Exterior of Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco
Exterior of Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco

Virtual panel to explore how young people grieve and heal

In the Covid-19 age, Jewish mourning rituals such as attending funerals, sitting shiva and reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish have had to be mediated through technology.

On Aug. 25, a panel will use those same virtual tools to talk about innovative, community-minded ways that young people process the death of a loved one.

In a joint event presented by Sinai Memorial Chapel and the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center and dubbed “Good Grief: A Mo(u)rning Conference in the Morning,” panelists will be sharing new thinking about grief and healing.

Going on its 20th year, the conference will focus this time on reaching younger generations, who frequently are overlooked during times of loss, according to Sinai Memorial Chapel executive director Sam Salkin. He said funeral homes and counselors often focus resources on middle-age adults who have lost elderly parents or spouses.

The speakers this year, Salkin said, are trying to change that orientation.

One is Santa Rosa-based Jewish panelist Sami Feld, a host of “The Dinner Party,” a community that brings together young adults in their 20s and 30s to discuss loss over a potluck dinner.

“When it comes to resources and grief care, young adults are often left out of the picture, as resources, support groups, and other services are often geared towards older folks or children,” Feld said. “This can make the experience of loss for people in their 20s and 30s all the more isolating.”

Feld recently helped launch the Covid Grief Network, a resource for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the pandemic. She’s also led retreats for Urban Adamah in Berkeley for young adults who are coping with death.

“I am looking forward to spreading the word about these valuable and needed resources for young adults navigating loss, and letting participants know how they can get involved,” Feld said.

“The ways in which these panelists are approaching grief is not standard,” Salkin said. “[They] exemplify the grassroots and thoughtful innovation that is taking place in the world of grief and bereavement counseling.”

Anthropologist Rabindra Hayashi, a researcher of digital life and death, will appear on the panel, as will Rachel Reichblum and Cecilia Yang, each of whom runs a dedicated Instagram account with helpful and healing messages about death.

The conference will be moderated by Rabbi Jon Sommer of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center.

Salkin said he also expects conversation at the conference to take on a new dimension in light of the coronavirus pandemic, something that has “more broadly distributed” the experience of death and loss.

“Good Grief: A Mo(u)rning Conference in the Morning” will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25 over Zoom. Click here to sign up.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler is a staff writer at J. You can reach him at gabriel@jweekly.com and follow him on Twitter @ggreschler.