Life's Door

A gala event celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Life’s Door-Tishkofet (LDT), a leading Israeli organization encouraging hope and growth in times of serious illness, also marks the launching of its partnership with “The Conversation Project,” a US-based organization “dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.” LDT’s ultimate goal is to go beyond Israel’s borders and make a global change.

Life's Door

Dr. Ben and Dvora Corn, co-founders of Life’s Door, holding 2011 Presidential Award for Volunteerism. (Ola and Pavel Photographers)

The word “tishkofet” is Hebrew for “perspective,” which perfectly sums up the purpose of Life’s Door-Tishkofet, an Israeli grassroots organization. LDT’s vision, according to its website, is for each person to gain “an understanding of and internalize his/her mortality and finitude in order to live more meaningfully.”

LDT “has been transforming the experience of facing serious illness from one of anguish, confusion or denial to one that encourages collaboration, growth and healing for patients, families and professionals,” the site explains.

Since its founding, LDT has helped more than 10,000 patients, family members and professionals struggling with these issues. A gala 10-year anniversary celebration takes place on March 2 in Airport City, Israel.

Prof. Ben Corn, LDT’s co-founder and executive chairman, is professor of oncology at Tel Aviv University School of Medicine and chairman of the Institute of Radiotherapy at Tel Aviv Medical Center. He received the prestigious Presidential Award for Volunteerism in 2011 for his contribution to Israeli society.

The impetus to start the organization came from his own personal experience, having lost his father to cancer at the age of 11.

“Nobody talked about it,” he said. “It was very much a void that well-meaning, intelligent and educated people who loved me and my siblings just didn’t have the tools to share the trauma that the family was going through.”

Wife and co-founder Phyllis Dvora Corn is an occupational, family and marital therapist specializing in working with patients and families facing life-threatening illness. Having dealt with these challenges in their everyday professional lives, the Corns, who moved from America to Israel in 1997, concluded that much more could and should be done to help others navigate the journey.

“We want to change the way people face illness worldwide,” Dvora stated in a telephone interview with UWI. “We can’t always find a solution to the illness itself, but we can be there for you,”

Life's Door

Art Therapy at Life’s Door. (Photo: Life’s Door-Tishkofet)

“That’s where our program is unique, offering a channel [for those in illness or near the end of their lives] to communicate, to grow, to explore their inner selves and how they have been living up to their values…. We empower people with tools to live their lives to the fullest, to help them take every moment and make it count.”

“People often live in denial of mortality,” she continued. LDT “takes advantage of the opportunity to embrace the language that faces illness honestly.”

In this spirit, the organization’s newest initiative is its partnership with The Conversation Project. Founded in 2010 by American writer Ellen Goodman, the Project is “dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care,” the Project’s website says. The aim is to bring conversations about death into the mainstream, so that they “could even be discussed around the dinner table,” Goodman writes.

“It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves. We believe that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people we love, before it’s too late.”

LIFE’S DOOR TRAINING MORE THAN 200 VOLUNTEERS

LDT “is proud that we are partnering as the first site out of North America for The Conversation Project,” Dvora said. “LDT’s professional and volunteer staff are in the process of being trained to offer this unique process to people…across the broad spectrum of society. It offers a structured and supportive opportunity for individuals to explore their thoughts and feelings around their personal values and wishes related to illness and end-of-life issues. LDT believes that when people are able to maturely and compassionately consider these important life decisions, in a safe and loving context, it offers a powerful opportunity for sharing and planning that allows people to live with dignity, hope and meaning until their final hours…. It’s saying who I am as a person until the last breath.”

Life's Door

Partners for Life Retreat for Mothers and Daughters at Dead Sea organized by Life’s Door. (Photo: Tamar Frank)

LDT professionals currently train more than 200 volunteers – supervised by spiritual care providers and social workers – across the country.

“Volunteers are grassroots people who become the actual ambassadors for making a change in society,” Dvora said. “They become profoundly changed by the experience. They are transformed. This is our approach for the future, to create an international community of caring. We might look different and speak different languages, but wanting to live fully is universal. These are universal truths: living a meaningful life and having meaningful relationships.”

Author: Atara Beck, Staff Writer, United with Israel
Date: Feb. 9, 2014