Getting Good at Getting Older
2020 National Jewish Book Award Finalist
From the creator of the best-selling The Jewish Catalog comes a tour for all of us "of a certain age" through the resources and skills to navigate the years between maturity and old age. It brings humor, warmth, and more than 4,000 years of Jewish experience to the question of how to shape this new stage of life.
Organized into six sections, each devoted to getting good at:
• Gaining Wisdom: learning, personal growth, and self-discover
• Getting Along: dealing with aging parents, adult children, grandchildren, deepening intimacy, and friendship
• Getting Better: taking care of your emotional self, facing the reality of our aging bodies, visiting someone who's sick
• Getting Ready: organizing and planning for the inevitable
• Giving Back: volunteering, mentoring, and getting involved
• Giving Away: leaving a legacy, not a landfill
Features dozens of original black and white line art pieces by noted cartoonist Paul Palnik, and chapter contributions from more than a dozen experts in the field.
Find related resources here.
About the Authors
Richard Siegel co-created The Jewish Catalog, the best-selling resource that galvanized a generation of Jews energized by American counter-culture of the late '60s and early '70s. He brought arts and culture into the forefront of Jewish consciousness and enriched the field of Jewish professional leadership through his long career.
Rabbi Laura Geller was recently named an Influencer in Aging by Next Avenue, the first public digital publication focused on issues for people over 50. An innovatr and social activist, she was the fourth woman ordained as a rabbi in the United States, and is Rabbi Emerita at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills.
Learn more about Getting Good at Getting Older and find out about upcoming author appearances here
Enjoy this podcast from Jewish Women's Theater featuring Rabbi Laura Geller talking about the many ways to Get Good at Getting Older.
Marci Alboher is a leading authority on workplace trends. A former blogger and columnist for the New York Times, her latest book is The Encore Career Handbook: How to Make a Living and a Difference in the Second Half of Life. She lectures widely and has been interviewed by countless news organizations. Marci serves on the board of directors of Girls Write Now and as a mentor-editor for the OpEd Project.
Judith Ansara and Robert Gass are internationally known teachers, synthesizing rich backgrounds in spirituality, psychology, social action, and the arts. They have taught passionate aliveness and service for almost 40 years at centers such as Omega and Esalen, and organizations ranging from the Sierra Club to General Motors to the White House. They are the creators of 15 recordings of sacred music, including the best-selling Om Namaha Shivaya, and their retreats for couples bring a depth of compassion and insight forged in the living laboratory of their 50-year marriage.
Leah Bishop is a partner at Loeb & Loeb LLP. She focuses her practice on estate and gift tax planning for high-net-worth individuals, the administration of estates and trusts, and charitable giving and tax-exempt organizations. Leah cochairs the firm’s national practices in these areas. Leah has been married to Gary Yale for 43 years, and they have two grown daughters.
Rabbi William (Bill) Cutter was ordained at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in 1965. He earned his PhD at UCLA in modern Hebrew literature and Jewish studies. During his more than 50 years teaching at HUC-JIR, he has helped develop several academic and public programs for the college and the Reform movement, but has especially enjoyed writing about modern Hebrew culture and humanistic-spiritual aspects of health and healing. He serves on several hospital committees supporting bioethics and pastoral care. Bill is married to Georgianne Fisher Cutter, and—because of a remarkable son, Benjamin and rabbinic daughter-in-law, Sari—enjoys especially the growth of his two grandchildren. He and Georgianne seek antidotes to the increasing commercialization of medical practice.
Helen Dennis, a nationally recognized leader on aging and the new retirement, has worked with more than 20,000 employees at corporations, at universities, and in Jewish communities, planning for the noneconomic aspects of retirement. Cofounder of Project Renewment, a movement of career women defining their next chapters in life, and coauthor of the Los Angeles Times best seller Project Renewment: The First Retirement Model for Career Women, she writes a syndicated column on Successful Aging for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group, reaching 1.6 million readers weekly. In 2016 she was recognized by PBS Next Avenue as one of the 50 Influencers in Aging.
Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, PhD, is a distinguished service professor of philosophy at American Jewish University and, since 1974, visiting professor at the UCLA School of Law. He has served on three federal commissions—on the distribution of health care, diminishing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and research on human subjects—and now serves on the State of California’s Ethics Committee governing stem cell research. His book, Matters of Life and Death: A Jewish Approach to Modern Medical Ethics, addresses many issues in end-of-life care.
Richard Eisenberg is managing editor of Nextavenue.org, a public media website for people 50+. He is also the editor of the site’s Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels. He was formerly executive editor of Money magazine and front-page finance editor at Yahoo! He is the author of The Money Book of Personal Finance and How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis.
