Salvador Litvak: Can Talmud change your life?


Hollywood filmmaker and Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak recounts his journey of how one moment of learning Talmud led to a million followers on Facebook.

“What we learn from the students of Hillel is that you should be able to state the opinion of your opponent in a way your opponent will say, ‘yes, that is my opinion.’ When you do that, you are opening a door for him to say ‘I feel heard. Now I am willing to hear what you have to say.” -Salvador Litvak

Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak

From left: David Suissa and Salvador Litvak

Check out this episode!

Widows, Orphans, and Strangers at the Border


“You will not undermine the justice due to a stranger or an orphan and you will not seize the widow’s garment as collateral.” Deuteronomy, 24:17

“Fathers and mothers have been humiliated among you, strangers have been cheated in your midst, orphans and widows have been wronged among you.” Ezekiel 22:7

“There is no greater or more glorious joy than bringing joy to the heart of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the strangers.” Maimonides, Hilchot Magila v’Hanukah, 2:17

On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease granting asylum in the United States to fugitives from domestic abuse and gang violence. This act should shock the conscience of every American, but for Jews it is a particular outrage.

Why does our Torah, echoed by our prophets and sages, exhort us repeatedly to care for the orphan, widow, and stranger and warn of catastrophes for those who ignore the call? In the patriarchal society of the ancient Hebrews, widows, orphans, and strangers were people without protection. They were socially naked, vulnerable, and, according to Jewish values, owed the community’s help.

Vulnerability is no shame in Judaism. We are all “the weak.” We are temporary, puncturable, fleshy creatures, puny even by mammalian standards. We are not made, as tigers are, to hunt alone. We are made to form communities, to speak, and to care. Our founding story of slavery and redemption reminds us of that mutual dependence and obligation which offers whatever glory humans can attain.

Women and children who live in countries where domestic abuse and violence are not taken seriously by authorities and where everyone but the most privileged is subject to impressment by brutal gangs are “members of a particular social group” with a “well-founded fear of persecution.” The Geneva Convention of 1951 and U.S. law allow such people to find asylum here.

Yet, when such families present themselves at the border of our country, they have been pulled apart. Children are yanked out of their parents’ arms and forced into detention without explanation, often by people who cannot communicate in the child’s language. They are kept away from parents for months at a time, inflicting trauma that will reshape their brains and wound their hearts for a lifetime. This has been happened to all border-crossers and asylum-seekers since May when Attorney General Sessions declared a “zero tolerance” policy for every person who is caught or who presents themselves without documents at our borders. Previously, such families could remain together until the parents could make their case in court. This brutality does not reflect ‘how things have always been,’ it is a terrible new policy of the current administration.

Now Attorney General Sessions has said that women who have been beaten, raped, mutilated, or threatened with death by domestic partners and been routinely ignored by authorities in their birth countries don’t count as persecuted people who need our help. He has said that teens who have been threatened with torture, including sexual violence, if they themselves do not aid the perpetrators of such violence cannot count on us either.

We American Jews cannot allow this to stand. The fugitives from patriarchal violence who arrive at our borders are the widows, orphans, and strangers of our day. They are precisely the people we are commanded to help—those who, because of their position in society, are denied the political means to defend themselves where they are. We whose ancestors found sanctuary here are obliged to be the welcoming neighbors for whom those ancestors prayed.

There is much we can do. We can support a bill introduced by our state’s Senator Diane Feinstein, the Keep Families Together Bill along with the Help Separated Children Act (S2937) and S2468, which provides free counsel for children in immigration court. We can call and write the office of the U.S. Attorney General. Every day. We can march today with Families Belong Together.

We learn in Gittin 61a that, “The Rabbis taught, we support the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, and visit the non-Jewish sick with Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, because of the ways of peace.” We also act on behalf of the widow, orphan, and stranger, no matter where they are from.

Dating 101: Jaded but Hopeful


This week I was asked out by a yet another man in a dress, one in his eighties, one who posted jail pictures, and one who has a dog named Ned. By Ned, of course I mean his name is N.E.D. as in No Erectile Dysfunction. Important to note when he wrote to tell me what NED stood for, he spelled dysfunction wrong, which I found to be sad and hilarious. My dating life continues to be entertaining and pathetic. I’m exhausted from all the eye rolling I do.

Over the weekend I received an email from a man we will call “Benjamin”. Benjamin wrote me a short but sweet note. I responded, we briefly emailed, then moved on to phone calls. He is entertaining, funny, educated, open, honest, Jewish, a dad, good with banter, and attractive if he actually looks like his pictures. Over email he was very clever, which I find appealing. He drew me in with a wonderful combination of boyish charm and sarcastic smartass. I was interested.

He is very aware of who he is, what he needs, and how he is going to get what he wants. He is articulate and not afraid to speak his mind, which I find to be very attractive. He is a lot like me to be honest, which is interesting and strange. I like who I am and there are parts of my personality I think are wonderful, and the more we talk, the more I see similarities, which is fascinating because we are very different. It makes him both intriguing and intimidating.

I have been down this “pre-dating” road before and as you all know, and it never turns out well. I have pre-dated men who I was certain I was connecting with, only to meet them and have there be no connection at all. Pre-dating is tricky, somewhat necessary, yet useless. I’ve been divorced for 22 years. I have dated, had three important relationships, and had my heart broken. I want to believe each experience got me closer to my bashert, but that isn’t always easy to do.

I want to find love, share my life, go on adventures, and have a partner. I want my son to see me in a relationship with a man who loves me in the same way I love him. I want my son to see me happy in a way that he wants for himself. I have a wonderful life and sharing it is the goal, but it is a hard game to play, so goals can be elusive. I remain hopeful, which is frankly a miracle because I know many who have stopped trying. But enough about me, let’s get back to Benjamin.

We were texting and he responded to something I sent in a way that hurt my feelings. I wrote back with what I thought was a clever reply. I suppose I was thinking about only my feelings, so it never occurred to me that my response was anything other than funny and charming. What I said however, rubbed him the wrong way and he was put off. This is why texting is not good when you are getting to know someone, as interpretations are most often wrong. I am not a fan of texting and try to avoid it whenever possible.

