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September 2, 2015 | 18th Elul 5775

Hope & Healing : Supporting Families Facing Cancer

Forty individuals gathered on a Sunday afternoon at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills. The topic was cancer. Nearly all of the attendees are currently living with cancer, have faced cancer in the past, or are taking care of someone who has cancer.

The panelists included Rabbi Janet Marder, senior rabbi of Beth Am, Rabbi Natan Fenner of the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center, Dr. Meryl Botkin, a licensed psychologist and a caregiver for five years, and Ali Meyers, a young woman who has survived colon cancer and now leads a support group at Beth Am.

The panelists spoke both about their personal experiences and their professional opinions. Ali Meyers read several pages from her journal in deeply moving poetry and prose about her initial diagnosis, her surgery, and her first chemotherapy. Dr. Botkin spoke about caring for her husband, who died of a malignant brain tumor, and the stages of cancer and caregiving.

After the panel we broke into smaller groups: one talked about how the congregation can respond to the needs of those facing cancer; the other talked about how the congregation can respond to the needs of caregivers. The small group discussions were valuable to people feeling isolated by their situation and allowed them to share strategies and suggestions.

We came back together for a closing healing service led by Rabbi Marder and Cantor Bandman of Beth Am.

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