An Open Letter to Acheinu Kol Bais Yisroel

Health care in the United States is becoming more complex each day. As costs continue to rise and we move closer to the European model of health care, many things we took for granted are quickly changing. Laws being passed state-by-state and protocols adopted by hospitals give doctors and hospitals greater power to make medical decisions for you. These decisions may be contrary to your wishes and Halachically inappropriate. The need for every Jew to have a Halachic Living Will and/or a Health Care Proxy is vital.

National Jewish organizations have addressed this issue. Agudath Israel of America developed its “Halachic Medical Directive” and recently created its Center for Culturally Sensitive End-of-Life Advocacy & Counseling called “Chayim Aruchim”. The Rabbinical Council of America has produced its “Halachic Health Care Proxy”. The Orthodox Union, through its Department of Community Services, has a program for awareness and education to explain and promote the signing of a Halachic Health Care Proxy /Living Will. The National Council of Young Israel has had conferences addressing Halachic end-of-life concerns. This is a serious life and death issue. The time to act is now.

With the support of these national organizations, the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (“NASCK”) has embarked on a national campaign to have every Jewish adult complete a Halachic Living Will and a Health Care Proxy.

NASCK has also created the Emergency Medical Education and Signup (“EMES”) Campaign and the EMES card. The EMES card is designed to fit in a sleeve with your Driver License or ID so that it is seen by emergency medical responders at a time of emergency. The card is specifically designed to help ensure that Halachah is followed when the agent cannot be located. It also clearly states your objection to autopsy and cremation in cases of sudden death. This card has significant legal effect on its own while encouraging both the use of the existing Halachic forms and registry at the US Living Will Registry. Agudath Israel and the OU have arranged for this registry to be free of cost.