Then yesterday something funny happened and I wrote to tell him about it. (We don’t know each other well so I wasn’t sure if I could call him the middle of a work day, thus the text.) He wrote back telling me to give him a call. I called, we chatted for a minute, then he said he wanted to talk about the text exchange. He told me how he interpreted my text, which was not good. He thought it was rude and condescending, which of course was not my intention, but in retrospect I could see how he might have thought it was. He then explained how he thought I had interpreted his text, which he understood, but felt was wrong.

It is truly interesting to be dealing with a grown up. He didn’t sulk, he didn’t disappear, he wasn’t an ass, he simply wanted to talk about it in a kind and open way. He is an advanced communicator, as am I, which I appreciate. We talked, each taking time to explain ourselves, both apologized for the miscommunication, agreed texting is not a good way to communicate, and moved on. He handled the situation with maturity, which I respect. It was a pleasant surprise to hit a bump, talk about it, and have it be done.

At the end of the day I have no idea what I am doing. I am jaded but hopeful, and blessed that hope is in the lead. I am old enough to know exactly who I am and I am searching for someone who is secure with who he is, so that we make sense. Benjamin seems like a good guy, but also very complicated, so we’ll see how it plays out. We are meeting today, and I have no idea how it will go, but there is pre-dating flutter that is lovely. I could be wrong, as I most often am, so all I can do is just roll with it, relax, and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying for Taharah by Gloria Saltzman


Washing the Dead in a Taharah

Ruth was dying.

That is why we had to learn to do Taharah, the Jewish ritual that prepares the body for burial.

About ten of us would gather on the couch and chairs in my living room and pay attention to the Rabbi who explained each sacred step.

“There should be no excessive talking. If you must speak, address the Metah.” The Metah is the deceased, the body that was the vessel that held something that becomes ephemeral once it stops working. Is it a soul, a life? Someone had been housed in that body no matter what we each believe.

“You can simply explain to her what you are doing, be careful with her.”

Each step includes various prayers. The washing must be done in particular ways. When the body is clean, the blood wiped away from the pick lines and the catheters, the finger nails cleaned, polish removed, the hair cleaned and brushed, then we dress her.

We ease her into the white linen pants without openings at the feet that will no longer be used for walking. The top get slipped over her head and covers her arms.

There is an apron and a bonnet with lace edges. As the Rabbi displays the shroud I think it looks Amish. In Hebrew this clothing is called Tachrichim. The local Jewish funeral home, a Chevrah Kadisha (a sacred society), has generously donated it to our community.

At last she will be cleansed and purified and blessed. Then we can place another sheet over her that covers her face.

As we complete each step we will cover our eyes with goggles and wear surgical gloves, changing them often if we touch whatever is considered not sacred, not cleansed.

We learn how to make the “Shin” knots (knots that resemble the Hebrew letter ‘shin’, the initial letter of a name for G-d). We close each article of her death outfit with a knot that looks like the Hebrew letter Shin. This stands for Shaddai, one of the names for G-d.

And then together, we will lift her and place her in the plain pine casket that will disintegrate completely over time. It’s really true, I thought to myself as the Rabbi spoke. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I wasn’t there when Ruth died. Months later, the Rabbi called on me when a woman who did not belong to a synagogue needed a Taharah. Several women from various Northern California congregations volunteered.

“This will be an opportunity for you to continue to learn,” the Rabbi said. “I will go also. I’ll be with you.”

Even though I was scared I agreed to go. We drove together to the green cemetery in Marin County.

“Cover your head with a scarf to protect your hair,” the woman who was leading the ritual instructed me. I wore comfortable shoes that would protect my feet and would not be used for any other purpose. They were clean and new, not soiled.

Still feeling scared, I stood to the side as the more experienced women unzipped the plastic bag the Metah had been put in.

She was dead. I had been present at other deaths before but this was different. I was part of the team who would be preparing her for her last journey.

It took me a while to get to know her, to imagine who she had been in life. For her age, late seventies, she was in good shape. Her nails were covered in chipped red polish that we had to remove gently.

“She had been a lady,” the inner dialog with myself continued as we moved along quietly.

We carefully cleaned every part of her. With each progressive step I felt closer and closer to her. When I brushed her hair I told her how nice and thick it was, remarking on how pretty she looked in her new white shroud. As I took a warm wet cloth and wiped her arm, the Rabbi chanted prayers and I imagined who the women might be who would be doing this for me when I died.

That is the gift of the Chevrah Kadisha. It is a secret society because the act of Taharah is something that is invaluable and can never be repaid. The payment is that the ritual will continue and our own bodies will be held in love and respect when our time to leave life as we know it arrives.

At last she was prepared. We had completed each step according to the instructions that had been posted on a large laminated sheet of paper on the wall of the room she was in. This was the room where the refrigeration had stored her and where we had performed the assigned rituals on her body as she lay on the metal table and we lovingly cared for her. Soil from Israel was sprinkled on her and we placed shards of pottery on her eyes to symbolize that the “vessel of her soul was now broken.” 1.

That’s when I saw her. With an illuminated face, her thick grey hair was coiffed and she had on makeup as though she was dressed for an elegant event. She looked down on herself beneficently, with a warm smile on her face. It seemed she was expressing gratitude. I was not scared at that moment and she was at peace.

  1. classroom.synonym.com Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

Gloria Saltzman is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco. In addition she provides grief counseling to mourners and is on staff at Sinai Memorial Chapel, a Chevrah Kadisha in the Bay Area. She has an MFA from USF where she majored in poetry and creative nonfiction. She has been published in PHAROS, a literary journal in Paris, Tikkun’s on line magazine, and the SF Chronicle. Her writing will be included in the upcoming Write on Mamas Anthology, “She’s Got This”.

Gloria Saltzman

Gloria Saltzman

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online monthly session, held monthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is April 19th, featuring Abigail Salisbury.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:

April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series to help us defray the out of pocket costs.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered twice yearly, with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms.

The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three session series. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

Additionally, the Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday, and  Aaron Alexander and Lauren Holtzblatt on Wednesday – this day of learning is going to be fantastic!

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy,rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharahand shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Registration is open now.

Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.

Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.

Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).

Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.

Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli, Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.

Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit it to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values


Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Check out this episode!

Mementos Mori By Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan


Memnto Mori

“When I look at even a tiny scrap of paper in all the ‘clutter’ I can’t part with,” my cousin reflected, “the whole memory comes rushing back, completely reconstructed.” I was having a heart-to-heart discussion with her about hoarding and clutter in general.  Being a “declutterer” par excellence I wanted to understand more about savers, and possibly more about why I am so “Spartan”( as a saver friend of mine puts it). So when I asked my cousin  why it was so hard even to part with what she admitted were “no longer necessary things like the three extra coats my mother had and which are just sitting there in the closet,” she gave me a moving answer: “If I throw something out, I am so afraid I will lose the memory.”

I think my cousin would highly appreciate what some wise aliens had to say to a human visitor who could not fathom why memories of a pleasant event are “just as good” as the event itself. In Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis, the alien patiently explains to the human that memory is not separate from the event remembered:

“A pleasure and the memory are all one thing…What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure. When you and I first met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days until then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”

Now that may be going too far, but so much about Judaism, and perhaps all religions, is about remembering, and by so doing, reenacting the event. The example that comes most readily to mind is Passover, where the principal purpose of the Seder is to relive the story of transitioning from slavery to freedom. Shavuot, which commemorates receiving the Torah, asks us to feel as if on that very day of the holiday we were receiving and hearing the words of the Torah for the very first time, re-experiencing its revelation to us. Even the Sabbath is about recalling the opening moments of Creation and the refreshing break that God took after all that work, which goes for us too at the end of each week. That is a lot of remembering!

When we lose someone, they die. But our memories of them can last throughout our own lifetime. True, they are a distant remove from the “real thing”, but we cling onto whatever we can. Maybe that is why we do whatever it takes to make these memories as enduring as possible. As Jews, we do not want to “forget” the pivotal events that make up our identity and understanding of who we are such as becoming a free and distinct people and receiving the Torah. As individuals, we want to remember our loved ones through letters (I can’t seem to bring myself to say “emails”), photos, videos, conversations with others who knew them, and through things they owned such as jewelry, awards, or things they created. Yes, things can add up and become clutter. And yes, saving too little can imperil those cherished memories, causing a secondary death.

But whether you are a “saver” or a “declutterer,” there is another even more enduring way to keep them alive. Bear in mind the Hebrew expression, “Zichrono/a l’bracha,” used in referring to someone who has recently died. Literally this means, “Remember him/her for blessing.” Setting aside the exact technicalities of this phrase, to many Jews, this suggests that whatever mitzvot we perform as a result of the influence of our loved ones perpetuates their legacy. Just as whenever we read Torah we can ponder what is being revealed to us at that moment, when we carry out the good deeds that our loved one has done and has modeled for us to do, these bring our loved one to life anew.

Rabbi and board certified Chaplain Karen B. Kaplan is author of Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died  (Pen-L Publishing, 2014) a series of true anecdotes capped with the deeper reasons she chose her vocation. She has also recently published a collection of science fiction stories, Curiosity Seekers (Createspace Independent Publishing, 2017). She has submitted multiple entries published in Expired And Inspired.

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan photo

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is April 19th.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:

April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Institute Course 1

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution

This course will begin April 10th and run for 12 weeks. There is an orientation session on April 3rd. Register now at https://www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. If you want to know how the Chevrah Kadisha developed and why we do what we do today, this is for you!

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms.

The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday – this day of learning is going to be fantastic!

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy,rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharahand shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Registration is open now.

Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.

Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.

Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).

Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.

Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli, Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.

Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

________________________________

 

Dr. Micah Goodman: Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?


Israeli scholar Micah Goodman weighs in on the world’s most intractable conflict — and his ideas for a solution. He explains it all in his bestselling new book, Catch 67, which uses philosophical insights to tackle the Israel–Palestinian conflict.

“Everyone always talks about solving or not solving the conflict. What about shrinking the conflict?” -Dr. Micah Goodman

 

David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman in the studios

From left: David Suissa and Dr. Micah Goodman

Check out this episode!

THE IDEAL FOODS TO SERVE THE MOURNER FOR THEIR CONSOLATION MEAL? By Isaac Pollak


Meal of Consolation (Se'udah Havra'ah)

What should you serve a mourner at the Consolation meal?

The first indication of a specific food to be served to a mourner is found in Genesis 25:30 where Jacob is found to be boiling lentils (lentils have been found as carbonated remains alongside human habitation approximately 11,000 BCE in Greece and the Middle East) on the day his grandfather Abraham died. Why are mourners served lentils?

Explains the TB BB 16:B (YD 378:9; Gen R.63:14 ) because they are round like a wheel, and mourning/sorrow is like a wheel – it touches everyone sooner or later.

In addition, just as lentils have no “mouth” or opening but are smoothly round, so, too, the mourners have no “mouth” to speak; they are struck with their inability to speak due to their shock and sorrow at having their loved ones die. The feeling of losing a loved one is often the lowest – the most lonely a person will ever be.

This is the reason why mourners do not greet visitors, and visitors should not greet mourners unless the mourner communicates first. It allows the mourner to experience as much or as little “company” as they are able, without actually being alone. Having the mourner make the first move certainly eases the pain for everyone.

The custom evolved to serve round foods (bagels/pita and eggs are the ones I have seen most often in houses of mourning after returning from a funeral, but also black olives, sharp spicy foods, and high octane alcohol in an Iraqi /Kurdistani house of mourning) to symbolize the cyclical and continuous nature of life.

Eggs are often used these days for this purpose, as the egg is the only food that hardens more the longer it is cooked, and symbolizes that one must learn to steel oneself and be resilient when death occurs. The eggshell is fragile so perhaps the message is that while we are fragile we must also be resilient. In addition, eggs are a symbol of rebirth; indicating the cyclical nature of life. The egg is also completely sealed and has no opening, similar to the lentil. Some have the tradition that the egg is shelled by others and not by the mourner.

The tradition also developed that whatever round food is served is passed from one mourner to the next as a sign of mutual grief based on Lamentations 1:17, “Zion stretches forth her hand.”

