The Senior Rabbi of Temple De Hirsch Sinai since July 2001, Dan Weiner received a BA in Communication Studies from the University of California at Los Angeles, his Masters Degree from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1989 and was ordained in 1991.
Rabbi Weiner often addresses muti-cultural groups on the dynamics of adult children & their aging parents.
He opens this interview with Girlfriendswithagingparents (GWAP) by agreeing that, “there are MANY MANY ‘how to’ books….from picking the best assisted living facility to dealing with Alzheimer’s to financial issues and the list goes on & on. There are no books however, that specifically deal with the emotional side of this issue whether it be dealing with death or our changing role or simply that we are the ‘next generation’ .. we have moved up the wrung. … like it or not !!! “
GWAP: How do adult children prepare to loose their parents? How is death viewed and can there be emotional preparation?
DW: There is no sure way to prepare, as the death of a parent evokes many existential concerns and realizations about one’s own mortality. Insuring that legal, logistical and medical issues are addressed early will free up more critical moments for a higher quality of dialogue and closure.
GWAP: How would you address the changing relationship that evolves when aging parents need help from their adult children?
DW: No simple answer to this. There is concerted pressure on “sandwiched” children of aging parents who are themselves responsible for their growing children. Embracing the Jewish values of the dignity and sanctity of life are good approaches towards helping parents make the transition from independence to dependence and disability.
GWAP: What spiritual information might we gather from our aging parents before they pass away?
DW: This a the time to embrace the historic Jewish practice of “ethical will”–the wisdom, values and lessons a parent wishes to pass on to family, that transcends financial and medical intent. This is a great way to employ new recording technology and an opportunity to engage younger children in multi-generational dialogue and connection.
GWAP: Does the Jewish faith acknowledge an after life? What are other traditions?
DW: In part, but Judaism is more concerned about this life and what we do in the world to make it worthy of our efforts and God’s vision. There is also a notion of the immortality of the soul–that those parts of us that are most essentially who we are, are intangible and thus not impacted by the forces that degrade our physical selves. What happens to that part? No one knows and Judaism doesn’t really care. However, knowing that what makes us most “us” transcends our death, is often comforting.
GWAP: As our parents need more help from us, what guidance would you give about this changing relationship?
DW: Be open, listen, be respectful, empathize with the changes occurring, and be conscious that your children are internalizing your model in way that will impact your future.
For more wisdom from Rabbi Weiner, link to goodgodforus.com and refer to: “The many ways in which an active pastor of a large, diverse congregation engages the many faces of sadness, loss and grief experienced in his community.”