December 17, 2018

Creator of ‘30 Days’ Project aims to ease mourners’ grief and loss

Singer-songwriter Craig Taubman’s father-in-law, Eli Brent, died in October 2015. His mother-in-law, Charlotte Brent, died a few months later. Both were in their late 80s.

Taubman, 59, remembers that time as a “very intense period” for him and his wife, Louise.

“When this was happening, there was nothing else in our lives,” he said. “It was everything. Every article you read, every movie you see, you look for peace about mourning and loss.”

Over the course of about a year, Taubman reached out to an eclectic network of faith leaders and artists, asking for their thoughts on loss. Now, he is sharing his findings.

“30 Days, a Journey of Love, Loss and Healing” is a collection of 30 disc-shaped cards packaged in a tin container, each complete with a short inscription to help people deal with the blow of losing a loved one. For Taubman, the ruminations, which range from ironic and irreverent to comedic and even rabbinic, address the often confusing and subjective nature of grief.

“Someone will read one and say this is the most inspired piece of writing I’ve ever read,” he said. “Someone else will read the same thing and say it’s stupid. When it comes to loss, like with taste, there’s no empirical truth. You process it in a variety of ways. The mourning process can be — you just never quite know.”

Notable contributors include Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple, “Tuesdays With Morrie” author Mitch Albom, Israeli musician Achinoam “Noa” Nini, as well as Taubman and his wife.

Taubman, well known in Los Angeles’ Jewish community for leading the musically themed Friday Night Live Shabbat services at Sinai Temple for 16 years through 2014, envisions his creation as a comforting gift to mourners.

“When you go to someone’s house, they don’t need another cake or flowers. Maybe some people do,” he said. “But if you give this as a gift to someone in mourning, it’s an easy access point. As a visitor, you can hand this to someone and read the cards with that person.”

Two months ago, after the project was finished, Taubman had 5,000 packages made. He has given away just over 1,000 and has sold more than 2,000 for $18 each when bought individually and $10 each when purchased in bulk of 10 or more. All of the proceeds — roughly $20,000 so far — benefit the Pico Union Project, a downtown Los Angeles multifaith cultural arts center and house of worship in the Pico Union neighborhood, just a few blocks from Staples Center. The Taubmans created the center four years ago when they purchased the oldest synagogue building in Los Angeles, the site of the original Sinai Temple, built in 1909.

To get the “30 Days” project off the ground, Taubman turned to Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Culver City, which agreed to underwrite the project, helping to cover initial printing and production costs. The park’s general manager, Paul Goldstein, said Hillside got involved because the project can help grieving families.

“While Jewish funerals are designed for the honor and dignity of the deceased, they are also created for the consolation and comfort of the bereaved,” Goldstein said. “I believed having the ability to extend this healing beyond the day of the funeral would be beneficial to every family who chooses Hillside.”

Goldstein said Hillside plans to soon include a “30 Days” package in the complimentary shivah/minyan kit it already provides families who have a funeral service at the park.

Craig Taubman

In 2012, Taubman spearheaded a project called “Jewels of Elul,” made up of 29 thoughtful insights —  one for each day of the Hebrew month of Elul  — dedicated to study and reflection about the High Holy Days. He sent them out as email blasts with quotes gathered from the likes of then-President Barack Obama; Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; and singer Mary J. Blige.

Taubman described “30 Days” — a reference to the concept of “shloshim,” the 30-day mourning period in Judaism — as “an extension of that project.” However, this time he used Jewish voices, seeking to elucidate the Jewish perspective on mourning and showcase what it can teach others.

“I think the Jewish concept of mourning is extraordinary and beautiful,” he said. “Loss is hard. Death is hard. But it’s a natural part of life. The Jewish approach is unique. You have the seven intense days. After that you have 30 days to process less intensely. A year after, and you’re still processing. It’s an amazing thing that all people can learn from, but it’s a Jewish tradition. Judaism has something really valuable to give to society.”