(I find this to be in startling contrast to the tradition of not passing the shovel hand to hand while filling the grave; rather, the shovel is put down and the next person picks it up; perhaps the death of a loved one is unique to each person but the grief of losing that person is a common one.)

Another aspect of the condolence meal is that it is the second formal expression of consolation. The first is the parallel rows of friends and relatives through which the bereaved walks through as they depart the graveside. That is a silent tribute, but it is eloquent testimony that we share the mourner’s anguish. The second stage of condolence takes us one step closer to the mourner in his state of misery; we move from the role of spectator to that of participant, from sentiment to service. We bring the mourner the sustenance of life, figuratively and literally. The next step is the Shiva visitation; it’s time for the beginning of the mourners remerging into society and perhaps verbalizing their feelings of loss.

Just to end on a positive note, I will quote Psalm 30:11; “you have turned for me my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.” Mourning turns into joy. May it be so.

Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 5 grandchildren (and more soon!).

Isaac has written for Expired And Inspired multiple times over the years, contributing a wide variety of entries, many scholarly and detailed with sources on history and tradition.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is March 15th with a discussion led by Dan Fendel.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:

April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Institute Course 1

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution

This course will begin April 3rd and run for 12 weeks. Register now at https://www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. If you want to know how the Chevrah Kadisha developed and why we do what we do today, this is for you!

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms.

The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday – this day of learning is going to be fantastic!

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy,rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharahand shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Registration is open now.

Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.
Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.

Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).

Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.

Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli  Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.

Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

 

THE CONSOLATION MEAL: WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? By Isaac Pollak


Meal of Consolation (Se'udah Havra'ah)

“Do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife ) is taken from you: “ a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes on your feet…. And you shall not eat the bread of men.”

The TB in MK 27:b traces its source to Ezekiel, Chapter 24:17 where God tells the prophet Ezekiel – do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife) is taken from you; ”a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes upon your feet…. and you shall not eat the bread of men.”

The Talmud explains that this is textual proof that when regular mourning is mandated, the meals of the first day (after burial) is to be prepared by others. Ezekiel was told by God not to mourn and to eat his own food.

God informs the prophet that the relationship between Ezekiel and his wife symbolized the relationship between God and his temple, and both would be destroyed.

The Rabbenu Yarichim (quoted in the B’Y”-Yorah Daoh, Hilchot Avilath, 378-379) also discusses a practical reason as well why the food of the mourner should be supplied by others. The mourner is deeply upset and doesn’t think of eating; the mourner often wishes to die as well (How can I eat when my beloved is in the cold ground?). They would deprive themselves of food in order to achieve a “symbolic death.” (Perhaps that is a reason as well why a mourner sits on a low stool; to be symbolically closer to the person that just died.) Therefore, food is supplied by the community.

Making this “mandatory” doesn’t give the mourner the option, and the mourner understands that as much as they would forgo meals and wallow in solitude, they have not lost their place in the community.

The tradition in medieval Germany and France evolved that food for the mourners was supplied by the community for all seven days. Many were very poor and not being able work they had no funds to purchase food. In order not to embarrass those who didn’t have any funds to purchase food, the community supplied food for all – rich and poor – for all seven days.

We have in our collection an 18th century CK Charity box that was put by the community in a house of mourning, the inscription on which reads in German –Yiddish, “ if you have extra funds please put it in and if you need funds , please help yourself.”

The TY in MK 14:A discusses the issue of a mourner needing to go to work in order to have funds to purchase food. It emphasizes that for the first three days it is imperative the mourner not go to work and after the third day one can go to work “Ba’tzina” hiddenly or in an unobtrusive manner.

Judaism demands that at moments of great joy or great grief – both which require concentration and undistributed mediation – we refrain from daily pursuits. This is based on the prophet Amos 8:10 recording the words of the Lord: “And I will transform your festivals to mourning”; teaching us, just as on festivals, labor is prohibited, so too in days of mourning.”

The Korban Ha’yadah (quoting BR Chapter 100) explains that the soul hovers over the body the first three days wanting to reenter the body, but on the third day the facial features decompose and the soul no longer recognizes the body and it “releases” its hold on the body.

An early Midrash (Tana D’ve Eliyahu) alludes to the fact that for the first three days, the soul is trying to find its shadow; on the third day of not finding its shadow, the soul goes to a muddy riverbank and tries to imprint his/her footprint in the mud ; when the deceased sees that there is no footprint, it then releases its hold on the body.

The Iggerot Moshe in Yorah Da’oh 279 (magisterial responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) discusses the fact that bringing food to the mourner fulfils the commandment of consoling the bereaved. One should not eat of their own , thus forcing others to bring the mourner food and, therefore fulfilling the obligation of consoling the mourner, and this is valid for all seven days.

Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.

Isaac has written for Expired And Inspired multiple times over the years, contributing a wide variety of entries, many scholarly and detailed with sources, on history and tradition.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is March 15th with a discussion led by Dan Fendel.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:

April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Institute Course 1

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution

This course will begin April 3rd and run for 12 weeks. Register now at https://www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. If you want to know how the Chevrah Kadisha developed and why we do what we do today, this is for you!

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms.

The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday – this day of learning is going to be fantastic!

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy,rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharahand shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Registration is open now.

Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.
Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.

Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).

Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.

Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli  Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.

Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

 

Missing by Rabbi Janet Madden


Hug

I’ve officiated at many funerals for people whom I’ve known for quite some time. I’ve known many of them through times of deep challenges, We’ve formed relationships and they have become dear to me. I’ve grieved their deaths and kept in touch with their families. I’ve not forgotten them.

But recently, and for the first time, I officiated at the funeral of a longtime close friend. We first met at work, and through the mysterious chemistry that turns what begins as a friendly “hello” in passing into longer conversations and a discovery of shared values, mutual trust and lots of laughter, we cultivated a deep relationship that widened to include our families and even our pets and lasted over a quarter of a century.

