Halachic Living Will
We at NASCK have developed toolkits for two types of events: a Workshop and an Open House.
This is the WORKSHOP 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.
The main strategy for a successful Halachic Living Will WORKSHOP event is to have as many shul members as possible committed to filling out halachic living wills before the event.
The event itself should be focused on actually filling out the document and EMES Card, and having them properly witnessed.
Therefore, speeches should be kept to a minimum, or even left out completely, at the event itself.
Most of the people who are present already want to sign a halachic living will, and have come for instruction on how to do so.
To streamline the process, everyone should be given the following at the beginning of the event:
- the halachic living will form of the rav’s choice
- an EMES card
- a pen
- if you choose, a return envelope to make a donation to NASCK
Questions should be left for the end, as many questions will be answered during the presentation itself.
If people have personal questions, they can ask the presenter after the presentation. It is imperative that the presenter makes it clear that they are not giving legal advice.
The information should be presented clearly and concisely. It is critical that the presenter is familiar with the living will, and common questions that are asked about it. The following VIDEO explains the details of the form in just 20 minutes. While it uses the RCA version of a halachic living will, the Agudah version is similar enough that the video will still cover all the important points.
Your presenter is also 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.
Participants should fill out both the form and the EMES card, as instructed by the presenter. However, participants should NOT SIGN the form or the EMES card until their signature can be witnessed.
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.
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.
Consider doing two sessions, either back-to-back or on different days, to make it easier for people to fit the program into their schedule.
The venue that you choose should have:
1. Enough parking
2. Enough room for each attendee to have a seat at a table in order to fill out forms
3. A method of projecting the POWERPOINT video, if you choose to use it
4. The ability for everyone present to hear and see the presentation
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.
There are two ways to organize witnesses:
1. At a witness table in the back of the room
Have a table in the back of the room with a set of witnesses (or multiple sets, depending on how many people you expect).
If your state requires that a living will be notarized, have the notary sit in between the teams of witnesses. The advantage of this method is that people who come in with their forms already filled out (and some will), can sign their documents in front of the witnesses, and leave.
This method requires some advanced planning, since the witnesses need to be familiar with the forms.
2. Hataras Nedarim-style: After all the forms have been filled out, ask everyone to break into groups of three, making sure that all state requirements are fulfilled. To check the specific requirements for your state, click HERE.
It will be useful for you to write down the requirements for your state, so that you can announce them when participants are breaking into groups of three.
Once participants have assured that their group meets the requirements, each person can then have the other two act as witnesses to their halachic living will.
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.
Distributing the Executed Documents
A halachic living will is most effective when it can be easily accessed in an emergency. People should send a copyof 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:
- The single greatest factor in a successful program is the enthusiasm that the rabbi shows for the importance of this issue!
- The rabbi should be familiar with the issues regarding a halachic living will.
- 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
- Be sure to order EMES Cards with enough time for shipping and handling from New York
- Estimate how many people you expect to attend the event. That number will determine how many teams of witnesses you need.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Wherever a flyer, email, or script is mentioned, a sample of it is available by clicking on the link.
Following this timeline has been proven to yield excellent results.
Click HERE for a printable timeline.
4 weeks before the event:
Choose a date, time, and location: ___________________________________
Decide who will be the presenter: ___________________________________
(Feel free to reach out to NASCK about having a NASCK representative come to your community)
Create and print a flyer advertising the event. Click HERE to view templates of flyers for your use.
The rav should decide whether he wants to use the HHCP or the HMD
Contact NASCK to request the number of EMES cards you will need.
3 weeks before the event:
Distribute the flyer announcing the event.
Publish a BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter.
The blurb will continue to appear in the newsletter until the event.
Place an ad in a local paper to attract even more participants.
2 weeks before the event:
Send out the FIRST EMAIL.
Re-publish the BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter.
Recruit notaries, if required.
Decide if you will be using a witness table or will be having the documents witnessed hataras nedarim style.
If you will be using a witness table, recruit volunteers.
1 week before the event:
Re-publish the BLURB about the event in the shul newsletter.
1. The rav SPEAKS about the importance of having a halachic living will during his drashah.
2. The person who makes the announcements follows this SCRIPT.
An hour after havdalah:
Send out the POST-DRASHAH EMAIL.
1 day before the event:
Send out the REMINDER EMAIL.
If you are planning to screen the POWERPOINT presentation, do a trial screening of it using the A/V equipment you will have at the Workshop.
Print out enough halachic living will forms. You will need (as a rough estimate) 1.5 times as many forms as the number of attendees. So, if you expect 100 attendees, print out 150 forms.
Get an ample supply of pens.
Make sure enough tables and chairs are set up.
The day of the event:
Lay out the halachic living will forms, EMES cards, pens, and, if desired, NASCK return envelope at each spot, or have a stack by the door.
The day after the event:
Send out the POST-EVENT EMAIL.
Click HERE for a printable timeline.