Facilitating Mavett Shalom: Reform Judaism at the End-of-Life and After Death in Westchester County, New York
Haverford College. Department of Anthropology
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Many people turn to religion when they are forced to face the realities of death and dying. Even individuals who have maintained a casual or agnostic relationship with religion throughout their lives may participate in this phenomenon and turn to religious authority and community at these times. The current study aims to better understand the reasons why Reform Jews in Westchester County, New York may take advantage of explicitly Jewish resources as they approach their own deaths or cope with the loss of a loved one. Through in-depth, semi-structured, ethnographic interviews conducted with rabbis and social workers, this project provides perspective into the important ways that religious affiliation can facilitate more meaningful and less stressful deaths and mourning processes. By providing community, direction, and identity, Reform Judaism is able to operate in a simultaneously complementary and contradictory way to the hegemonic death practices common in the United States of America, providing what the medical model of death does not.