Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing
Directed By: Paula Weiman-Kelman /
USA, Israel / 2020 / English
Documentary / Biography
Territory Rights: WORLD-WIDE
Exhibition Format: DCP, Prores/QT
Option for Live Appearance: Q&A
Name of guest: Paula Weiman-Kelman
Role of guest: Director
“This happens. You don’t want it to happen. But it does. So the important thing is to have a practice so that when it happens you can be with it. You can work with it. The best preparation is opening to love.”
Rabbi Rachel Cowan
“Dying Doesn’t Feel Like What I’m Doing” is a moving meditation on living resiliently with mortality.
Rachel Cowan, a beloved rabbi and influential spiritual teacher, is diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. She navigates her illness while teaching and practicing mindfulness, feeling gratitude, surrounded by love.
Through conversations, archival footage and Rachel’s own photography, her earlier life is revealed. With ease and honesty she revisits a past dedicated to the well-being of others and her community. She meets her husband, Village Voice journalist Paul Cowan, in the Civil Rights movement. Together they discover meaning in Judaism which leads to her conversion and rabbinic ordination. The first female Jew by choice to be ordained as a rabbi, she founds institutions that transform Jewish life. Her experience during Paul’s early death from leukemia leads to the creation of the Jewish Healing Center. Learning meditation through her work at the Nathan Cummings Foundation transforms her, inspiring the establishment of the Institute of Jewish Spirituality. Faced with the challenges of her own retirement she develops “Wise Aging.”
The film seamlessly weaves Rachel’s past with the present, allowing the viewer to be in the room with her as she navigates the progression of her illness while revisiting her life. She is honest and vulnerable facing the unknown and refocusing her fear in order to appreciate the present. She gives strength and insight into the journey that we will all be facing.