Jewish Ethical Wills
The Jewish Ethical Wills Project provides resources for communities to engage in creating ethical wills. Our two-part curriculum, Ethical Wills: A Values Vault for Future Generations©, explores ethical wills as an authentic Jewish practice that helps to articulate values, explore issues of legacy, and navigate liminal moments. It was created in partnership with the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Ethical Wills: A Values Vault for Future Generations© is available for free to communities and institutions interested in providing ethical wills programming. For more information about the curriculum or participating in the project, click here or contact Rabbi Abigail Treu, director of The Center for Jewish Living at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ethical wills, sometimes called spiritual or legacy letters, are resources Jews have used for centuries to articulate and pass on deeply held values and beliefs. Historically, they were letters written by parents to children; now they often address a wider circle of friends and family, and can come in audio, video, or other creative formats. No matter the format, they contain a person’s moral legacy, including stories, life lessons, and blessings for the future. Unlike wills that govern material assets and property, ethical wills are not enforceable by law. They are values articulated, saved, and passed on for future generations.
There are many reasons to make an ethical will: to reflect on how we have lived and how we wish to live; to give and to ask for love; to pass on what we don’t want forgotten; to forgive and to be forgiven; to remember and to be remembered; to leave behind something personal and distinctive for friends and family.