When my father died a couple of months ago, and my friend spent an entire day sitting shiva with me, we talked about the deaths of our parents and elders and how those deaths usher us into new understandings. I shared that one of my new understandings of time and how time factors into relationships had to do with realizing that my relationship with my father was the longest relationship of my life. And now, with the death of this dear friend, I’ve been thinking again that with each death of someone close to us, part of our pain is recognizing that we’ve also lost a part of our personal history in losing a person with whom we’ve shared those years. No one will ever know us in the ways that people who knew us for large parts of our lives knew us.

I recently sat with an elderly hospital patient who fits into a category of people that I call “gently demented.” That is, she has a dementia diagnosis but there is nothing unclear or irrational about how or what she communicated. At the time of our visit, she was perseverating, which is an aspect of her dementia. She grabbed my hand and squeezed it, holding on to me to let me know how important it was that I hear what she needed to tell me: “I miss the life I used to have. I miss having a 3-bedroom house. I miss my garden. I miss driving. I miss my husband. I miss going to lunch with friends. I miss going shopping. I miss my privacy. It’s so hard to talk with a roommate listening to everything I say.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone so clearly articulate the expansiveness of grief that comes with life changes that are not of our choosing, that involve the loss of so much that we love. I resonated with every statement she made about what life feels like when all the things that helped to define us in our own minds are stripped away, when the price of living a long life is that we no longer have a home, a garden, the agency to go where we want to go when we want to go, when our beloveds and our friends are no longer present in our lives, when autonomy gives way to what our health and finances dictate.

As I think about my friend, an accomplished professional whose life and work positively impacted untold lives, and whose death was sudden and shocking, I know that some of my grief mirrors the sense of loss that my hospital patient described. I feel that I’m standing on a precipice of loss. I’m aware that the recent deaths of those close to me are harbingers of the future: as my life continues, I will experiences more losses. I can neither predict nor imagine the ways and times in which they will come but I know that they will. Missing is part of my present and it will be a part of my future.

Missing those I love is a state that I share with many, and I find solace in knowing that shared experiences of missing, as in my encounter with my hospital patient, can offer deep and unexpected connections.

And I don’t experience this consciousness of missing as unrelentingly sad.  It’s also an incentive. The knowledge that more losses await urges me to live as fully as I can for as long as I can. It inspires me to seek out and engage in meaning and connections in my work and in my personal life. It reminds me to hold my loved ones close. It prompts me to study, meditate, write, quilt and garden while I can, to seek out beauty and joy, to try new experiences and take some chances. The understanding that life is ever-evolving and that more losses lie before me is a persistent whisper that tells me to not put off things that I want to do and, above all, to not take the present for granted. Knowing that there are no guarantees encourages me to embrace every day and all that I have as precious gifts.

Rabbi Janet Madden earned her PhD in literature from The National Univer-sity of Ireland. A writer and ritualist, she is Rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center (Santa Monica, CA) and Visiting Rabbi of The Oahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu).

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held mnthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is March 15th with a discussion led by Dan Fendel.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance. The series features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Sephardic Customs, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series began Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes. Upcoming sessions are:

March 4: Rabbi Stuart Kelman – Kaddish
April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Rabbi Yonatan Cohen – Disenfranchised Grief
May 27: Rabbi SaraLeya Schley – Alternative Yizkor

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

The Taste sessions are done in a webinar format, where the teacher and participants can see each others’ live video feeds. The sessions are moderated, we mute participants, ask them to raise their virtual hands with questions, and call on and unmute participants when appropriate. There is time for questions and discussions during and/or at the end of each program.
Learn from the comfort of your home or office. We use a computer accessed Zoom platform with phone-in options available. It is interactive, and each session is recorded, with access provided to registrants. We’ve been teaching using this model for eight years (more than 300 classes).
Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Institute Course 1

Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution

This course will begin April 3rd and run for 12 weeks. Register now at https://www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. If you want to know how the Chevrah Kadisha developed and why we do what we do today, this is for you!

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms. The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin. Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon. You will not want to miss this – we have arranged for Erica Brown to teach at this event on Tuesday, and the rest of the day of learning is going to be fantastic!

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy, rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharah and shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Advance registration rates are extra-low, but they are only available until February 28th. Register early to get the best rates, and to help us plan.
Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.
Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Conference Timing 
Noon to 10pm on Sunday
7am to 10 pm on Monday
7am to 1 pm on Tuesday.
Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.
Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).
Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.
Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli– Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.
Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

Dating 101: Three Strikes


In the never ending madness that is my dating life, I’ve been asked out by three men this week, and it is only Thursday. It would be fair to assume the odds are in my favor for at least one of them to be worthy of meeting for a cocktail, but when you remember it is MY dating life we are talking about, you must know that each man was stranger than the one before him, and I struck out three times.

Man #1 is 54 years old, Jewish, divorced, and estranged from his three grown children. He is coming out of a long term relationship with a woman who has a young child. When I asked how long it had been since they broke up, he said he was actually in the process of moving out of the home they shared. He was at their house when we spoke, taking out her garbage. Dear Lord, I simply can’t.

He assured me that even though they technically still lived together, he was moving out and their relationship was long over. I quickly realized he mentioned her a lot, so I started to count. For the next three minutes he referred to his not-really-ex-girlfriend by name 26 times. He then explained that in the interest of full disclosure, he wanted me to know he voted for Trump, and would do it again.

His living situation was no longer the grossest thing about him. This man is a personal mess and a political nightmare. No good can ever come from dating that combination. We ended our conversation and that was the end of that, which brings me to man #2. This man let me know he had been divorced for three years, but was still living with his ex-wife. They have four kids, one of them still at home.

Rather than disrupt her life, they agreed to live together until she went to college, which would be this fall. He assured me I didn’t need to worry about dating him, because they had a system in place. She slept in one room, he slept in another, and they took turns dating on weekends. To clarify, they alternated weekends at the house so they could both pursue fulfilling sex lives with other people.

On his weekend at the house, his ex-wife and daughter sleep at her parent’s home. Then when it is her weekend, he goes to his mother’s house with his daughter. Really? How can this be a thing? I think this is going to screw up that kid in worse ways than a divorce would. I don’t want to judge, and everyone should do what works for their family, but I’m going to have to say no on this one. No.

