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 Chevra Kadisha

Please join us for seven evening seminars during the spring and summer that will be facilitated by BK’s Chevra Kadisha. Each will address different aspects of caring for those who are in the process of transitioning, or who already have transitioned, from this earthly life and for those who remain. They all will take place at BK on Thursdays from 8:00 - 9:30 pm.

May 23rd - Tachrichim, Tahara, Chanting, Shmira: Chevra Kadisha Fundamentals

What happens when a Jew is taken to a funeral home and prepared for their final drive up or down the Parkway? How is the body prepared for burial by the chevra kadisha members during a tahara ceremony? How has chanting been integrated with the tahara? Atfer bathing, why is the deceased clothed in white? Why do community members practice shmira; staying with the body from the moment of death until burial?

June 13th - A Plain Pine Box: The Movement to Reclaim Traditional Jewish Death Practice from the Funeral Industry

A funny thing happened on the way to the American dream. Many increasingly assimilated American Jews lost their deep connections with the customary ways that Jews have died and tended to their dead. This seminar will review 19th and 20th Century practices, including the popularity of “landsmannschaften,” burial societies that provided burial plots and funeral services for immigrants from specific European towns and shtetls; the impacts from an ascendant funeral industry that professionalized and Americanized functions that previously were the domain and responsibility of chevre kadisha; and the recent growth of community- and synagogue-based chevre kadishe that are reclaiming these foundational, deeply meaningful, and sacred Jewish activities by engaging with, rather than a turning from, the reality of death.

July TBD

July TBD

August TBD

May 9th - Traditional & Alternative Jewish Approaches to Death & Burial

Regardless of where or when our ancestors organized a funeral, they all followed a similar script. After the body was carefully bathed and clothed in white, the community would accompany the body on its final earthly walk to the Jewish cemetery. Though each community held to its own burial traditions, this same basic formula was followed. Many  Jews now choose to be cremated which not long ago would have been considered an anathema. Others have selected green cemeteries as their resting places.

Our Bnai Keshet (BK) community is here for us at every significant milestone, from the shared simchas (celebrations) to life’s inevitable challenges and heartaches. When one is ill or troubled, the community responds with hesed (loving-kindness), providing the help and support the moment requires. When death is near or imminent, the support continues.

The BK Chevra Kadisha, our funeral and burial society, gives us an ongoing opportunity to care for the dying and the deceased, perhaps friends and fellow congregants with whom we have prayed, celebrated and mourned, with traditional Jewish custom and kavod ha-met/metah (honor and  respect for the dignity of the deceased). Doing so, we ensure that, when they are most vulnerable, our loved ones are prepared for their final journeys with dignity and compassion by a community that, perhaps, they have helped to build and nurture, or that they have barely known in passing. In this way, by competently and gently attending to the met/metah (deceased) – who is no longer able to do this for him/herself – the Chevra Kadisha also generates nichum aveilim (comfort) for their loved ones, the mourners. 

BK is committed to supporting and serving every person in our diverse community and will assist families in navigating the complexities of interfaith and transgender ritual and burial, as needed. It will provide its services to any Jewish family that requests them.

The BK Chevra Kadisha aims to de-mystify and reclaim what, through the ages, has been a traditional responsibility of Jewish communities everywhere. It looks forward to partnering with other chevre kadisha in the Montclair area to enhance regional chevra kadisha and continuity-of-life activities.

When a loved one dies

The BK Chevra Kadisha attends to the met/metah from death through burial. If a family has not planned for this eventuality, the Chevra Kadisha can help families find a funeral home and cemetery. It can also answer questions about traditional rituals and practices, interfaith burial, environmentally friendly burial options, organ and tissue donation, the Jewish approach to cremation, and any other question or concern related to this aspect of life.

What to do, who to call, how to plan.

Volunteer Opportunities

The Chevra Kadisha offers many opportunities for BK members and those from other congregations to help.

Volunteer to help families make funeral arrangements; visit the sick; join with others to sew tachrichim (simple, white burial garments); do shmira ( sit with the met/metah in shifts from the time of death until burial reciting  psalms or poems, singing  or reading spiritual selections); sing chants at bedside or during shmira; be part of a tahara team that does the ritual washing, blessing and dressing of the body in preparation for burial; help with Chevra Kadisha logistical planning and operations; organize a “meal of consolation” at the mourners’ home following the funeral; plan educational events for adults and students; research cemetery options; or learn how to lead a shiva minyan (prayer service during shiva).

Click here to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

Common terms and questions related to Chevra Kadisha.

Related Links

Further Reading
Articles, essays, personal reflections

More Questions? Contact Deborah Zafman or Norman Rosenblum

Tue, January 25 2022 23 Sh'vat 5782