Death Awareness Education Workshop
Congregation Ohev Shalom
December 11, 2006
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing this letter on behalf of Simcha Raphael to share with you a workshop that he led for us. We have been offering a series throughout the school year for our religious school teachers on the theme of “What Do Jews Believe”? The themes include “The Chosen People,” “Life After Death,” “Creation vs. Evolution,” and “G-d.” The workshop is open to all area Jewish educators but is predominately attended by my teaching staff which consists of teachers who teach grades K-7 in a supplemental Hebrew school. There were teachers from other area synagogues and our community Hebrew High school in attendance at the workshop led by Dr. Raphael on the topic of “Life After Death.”
Dr. Raphael is an incredible workshop leader. He engages the participants and gains a sense of where they are at and what they need from the workshop at the start. His use of stories and his incredible ability to tell stories is an extremely useful and powerful tool. Reference to text and history helped to put into perspective from where our connotations of the theme originate. He has a very real philosophy about dealing with the topic and especially in dealing with children which is not to be afraid to talk about death but also be aware of the developmental ability of the child to process the information.
Often when educators come to a workshop they want a “cook book” style presentation of how to do something. This type of workshop goes deeper than that. It dispels myths and superstitions but also helps each participant examine their own feelings, thoughts and personal experiences. Many of my teachers gained on a personal level which to me is even more important that a teacher be in touch with their own attitudes as well as correct information and then they can pass that onto their students.
I believe that the most powerful part of Dr. Raphael’s presentation his is telling of the 11 month process of a son saying Kaddish for his father who just died and the response of his father’s soul. The relationship was not a great one when he was alive and the story shares how with each month that the son says Kaddish both the son and the soul of his father find peace. One staff member who has a rather strange relationship with his own father thought that Dr. Raphael was talking to him and realized that he needed to contact his dad to deal with an issue that needed to be addressed. A second staff member lost her husband about 6 weeks ago and has been dealing with the grief and after hearing Dr. Raphael’s presentation felt very uplifted about her husband’s death. A third staff member e-mailed this:
“I went away after our workshop about “Life After Death” knowing so much more, and not being so afraid of the “D” word. I shared some information with my family and friends and I was especially moved by the story he told of the boy and his father. I learned some lessons that I hope to use now and I understand how important it is to live for today and make everlasting impressions that people will positively remember me by, instead of being sorry for what I didn’t do.”
Dr. Raphael’s style of presentation is appropriate not only for teachers and other professionals but parents, adults and I believe youth who are able to handle the topic.
Amy Geboff, M.S.W.
Director Youth and Family Education