Matters is an initiative of the New York Jewish community, guided by the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, that is focused on advance care planning. It enables, empowers, and encourages individuals to think about, plan for, and take steps to ensure that their health care wishes will be known, respected, and honored. CBST is part of a consortium of 18 NYC What Matters sites (including 13 synagogues) that provide individual and group What Matters conversations. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought major changes to all our lives—and has underscored concerns about receiving the medical care we would need and want if we become seriously ill.

In these uncertain times, one thing we can control is who will speak for us if we become unable to speak for ourselves. What happens if you are no longer able to make health care decisions on your own behalf?

Thinking about the end of our lives provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to have deep conversations about what matters most—our hopes, our values—what makes our lives meaningful. Making your wishes known can be uplifting and rewarding—and make a difficult situation easier for your loved ones.


Questions about What Matters? Contact us at WhatMatters@CBST.org.

We encourage all congregants over the age of 18 to complete this confidential form that captures vital information for our clergy: CBST Completion of Wishes.

CBST members can sign up for a free, one-on-one conversation with a trained What Matters facilitator by emailing WhatMatters@CBST.org.

It’s never the right time – so why not do it now!

What Matters at CBST is supported by a grant from The Fan Fox and Leslie R. Samuels Foundation and contributions from members and friends of the CBST community.

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 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.

Mission of 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 health care professionals.

Vision of What Matters

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.



  • “Being Mortal – Medicine and What Matters in the End”Atul Gawande
  • “A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death”BJ Miller and Shoshanna Berger
  • “Get It Together: Organize Your Records So Your Family Won’t Have To” Melanie Cullen


  • www.whatmattersny.org
    This website provides an array of FAQs and resources about What Matters from the Marlene Meyerson JCC, the pioneer and focal point of What Matters activities in the NYC Jewish Community. 
  • www.jtsa.edu/sage-voices
    A diverse group of rabbis and religious leaders speak about end-of-life issues and how they integrate Jewish tradition into their own teaching and care for others.
  • www.nhpco.org/patients-and-caregivers
    A program of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, provides free resources to help people make decisions about end-of-life care and services before a crisis.
  • Everplans
    Guides, resources, and a platform to help you create a plan that contains everything your loved ones will need if something happens to you.
  • https://www.nhpco.org/advancedirective/
    To download your state’s advance directives.

What Matters has a number of trained facilitators who can help you:

  • Consider what your health care wishes would be, decide whom to designate as your healthcare agent, and communicate your wishes
  • Start a conversation with family, friends, or other important people in your life about their wishes
  • Complete an advance directive, such as the New York State Health Care Proxy, or revisit one you had previously completed
  • Answer your questions and refer you to needed resources

Things to consider:

  • Your plan will only be used if you are unable to communicate when decisions need to be made. If you regain the ability to communicate, the plan is no longer used.
  • It is important to share your plans with your loved ones and other important people in your life, even if they are not your appointed decision-maker. That way, everyone is on the same page.
  • It is important to select and share your wishes with an agent whom you trust and who can represent you and speak on your behalf if you became seriously ill. We can’t predict every scenario, but we can share our values and guiding principles so they can confidently make decisions for us. If we don’t say it, they won’t know.
  • You can change your choices whenever you want, communicating these changes to your health care agent and alternate, and your documents can be reviewed and updated at any time.
  • If you have no one to appoint as your agent, we can help you think through alternative ways to express your wishes.
  • You must take your completed documentation with you to the hospital so doctors will know whom to call and the identity and contact information of your health care agent, since it is unlikely that visitors will be allowed.
  • It is advisable to attach to your health care proxy document a list of your medications, pre-existing conditions, and instructions about specific medical interventions.
  • Social distancing measures can make it harder to have your health care documents witnessed. What Matters can help you with options that are currently allowable including virtual witnessing.

Ready to start? Questions about What Matters? Contact us at WhatMatters@CBST.org.

  • Pride Shout Outs!

  • Every year at Pride Shabbat we share your messages with the greater CBST community to mark the moment. Submit by Wednesday, June 26 at 12:00pm

  • Learn more here, click "Pride Shout Outs"

  • The Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum and Randi Weingarten
    Fund for Social Justice

  • “Social Justice is rooted in our Jewish texts, history, theology and liturgy. We don’t separate spirituality from social justice.” - Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum
    Learn more and donate

  • CBST Annual Appeal

  • Make your contribution today!

  • Sponsor an upcoming Shabbat!

  • Each week,
    members and friends
    sponsor our livestream
    and oneg/kiddush

    to share joys and remembrances,
    marking special occasions
    and poignant moments.