Man #3 is 58 years old, not Jewish, educated, handsome, and the father of five kids. Important to note he has never been married and his five kids have four different mothers. Interesting fact, two of the kids were born sixteen days apart. Yup. His kids range in age from 8 to 36, and he would really like to have more. Fun fact: he has two grandchildren who are older than his youngest children.

I don’t have any women in my life who would find his story attractive, but bless him for sharing it so proudly. Ugh. I have struck out without ever having even made it to bat. All I can do is laugh because at the end of the day it is funny. There is someone for everyone though, so I’m sure all three of these men will find love. I’ve got 20 bucks that says they will all find it before I do, which is hilarious.

I find my dating life to be very entertaining, which is a good thing or I may want to impale myself. One day my prince will come and the only things I am certain of, are that he won’t live with his ex-wife, have multiple kids from multiple women, or think Donald Trump is anything other than garbage. So until my bashert finds me, I will continue to be entertained and remain hopeful, while keeping the faith.

Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish?


From the dawn of time — or at least for the past two centuries — it seems as if Jews have been obsessed with finding the answers to three monumental questions:

1. Why are we here?
2. How should we live our lives?
3. Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish?

While discussion and study continues about the first two questions, the third question was addressed in knowledgeable and entertaining fashion on Feb. 7 at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills. Before a packed and enthusiastic audience, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik discussed the question with law professor Andrew Porwancher.

Generations of biographers have written that Hamilton — a Revolutionary War hero, co-author of “The Federalist Papers,” the first secretary of the treasury and the subject of a boffo Broadway musical — was a Christian. But Soloveichik and Porwancher, who came armed with a load of supporting archival research, made their case that Hamilton was, in fact, born and raised as a Jew.

The two scholars are well-qualified to expound upon this topic. Porwancher is an associate professor of law at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches legal history. He earned his doctorate from Cambridge, his master’s from Brown and his bachelor’s from Northwestern. He is currently at work on “The Jewish Founding Father: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life” (under contract with Harvard University Press).

Soloveichik is director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York City. He graduated summa cum laude from Yeshiva College and in 2010 received his doctorate in religion from Princeton University. Rabbi Soloveichik has lectured throughout the U.S., Europe and Israel on topics relating to Jewish theology, bioethics, wartime ethics and Jewish-Christian relations.

Why do these two learned gentlemen believe Hamilton was Jewish?

At his Jewish school, Hamilton learned to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

For starters, Hamilton’s mother, Rachel Faucette, was married off by her mother to Jewish merchant Johann Michael Lavien (a variant of the Jewish name “Levine”) on the Danish-controlled Caribbean island of St. Croix in 1745, a time when Danish law would have required her conversion to Judaism before the wedding. She left Lavien in the early 1750s and lived with James Hamilton on the island of Nevis in the British West Indies. She bore two sons out of wedlock with James Hamilton, one of whom was Alexander, who was born around 1755. This would mean that, according to Jewish law, Alexander Hamilton was born a Jew. Also, while growing up on Nevis, Alexander attended a Jewish school.

Historians have discounted all of these points, arguing that Lavien was not recorded as a Jew in Danish records, and that Alexander Hamilton only attended the Jewish school due to his illegitimate birth, which kept him from being baptized or attending a Christian school. But parish records from Nevis show that infants born out of wedlock were indeed baptized. Plus, observed Porwancher, “None of St. Croix’s Jews were identified in the records as Jews.” He added, “If Alexander wasn’t Jewish, he would have to be the first person in history whose mother was named Rachel Lavien, and who went to a Jewish school, but who wasn’t Jewish. It was simply not a designated category in the island’s registers.”

In his research, Porwancher found a plethora of evidence linking Alexander Hamilton to Judaism, including from one of Alexander Hamilton’s grandsons, who referred to Johann Lavien as “rich Danish Jewish.” Also at his Jewish school, Hamilton learned to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew.

Complicating the matter, Porwancher said, is that Hamilton apparently cut his ties to Judaism at the age of 13, when his mother died, not wanting to align himself with what he perceived to be a second-class religious status.

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik. Photo by Lulu Krakauer.

Andrew Porwancher. Photo by Lulu Krakauer.

Even so, Porwancher’s and others’ research has revealed numerous ties Hamilton had to Judaism throughout his career. Fighting in the American Revolution and serving as George Washington’s aide-de-camp, Hamilton studied the history of European Jewish banking. While doing so, he formulated the idea of financing the Revolution through credit, an idea which eventually proved successful. In addition, Hamilton was the only Founding Father willing, via his law practice, to represent Jewish clients. And in his copy of Washington’s Farewell Address, he put forth the idea of religious liberty as crucial to the young nation’s vitality.

“It was in Hamilton’s America that an orphan from the Caribbean could become secretary of the treasury,” Porwancher said. “It was in Hamilton’s America that Jews could have equal opportunities and rights.”

“The heart of Hamilton’s story was dispossession,” Porwancher added. Just as the Jews had been dispossessed from their various homelands throughout history, so Hamilton, due to his illegitimacy, had been dispossessed of his inheritance and, despite his accomplishments, always identified with outsiders.

Hamilton was repeatedly accused of promoting practices that benefited Jews. If true, Hamilton’s practices would appear to have been consistent with a European trend at the time, according to “The Hebrew Republic” by Eric Nelson, a book Porwancher recommended. Nelson argues that the familiar story of modern political thought in the West resulting from secularization is wrong. Rather, Nelson contends, it was the Christian encounter with Hebrew sources that led to a radical transformation.

Nelson further argues that Christian scholars began to regard the Hebrew Bible as a political constitution designed by God for the children of Israel. Newly created rabbinic materials became authoritative guides to the institutions and practices of the perfect republic and central features of modern political thought emerged from an attempt to emulate a constitution designed by God.

Even though the Jewish population in colonial America was small, it is telling that the Founding Fathers realized the importance of freedom of worship for even this small minority. In George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, he affirmed his resolve that bigotry would have no place in America and that Jews would not be a tolerated minority but would “possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.”

That commitment has withstood the test of time and surely we have Alexander Hamilton’s ties to Judaism to thank, at least in part, for it.


Mark Miller is a humorist and journalist who has performed stand-up comedy on TV and written on various sitcom staffs. His first book, a collection of his humor essays on dating and romance, is “500 Dates: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Online Dating Wars.”

