18 Nov 2009

The Orthodox Union’s Department of Community Services, Bnai Torah Congregation, and Torah in Motion will present a communal symposium to discuss the multifaceted decision-making process in times of severe illness. The program will take place on Sunday, November 29, 2009 from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at Bnei Torah Congregation in Toronto. Entitled, “When Serious Illness Strikes and Decisions Have to Be Made,” the event will address the roles and communications required of primary decision-makers: the patient, physician, rabbi, and family members involved in cases of serious illness.

According to Frank Buchweitz, National Director of the OU’s Department of Community Services and Special Projects, such a program is crucial in that, “It provides critical and practical information on general and halachic issues during times of illness. The program will provide information on many questions that people have when illness strikes at any age, which can help family members make decisions in a calm and deliberate manner.”

A panel discussion moderated by Frank Buchweitz, will feature Dr. Jonathan Abrams, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, who will be addressing medical challenges and concerns; Rabbi Howard Jachter, Dayan at the Beit Din of Elizabeth, New Jersey, on halachic considerations; Rachel Blumenfeld, partner at Miller Thomson LLP, on legal and financial aspects, including estate planning; and Rabbi Ronald Weiss, Director of Chaplaincy Services at the Jewish Family and Child Services, on family and support services.

The Orthodox Union, www.ou.org, well-known for its kashrut supervision, provides vital programming and support services internationally. As an outgrowth of the When Serious Illness Strikes and Decisions Have to Be Made program, which has been held in many communities by the OU Department of Community Services, it became clear that many Jewish people do not yet have a halachic healthcare proxy/ “living will” should they become incapacitated due to illness.

To alleviate that situation, information on the halachic healthcare proxy/“living will” will be provided at the program. The necessary forms may be downloaded from www.oucommunity.org as well as more detailed description. “It is better to be prepared if such a situation should occur than to be thrown into a situation without being able to express one’s wishes as to the treatment that should be received in critical situations,” Frank Buchweitz stated.

Additionally, through an agreement with the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), the OU makes available free online registration of the healthcare proxy/“living will” on a secure website that can be accessed instantly by healthcare facilities. The Registry also contacts individuals on the site annually to make sure that the information has not changed and is up to date. This registry is valid in the United States as well as in Canada.

The Registration Agreement gives the Registry permission to send a copy of the document to any health care provider (hospitals, doctors, skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, home health agencies, providers of home health care, ambulatory surgery centers, and hospices). Once registered, you are registered for life. The Registry agrees not to release your information to any party other than health care providers, so your personal information is kept private and confidential, just like a medical record. The document is electronically stored in the Registry’s computer along with the registrant’s emergency contact information.

Torah in Motion is an internationally-recognized organization based in Toronto. Torah in Motion’s dynamic programs, many of which are available on-line, encourage in-depth examination and dialogue incorporating the wisdom of Jewish law and tradition into the challenges of contemporary life. “When Serious Illness Strikes,” says Torah in Motion co-founder Rabbi Jay Kelman, “presents an exciting opportunity for people of all ages and walks of life to engage in this important event of immense interest to one and all in the Jewish community.”

General admission is $10 and is free for all students and Torah in Motion passholders. For more information, please visit www.torahinmotion.org or contact Torah in Motion at (416) 633-5770.

The Orthodox Union will also be hosting an event in Toronto on Wednesday, December 2, for parents and college bound students, “Observant Jewish Life on the Secular College Campus.” Larry Zeifman, OU Regional Representative for Canada, will be moderating the event at Yeshivat Bnei Akiva Or Chaim, 159 Almore Ave., North York, from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. This program is open to parents, high school juniors and seniors, and post Israel college-bound students. It will address the challenges and opportunities that exist on the secular college campus, and the role that the Heshe and Harriet Seif Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC) plays in enhancing Jewish life opportunities.

For more information on this free communal program contact Rabbi Aaron Greenberg at (416) 843-0245 or agreenberg@rogers.ca.