Merle Feld is the author of a beloved memoir, A Spiritual Life: Exploring the Heart and Jewish Tradition; a book of poetry, Finding Words; and the award-winning plays Across the Jordan and The Gates Are Closing. She has pioneered teaching writing as a spiritual practice, serving lay seekers and mentoring rabbis across the denominations. Visit merlefeld.com and derekh.org for details about her forthcoming book, a how-to for journaling through our lives.
Dan Fendel is coauthor, with Rabbi Stuart Kelman, of Chesed Shel Emet: The Truest Act of Kindness: Exploring the Meaning of Taharah and Niḥum Aveilim: A Guide for the Comforter. He cofounded the chevrah kadisha at Temple Sinai in Oakland, California, was in the first graduating class of the Gamliel Institute, and has taught about the liturgy of taharah in various settings. He is also a spiritual care volunteer at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland.
Marc Freedman, president and CEO of Encore.org, is one of the nation’s leading experts on the longevity revolution. The Wall Street Journal named his newest book—How to Live Forever: The Enduring Power of Connecting the Generations—one of the year’s best books on aging well. An award-winning social entrepreneur, frequent media commentator, and author, Marc has been honored with numerous awards and fellowships, including the Eisner Prize for Intergenerational Excellence.
Deborah Goldstein is a Brooklyn-based home organizer with over 15 years’ experience in helping her clients downsize and make thoughtful decisions about items that are truly meaningful to them. Her specialties are seniors, bereavement/estate cleanouts, and hoarding. Deborah’s guiding principle is that what we truly value in our lives are the memories and the experiences we have had with the people we love. Visit Deborah here.
Felicia Herman has been executive director of Natan, a giving circle supporting Jewish and Israeli social innovation, since 2005. She is the founder and advisory board chair of Amplifier, a network of giving circles inspired by Jewish values, and she serves on the boards of Sefaria, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the DreamStreet Theatre Company. She holds a PhD in American Jewish history and an MA in Jewish women’s studies, both from Brandeis University, and a BA from Wellesley College. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three children.
Paul Irving is chairman of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, distinguished scholar-in-residence at the USC Davis School of Gerontology, and chairman of Encore.org. He is a director of East West Bancorp, Inc. and Pharos Capital BDC, Inc., and serves on advisory boards at USC, Stanford University, the Global Coalition on Aging, and WorkingNation. Paul is a member of the steering committee for the National Academy of Medicine Healthy Longevity Initiative and was a participant in the 2015 White House Conference on Aging. Paul writes and speaks about investment and innovation in the longevity economy; health, productivity, and purpose for older adults; and the changing culture of aging in America and the world.
Ellie Kahn (Living Legacies Productions) has been an oral historian since 1988, recording memories and stories for hundreds of families and organizations. Ellie is also a licensed psychotherapist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. Though based in LA, Ellie often travels to other cities for her work. Her in-depth interviews are usually transformed into written and video treasures that will last for many generations. Visit her here.
Rabbi Naamah Kelman is a descendent of rabbis, becoming the first woman to be ordained by the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem, where she is the Dean. Since moving to Israel in 1976 from New York, she has worked to promote pluralistic Judaism for Israelis and to strengthen the ties between Israel and world Jewry.
Rabbi Stuart Kelman, PhD, is the founding rabbi emeritus of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, California. Together with David Zinner, he founded the Gamliel Institute, an online series of courses teaching the work of the chevra kaddisha. His interests lie in the areas of liturgy, music, healing, and the work of the chevra kaddisha, and has written in all these areas. Ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary, he holds a doctorate in education from USC.
The Reverend Rosemary Lloyd is dedicated to supporting clergy and congregations in having vital conversations about our unique wishes for care through the end of life. A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard Divinity School, Rosemary has a lifelong interest in end-of-life care and ethics that are fueled by her experience as a registered nurse and hospice volunteer. She is an ordained Unitarian Universalist minister, a graduate of the Metta Institute for Compassionate End-of-Life Care, and an advocate for deepening the spiritual practice of embracing the reality of our mortality for the sake of having more joy in life.
Dr. Ruth Nemzoff, author of Don’t Roll Your Eyes: Making In-Laws into Family (Griffin) and Don’t Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships with Your Adult Children (Palgrave Macmillan) is a resident scholar at Brandeis’s Women’s Studies Research Center. She holds a doctorate from Harvard University, an MA in counseling from Columbia University, and a BA from Barnard College. She is a board member of the Jewish Grandparents Network. To learn more, click here.