San Francisco: Jewish Hopes at Bay


How does one tell the leaders of a Jewish community that there’s not much they can look forward to achieving? It’s possible that one just doesn’t tell them. And if one does, one does it delicately – projecting optimism even when there is none, or little.

Reading the newly released Jewish community study of the Bay Area I could not avoid thinking about the complicated task befitting its authors, Professor Steven M. Cohen and Dr. Jacob B. Ukeles. Did they say to the leaders of the Jewish Federation: keep your expectations down? I assume they did not. At least, not in such blunt way. Still, the way I see it, this is the story their study of the fourth largest Jewish community in the United States – following New York, southeast Florida and Los Angeles (or maybe fifth? The newly released Washington study makes such claim)  – tells these leaders. Or as the authors framed it: the story of “a relatively small, highly engaged affiliated population [that] is offset by a much larger unaffiliated population that is substantially less engaged”.

Well, you might say: make these missing Jews more engaged. Good idea. But what if they have no, or just very little, interest in being engaged? Almost half of Bay Area Jews (43%) are “unaffiliated”. And as you’d expect, few of them are Jewishly active, few of them attach special importance to being Jewish. The “marginally affiliated” are not much different. They are another 22% of Bay Area Jews. The two groups of Jews that show high commitment to Judaism – “highly engaged” and “activists and leaders” – are merely 17% of the community.

Do these unaffiliated Jews have “interest in increasing” their “connection to being Jewish”? The sobering truth is that they don’t – hence, the need for realistic expectations. The study divides all Jews into three types: Jewish couples, intermarried couples, and singles. In all three groups the percentage of those “very interested” in increasing their Jewish connections is low: 17%, 9%, 14%. The percentage of the “somewhat interested” is higher – close to half of all Jews. And of course, this could be a cause for slight optimism. Or (in my case) a cause for thinking that people just want to be polite and prefer the mild “somewhat” to the ultimate “no”.

Why aren’t Jews interested? The study doesn’t give an answer to this question. But it does eliminate a few options. The most important of which: it is not because they do not feel “welcome” in the community. Those days of arguing that certain Jews – be it intermarried couples, or LGBT Jews, or Jews of color – do not engage because of community rejection are over. Only 2% of the intermarried couples said that they feel unwelcome. Only 5% more said they feel “somewhat unwelcome”. So the fact that only 26% of these couples raise Jewish children is not due to rejection. It is because of something else. Probably, their lack of interest in being Jewish.

25% of Bay Area Jewish households include a member “who is Hispanic, Asian-American, African-American, or of mixed or other ethnic or racial background (other than white)”. The community is diverse, it is more educated than other Jewish communities (42% have a graduate degree – this was, to me, the most tantalizing fact included in this study!), it is highly mobile – most Jews in the area just arrived or are planning to move in the coming years. Mobility is obviously a challenge for institutions that seek engagement. Diversity is another way of saying that the rate of inter-group marriage is high – a fact that highly impacts the level of Jewish engagement. Education probably means that Jews are not engaged not because of lack of awareness.

There are 350,000 Jews in the Bay Area, and most of them are not interested in being active Jewishly. The tools for making them more engaged are self evident. If they belong to a synagogue, if they have Jewish friends, if they marry Jewish, the intensity of their Jewishness will be much higher – 96% of Jewish couples say they raise Jewish children. Alas, convincing them to join a synagogue, or to marry Jewish, is a tough task. It is tough because there needs to be motivation that precedes convincing. There needs to be a glimpse of want, a shred of interest.

Maybe the smart leaders of the Bay Area Jewish community will find a way to rekindle the interest of the many unengaged Jews. Maybe there is no point in telling them to keep their hopes down. What can they do with such recommendation? What can we do with such conclusion?

—–

Here are some more numbers from the Jewish Bay Area study.

 

Behind the Scenes at “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate – The Exhibition”


Jewish refugee and immigrant stories highlight chocolate as a migrant food in “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” currently on display at Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica in New York City. Now in its 20th year, the mission of the Bernard Museum is to examine and engage with the intersections of Jewish history, culture, and identity.

The exhibit invites visitors to partake in this first-ever visual journey into the mysteries, opportunities, and resilience of the Jewish chocolate story. It focuses on the surprising chocolate businesses and skills of Jews that cross cultures, countries, and continents. Jews jumped onto the chocolate trail in the early phases of European interaction with the New World drink. Later, 20th-century Jewish emigrants transferred their businesses of eating chocolate to new locations.

Some books are optioned into films. My book, On the Chocolate Trail, developed into this museum exhibit. Truthfully, creating this exhibit was the fulfillment of a dream. As I had researched chocolate and religions for On the Chocolate Trail, I had come across many charming artifacts, unusual pieces of decorative arts, and elegant archival documents. Understandably, only a handful could be included in the publication. All the while, I mused about the many items that amplify the narratives and potentially could comprise a delightful display about the little- known history of Jews and chocolate.

“Semi[te] Sweet” started with a serendipitous encounter in 2016 when I randomly sat next to an Israeli colleague at a Women’s Rabbinic Network dinner in Jerusalem. She happened to work at Museum of the Jewish People or Beit Hatefuzot. The rabbi took a copy of On the Chocolate Trail at the end of the evening. Almost a year later, when Gady Levy, the director of Temple Emanu-El’s Streicker Center in New York, NY, met with her in Jerusalem, she handed him On the Chocolate Trail. Within weeks, Levy and I met with Warren Klein, the Bernard’s curator, in New York, and a year later we mounted the show.

Of course, I had no idea about the complexities of such an enterprise: locating and borrowing the articles, designing the space, coordinating the labels. The expertise, professionalism, and creativity of Klein, who has been the museum’s curator since 2013, and his team were essential. We often juggled wishes with availability, vision with budget, aesthetics with content. Some manuscripts could only be provided in facsimile since the originals were deemed too fragile to travel.

Using On the Chocolate Trail as a foundation, we sought relevant objects. We reached out to institutions that had supported my research such as The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, the American Jewish Historical Society, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Klau Library, and the Newport Historical Society.

