National Association of Chevra Kadisha

Halachic Living Will Open House Toolkit

Please note: We at Nasck have developed toolkits for two types of events: a Workshop and an Open House This is the OPEN HOUSE Toolkit.

If you are uncertain which type of event you want to host, click HERE for a description of both the Workshop and the Open House, with the advantages and disadvantages of each. At the end of the description, you will have the opportunity to return to the toolkit for the event of your choice.

In a Halachic Living Will Open House event, participants have already completed the form. They attend the event only in order to execute the documents and recieve and EMES card.

Marketing

For any event, and especially one like this, marketing is paramount.

The key is to use fliers, shul bulletins, emails, and announcements to educate people about the issues at hand, to empower them to fill out the forms at home, and to attend the event, where they will have the documents executed and receive an EMES Card. The event timeline, below, has links to samples of every marketing tool you will need.

The importance of the rabbi’s enthusiasm in support of the event cannot be overstated. The effectiveness of any halachic living will event is directly related to the enthusiasm and urgency created by the rabbi and community leadership. This enthusiasm is communicated in the rav’s drashah, as well as in the announcements and emails.

Time and Place

People are usually available in the evenings, though Sunday morning sometimes works as well.

The venue that you choose should have:

  1. Enough room for a few tables for those people who will fill out the forms at the event
  2. A centrally located table for the witness station (and, if applicable, for the notary).

Because people will be filing in and out throughout the Open House, make sure that parking is easily accessible.

Organizing the Witnesses

Witnesses will be needed for both the Halachic Living Will and the EMES card. Although the witnesses do not need to be halachically valid, they are subject to legal conditions required by the state. Some states also require the document to be notarized. For an explanation of witnessing and notarization, and to view the specific requirements for your state, click HERE.

It is important to remind people not to sign any documents, including the EMES card, until they are standing in front of the witnesses.

Once the halachic living will and the EMES card are filled out, signed, and witnessed, the participant may leave; there is nothing else that needs to be done.

At the Event

The event itself should be focused on filling out an EMES card, and having both the halachic living will and the EMES card witnessed.

The goal of all the communication before the event is to empower people to fill out the halachic living will forms at home, and to come to the event to to receive their EMES card and have everything properly witnessed.

Since people may have personal questions, it is a good idea for the rav to be available.

It is also wise to ask a few people to familiarize themselves with the form, and to be available to answer questions. It is often easier to find people who are willing to answer questions informally than to find someone who is willing to speak from a podium. Viewing the following VIDEO, which explains the details of the form in just 20 minutes, is enough training for most people. (Please note that even though the video reviews the RCA version of the halachic living will, the Agudah version, which varies from state to state, is very similar.)

Your volunteers are always welcome to reach out to NASCK for support. It will only take a few minutes for our veteran presenters to train any well-spoken individual in your congregation.

Distributing the Executed Documents

A halachic living will is most effective when it can be easily accessed in an emergency. People should send a copy of the document to their proxies, the rabbis they named, their close relatives, primary physician, and lawyer.

If the shul has the ability to quickly scan each Halachic Living Will, and to email it to each participant, doing so will facilitate this process.

If a congregant consents, the shul can also keep a copy of their documents on hand in case of emergency.

After the Event

It is a good idea to send out a follow-up email and invite people who designated the rav as their rabbi to make an appointment to discuss their preferences and concerns.

The timeline below includes a sample of a follow-up email.

Tips for Success

We at NASCK have presented and facilitated dozens of halachic living will events. We have found that the following tips ensure the success of the event: 

  1. The single greatest factor in a successful program is the enthusiasm that the rabbi shows for the importance of this issue!
  2. The rabbi should be familiar with the issues regarding a halachic living will.
  3. Follow the timeline below to ensure a high turnout. In particular, the following elements of the timeline are critical: a. Announcing the date at least one month in advance b. Sending the emails out on schedule, particularly the After the Rav’s Drashah email that is sent after havdalah c. Promoting the program Shabbos morning, in the rav’s drashah and during the announcements
  4. Be sure to order EMES Cards with enough time for shipping and handling from New York
  5. Estimate how many people you expect to attend the event. That number will determine how many teams of witnesses you need.
  6. If you are using a notary: Have them sit in between two sets of witnesses so they can observe what is going on at each table with minimal interruption. Recruit a second notary as a backup.
  7. If your shul has access to a high-speed scanner, it is useful to have it at the event in order to email participants a PDF of their halachic living will, which they can then forward to their proxies, rabbis, close relatives, primary physician, and lawyer.

Open House Timeline

As is true with any event, the earlier the planning begins, the more likely the event is to succeed.

The following timeline includes important dates and a checklist of critical elements for the success of this event. Following this timeline has been proven to yield excellent results.

Click HERE for a printable timeline.

4 Weeks before the event

1. Choose a date, time, and location

2. Create and print a flyer advertising the event.

3. The rav should decide whether he wants to use the HHCP or the HMD

4. Contact NASCK to request the number of EMES cards you will need.

3 Weeks before the event

1. Distribute the flyer announcing the event.

2. Publish a BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter. The blurb will continue to appear in the newsletter until the event.

3. Place an ad in a local paper to attract even more participants.

2 Weeks before the event

1. Send out the FIRST EMAIL.

2. Re-publish the BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter.

3. Recruit volunteers to serve as witnesses (and notaries, if required).

1 Week before the event

1. Re-publish the BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter.

2. Shabbos morning:

  • The rav SPEAKS about the importance of having a halachic living will during his drashah.
  • The person who makes the announcements follows this SCRIPT.

3. An hour after havdalah: Send out the POST-DRASHAH EMAIL.

1 Day before the event

1. Send out the REMINDER EMAIL.

2. Print out enough halachic living will forms.

3. Get an ample supply of pens.

4. Make sure enough tables and chairs are set up.

The Day of the event

Have a stack of forms, pens and, if desired, NASCK return envelopes by the door.

The Day After the event

1. Send out the POST-EVENT EMAIL.

2. Click HERE for a printable timeline.

Post-Event Email

 

Subject: Yasher koichachem!

Body of email:

Dear Congregants,

Thank you to all who came to the very productive event yesterday, and congratulations for ensuring the best decisions for your health!

For those of you who were not able to make it, please know that it is not too late to take care of this critically important matter. Please fill out and print the attached form, and come to the shul office in order to sign it. We will try to organize witnesses and we also be able to give you an EMES card. DO NOT SIGN THE FORM without witnesses present. State law requires that your signature be witnessed in order for the form to be legally valid. If you would like to learn more about the Halachic Living Will and the EMES Card, click HERE.

For those of you who named me as your rabbi or alternate rabbi, please make time to meet with me so that we can discuss your wishes. This is a responsibility that I take very seriously, and it is a discussion we should have in the very near future.

I would like to thank NASCK for their help in creating this event.

Again, yasher kochachem to all of you who have executed your halachic living will. Let us all hope for a long life of health and happiness, ad biyas goel tzedek b’mheirah b’yamainu!

Sincerely,

[Rav of the Shul]

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