William Novak is probably best known as the ghostwriter for celebrity memoirs by Lee Iacocca, Tip O’Neill, Oliver North, Nancy Reagan, Magic Johnson, and Natan Sharansky. Prior to writing other people’s books, he was the editor of Response, the Jewish student journal, and New Traditions, published by the Havurah movement. Together with Moshe Waldoks, he is responsible for The Big Book of Jewish Humor.
Rabbi Vanessa L. Ochs is a professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia. Her books include Inventing Jewish Ritual, Sarah Laughed, The Jewish Dream Book (with Elizabeth Ochs), Words on Fire, and Safe and Sound. She was awarded a creative writing fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. Ochs earned her BA from Tufts University, an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, and a PhD from Drew University.
Ben Pomerantz, MSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice in Los Angeles. He works with children, adolescents, and adults, specializing in teaching self-regulation skills, including clinical hypnosis. He has taught at the USC Graduate School of Social Work for many years.
Nessa Rapoport is the author of a novel, Preparing for Sabbath; a volume of prose poems, A Woman’s Book of Grieving; and a memoir, House on the River. Her meditations are included in Objects of the Spirit: Ritual and the Art of Tobi Kahn; Tobi Kahn: Sacred Spaces for the 21st Century; and Anointed Time: Sculpture and Ceremonial Objects. She speaks frequently on Jewish writing, culture, and imagination.
Tiffany Shlain is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker, author, and founder of the Webby Awards, and was honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century.” Selected by the Albert Einstein Foundation for Genius: 100 Visions of the Future, Tiffany has had four films premiere at Sundance, including her feature documentary Connected and The Tribe. She is the author of The 24/6 Life, about her decade of tech shabbats.
Rabbi Ruth H. Sohn is a spiritual director and writer. Ordained in 1982, she directs the Spirituality Initiative and the Leona Aronoff Rabbinic Mentoring Program at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles. Ruth is an experienced teacher of Jewish mindfulness meditation and traditional Jewish texts. She codirects the Yedidya Center’s Morei Derekh Jewish Spiritual Direction Training Program. Ruth’s articles, biblical commentary, midrash, and poetry have appeared in various anthologies and periodicals.
Susan K. Stern’s work as a community activist includes her appointment by two governors as chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service, and her nomination by President Barack Obama as chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. She also served as founding chair of the UJA Federation’s Time for Good, as well as chair of the board of the UJA Federation of New York, vice chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, a member of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and advisory liaison to Repair the World.
Harriet Warshaw has more than 35 years of management experience in both the public and private sectors, including senior positions at the Boston Hospital for Women, the New England Baptist Hospital, Genzyme Corporation, and the New England Healthcare Institute. She is the former executive director of the Conversation Project, and now serves as a faculty member with the organization. In addition, she has held elected office in the Town of Wellesley, Massachusetts, including ten years on its Board of Health and nine years on the Board of Selectmen. She has served on numerous commissions and boards, including chairing the Combine Jewish Philanthropies’ Commission on Caring and Social Justice and as president of the Temple Beth Elohim Board of Trustees in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
"Rabbi Laura Geller has poured her generous soul into this offering. How astonishing to live in a time when the very nature of lifespan - and thus of aging - is transforming before our eyes. This book is pragmatic, playful, and wise. It is an invitation to stop treating age as an enemy, as our culture suggests, and to claim its abundant gifts."
-Krista Tippett, host of On Being and founder of The On Being Project
"Getting Good at Getting Older is a bedside companion, a portable best friend, and a baedeker of essential resources for anyone smart enough to age mindfully rather than just let it happen to them."
-Letty Cottin Pogrebin, founding editor of Ms. magazine and author of Getting Over Getting Older
"Reading Getting Good at Getting Older, I could feel myself getting great at getting older and am now looking forward to the next 97 years."
-Norman Lear, producer of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Good Times, One Day at A Time, and Maude
"Aging is an opportunity to rewire, not retire. Getting Good at Getting Older offers wonderful advice about how to keep yourself and your relationships active and vibrant, and to embrace this part of life with a sense of adventure."
-Dr. Ruth Westheimer, author of Crocodile, You’re Beautiful; Roller-Coaster Grandma; and Sex for Dummies
"Calling all sages, elders, and perennials! If you are of the generation that changed the world once, and now, want to do it again –– this whimsical and thoughtful book will delight and challenge you. Filled with humor, curiosity, and chutzpah, Getting Good at Getting Older is essential reading for all of us navigating the second half of life."
-Marc Freedman, author of How to Live Forever, and CEO of Encore.org