Through her beautifully written book THE FOREVER LETTER, Rabbi Elana Zaiman guides readers of all faiths to acknowledge, celebrate, and share their values, wisdom and love in powerful and lasting ways with the people who matter to them most.

Based on the old Jewish tradition of an Ethical Will where elders shared their values and wisdom with the next generation, Elana brings this beautiful practice into the 21st century, making it accessible to people of all ages and cultures. THE FOREVER LETTER offers readers inspiring example letters, motivational stories, and an easy to follow step-by-step process to help them write and share their forever letters. The book is a perfect gift for holidays and rites of passage like Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, confirmations, graduations, marriage, and the birth of a child.

THE FOREVER LETTER has received high praise from authors and speakers Jack Canfield (Co-Author, “Chicken Soup for the Soul”) and Parker Palmer (Author, “Your Life Speak”), relationships’ expert Julie Schwartz Gottman (the Gottman Institute), clergy including Rabbi Sherre Hirsch (Author, “Thresholds: How to Thrive Through Life’s Transitions to Live Fearlessly and Regret-Free”) and Rev. Susan Sparks, (Author, “Laugh Your Way to Grace”), ethics expert Michael Josephson (Josephson Institute of Ethics), Barbara Isenhour (Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney), Carolyn McClanahan, MD., CFP (Life Planning Partners, Inc.), and Priscilla Long (Author, “Fire and Stone: Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”)

THE FOREVER LETTER (ISBN: 978-0-7387-5288-4) is published by Llewellyn Worldwide and is available from, Barnes and Noble and other fine bookstores or ordered directly from Llewellyn.

What People Are Saying about THE FOREVER LETTER

“More than any time in our recent history, it’s critically important for families to come together and share their love and support for one another. Elana Zaiman’s The Forever Letter offers tools, guidelines and examples for grandparents and parents to share their love, respect and values with the next generation.”
-Jack Canfield, Co-Author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul® and The Success Principles™

I love this little book because it’s about writing real letters, a lost art in our time. Even more important, it’s about writing letters that matter to people who matter to us. What could be better than putting words to paper to tell people who we are and what we are becoming, and what it is that we cherish and value—thanking them for the way they helped point us toward our own North Star? Buy or borrow this deeply human book, and use it to write the letter of your life!

—Parker J. Palmer Author of “Let Your Life Speak”, “A Hidden Wholeness”, “Healing the Heart of Democracy”, and “The Courage to Teach”

Rabbi Zaiman showed me that forever letters are one of the most important gifts we can give to people we love and care about. Leaving words from our heart is just as important as passing on our material possessions. I will be recommending this book to clients and friends.

–Barbara A. Isenhour, Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney, Somers Tamblyn King Isenhour Bleck

Publisher’s Information

  • PUBLISHER: Llewellyn Worldwide
  • ISBN: ISBN: 978-0-7387-5288-4
  • PAGES: 240]
  • PRICE: $16.99
  • RELEASE DATE: 09/08/2017

Recommended Works by Rabbi Elana Zaiman

Favorite Eckleburg Work:

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The most powerful and important book I’ve ever read. It changed my perspective about how change ‘really’ happens. READ MORE

“Light of the Desert” by Lucette Walters

Amazing book about a Muslim woman who escapes a mercy killing by her father. READ MORE

Discussion Questions for THE FOREVER LETTER

1. What are the most important values that you live and want to make sure that your children and grandchildren carry on in their lives?

2. How do you ask a loved one for forgiveness and how do you put that in a letter that is read and accepted?

3. What was the most important letter you ever wrote and how was it received?

About Rabbi Elana Zaiman

Author Elana Zaiman (Seattle, WA) is the first woman rabbi from a family spanning six generations of rabbis. She’s also a chaplain and travels throughout the US and Canada as a scholar-in-residence, speaker, and workshop facilitator. Visit her at


Writing Openings

The opening of any work should immediately immerse the reader into the narrative. An opening might focus primarily on character(s) and/or setting. Regardless of focus, there is a general rule of thumb when writing effective openings—in medias res—or to put it another way, just throw us right into the middle of things and give us strategic, concrete details. 

Below are two narrative structures. The first more applicable to longer forms, the second from Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craftmore applicable to shorter forms. Notice how the longer form allows for more exposition at the start of the work where the short formthrows the reader immediately into the conflict. Though it is true that many great novels begin with a good deal of exposition, there are just as many that seem to follow the shorter form opening: throw the reader immediately into the character conflict and build the exposition along the way.

*Keep in mind that each scene within any work, long or short, follows its own similar narrative structure. So think of each scene and/or chapter as its own strategic plot contributing to the overall plot.


Opening Writing Exercise

Choose a work you’ve already written and have at least a few days away from it so that you can read it with fresh perspective. Now, read it again while looking for the moment when you feel an uptick in interest. A moment that anchors and drives you forward simultaneously. This could be for any reason: a character quirk, an extraordinary detail…. 

  1. Save your work in another document so you keep your original.
  2. Next, cut everything from the narrative prior to this “uptick” no matter how much, even if the uptick happens in the last paragraph of the work. Save this in another document.
  3. Consider how this “uptick” moment relates to the main character and one or more character crises as well as the climax. How might you further explore the concrete details within this moment so that it subtly foreshadows the longer narrative?
  4. As you rewrite your new opening, beginning with your “uptick” moment, consider which of your cut word count, only the essential details, are necessary to the rewrite. 
  5. As you rewrite the narrative, you’ll want to eventually consider how your new opening echoes in the conclusion and vice versa.

Submit Your Work for Individualized Feedback

Please use Universal Manuscript Guidelines when submitting: .doc or .docx, double spacing, 10-12 pt font, Times New Roman, 1 inch margins, first page header with contact information, section breaks “***” or “#.”


Writing Parallelism

Such an arrangement [syntactic] that one element of equal importance with another is similarly developed and phrased. The principle of parallelism dictates that coordinate ideas should have coordinate presentation. Within a sentence, for instance, where several elements of equal importance are to be expressed, if one element is cast in a relative clause the others should be expressed in relative clauses. Conversely, of course, the principle of parallelism demands that unequal elements should not be expressed in similar constructions. Practiced writers are not likely to attempt, for example, the comparison of positive and negative statements, of inverted and uninverted constructions of dependent and independent clauses. And, for an example of simple parallelism, the sentence immediately preceding may serve. Some departures from parallelism may qualify as “slight of ‘and,'” but most are just signs of carelessness, as when someone says, “I don’t like to fish or swimming.” But a deliberate violation of parallelism can be highly dramatic. Consider the couplet in Houseman’s “Hell Gate” in which coordinating conjunctions (polysyndeton) create the expectation of a parallel group of active verbs but abruptly end with a linked verb: “Then the sentry turned his head,/Looked, and knew me, and was Ned.” (Handbook to Literature)



A Handbook to LiteratureWilliam Harmon.

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory. Peter Barry.

Critical Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Stephen Eric Bronner.

Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. Lois Tyson

The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. David H. Richter

Literary Theories and Schools of Criticism. Purdue Online Writing Lab. 

The Norton Anthology of World Literature: Literary TermsMartin Puchner, et al.

Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French & Ned Stuckey-French.