Jewish teachings for aging wisely

Everyone ages, but how can we age wisely?

“Jewish Wisdom for Aging Well” is a new class at the JCC of Sonoma County that will seek answers to that question, using Jewish teachings as a tool for self-reflection and deeper understanding.

Rabbi Meredith Cahn of Petaluma, who will lead the group, said she plans to facilitate a supportive environment where participants can make connections over time and share experiences, and will suggest the use of other modes of self-reflection, such as meditation and journal writing.

Rabbi Meredith Cahn

The idea for the class came after Cahn attended a program last year at Commonweal in Bolinas, a center that focuses on health and healing, art and education, and environment and justice. She was listening to Rabbi Rachel Cowan, co-author of “Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience & Spirit,” describe wise aging groups she has hosted in New York that serve as a support system for those who want to do reflective work and prepare for late life.

Not long after, Cahn presented her own program about Jewish teachings on aging at the Sonoma County “Day of Jewish Learning” in February, and she said the positive feedback inspired her to create the group to further explore the lessons of wise aging.

Cahn teaches Hebrew and Mussar classes at Congregation Shomrei Torah in Santa Rosa and directed the joint religious school at Congregation Ner Shalom in Cotati and B’nai Israel Jewish Center in Petaluma.  

“Every time we start welcoming Shabbat, I pose a question like ‘What is surprising about aging?’ or ‘What are you really grateful for?’ and people’s responses are really rich,” Cahn said. “The idea that there could be a regular time to come together and do some Jewish learning and talk about the issues around aging wisely seemed like a great opportunity.”

The group will meet on the first Thursday of every month from 4 to 6 p.m. at the JCC of Sonoma County, 1301 Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa. The fee is $20 per session. An introductory session was held on Aug. 4 and the next meeting is on Sept. 1.

There is no age requirement for participants, but rather an interest in talking about aging. Because the group is intended to be a small community in a somewhat intimate setting, Cahn said she would consider hosting a second group if there is enough interest.

“Aging is a time when you have the opportunity to really think about what works in your life and what you need to fix and what meaning there is,” Cahn said. “There are a lot of Jewish teachings about just aging and aging wisely and the difference between the two, and the idea that we can offer people a way to really reflect and do that is great.”

For information on “Jewish Wisdom for Aging Well,” see

Dalia Jude

Dalia Jude was a J. intern in summer 2015.