When we decided to portray early chocolate usage, I turned to social media to locate pieces. As a result, eclectic loans included a family chocolate cup from Mexico lent by Reverend Susan Sica, whom I had met on an interfaith clergy trip to Israel. Michael Laiskonis, a chocolate expert at the Chocolate Lab at Institute of Culinary Education provided his metate stone for the grinding of chocolate by hand. A rabbinic colleague’s wife furnished a silver chocolate pot that had been in her family for three generations. The Leo Baeck Institute in New York City worked closely with Klein to bring Albert Einstein’s childhood chocolate cup back from loan in Germany. The Barton’s Bonbonniere founder’s son generously lent company memorabilia as did a member of the Barricini Family.

Although I could not imagine how it would all come together, Klein coordinated with a designer, a graphic artist, a painter, and an installer to be sure everything fit in a balanced confection of an installation. Its elegant and smart look entranced 800 attendees at the chocolate suffused opening and many more since. The evening happily coincided with the publication of the second edition of the book. On the Chocolate Trail then served as the catalog for the exhibit.

Guests from around the world – Argentina, Australia, Canada China, England, Israel, and Poland – have written sweet comments in the guest book. Tour groups have enjoyed specially themed Elite milk chocolate bars. Florence Fabricant in the New York Times noted that the exhibit demonstrates that “The connection between Jews and chocolate goes beyond Hanukkah ​gelt.” In response to inquiries from across the country, “Semi[te] Sweet” will be available to travel to museums and galleries beginning in April. After all, from generation to generation, l’dor vador, the Jewish love of chocolate should be shared.

“Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” will be traveling around the country beginning in April, 2018. For further information, please contact me.

Cross posted from ReformJudaism.org.

Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz speaks about chocolate and Jews around the world. The newly released second edition of her book, On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao, (Jewish Lights) contains 25 historical and contemporary recipes. She is co-curator of the exhibit, “Semi[te] Sweet: On Jews and Chocolate” at Temple Emanu-El’s Herbert and Eileen Bernard Museum of Judaica, NYC, on display through February 25, 2018. She blogs at the Forward, onthechocolatetrail.org, and elsewhere. The book is used in adult study, classroom settings, book clubs and chocolate tastings.

Loose Ends and Unfinished Business by Rabbi Janet Madden


Pixabay Image CC0 - Hand with Jewish pendant

Our days are full of unfinished business—things that we need to deal with or work on, “to do” lists of tasks that we have not yet begun or completed, our awareness of things that we have not yet dealt with, tasks or objectives that await our attention. And although death ends life, death also ushers in a new round of unfinished business, new decisions to be made and business to transact. The business of death last for months after the death has occurred: notifications to friends and associates, winding up business affairs, dealing with insurance companies, financial institutions and utility companies, canceling appointments, sorting through and disposing of possessions and property, filing tax returns for the deceased. For the newly-bereaved, coping with the amount of unfinished business, the legal and financial matters that need to be tidied up, the personal loose ends that need to be tied up, and all that remains to be settled at the end of life and after death can seem unending and push grieving survivors into overload. The business aspects of death awaken us to the reality that no amount of planning or efficiency can prevent survivors from having to deal with the secular aspects of death, with the truth that unfinished business is part of every life and every death.

Even the death of Jacob (Genesis 47:28), often referred to as the prototype of the ideal, “good death,” because Jacob seems to anticipate every possible loose end—he calls his sons to his deathbed, blesses them, criticizes them, advises them, tells his own life story and provides direction about his burial—reminds us that death inevitably gives rise to yet more unfinished business.  But Jacob’s agency ends with his death. His sons will have to take care of the actual business of Jacob’s burial and in spite of his deathbed pronouncements, dealing with his legacy will fall to his survivors.

Fittingly, the issue of life’s unfinished business is specifically addressed in the final book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, (in Hebrew, Devarim —“Things” or “Words”), the book that we read during Elul, the closing month of the Jewish year. Elul is the time when we are preoccupied with completing what has been left undone, asking for forgiveness and preparing for a year and a new start.  Parshat Shoftim records the questions and advice that military officers are to pose to their troops, “Is there anyone who has built a new house but has not dedicated it? Let him return home, lest he die in battle and another dedicate it. Is there anyone who has planted a vineyard but has never harvested it? Let him return home, lest he die and another harvest it. Is there anyone who has paid the bride-price for a wife, but who has not yet married her? Let him return home, lest he die in battle and another marry her”  (20:5-7).

Although these questions are posed to soldiers about to go into battle, they turn our attention to continuing life, not to impending death. They remind us that to be human is to anticipate the next day and next event in our lives. They poignantly highlight the pain that comes with contemplating death, with realizing that when we die, someone else will complete our unfinished business.

But it’s inevitable that in spite of our best efforts, at the end of life, as at the end of every day, there are things left undone and uncompleted. As we adjust to the ways that the death of someone important to us has changed our lives, we must negotiate emotions, rituals, legacies of memories and possessions and property and our own (re)definitions of who we are now and who we will be in the future that we now envision. The death of someone important to us prompts us to ask ourselves how we want to live now, how we want to be remembered, what we want to change, what makes our lives meaningful. The death of someone important to us ends one way of being and begins another, challenging us to clarify our priorities.

In On Living, her collection of anecdotes and observations about her chaplaincy work, Kerry Egan tells stories of hospice patients that focus on the unfinished spiritual business that some people resolutely avoid and others strive to address. What Egan learns as the result of working with hospice patients and their relationships is, she writes, that “The spiritual work of being human is learning how to love and how to forgive.”  This spiritual work, of course, is not so easily accomplished; these are lessons that we may need to address over and over, especially as we reassess our lives in the aftermath of the death of someone important to us. In the midst of all of the unfinished and distracting material business that death presents to us, Egan’s wise reminder of the spiritual work of being human challenges us to consider the most important ongoing unfinished business of our lives.

Rabbi Janet Madden earned her PhD in literature from The National University of Ireland. A writer and ritualist, she is Rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center (Santa Monica, CA) and Visiting Rabbi of The Oahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu).

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held mnthly. On the third THURSDAY of each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is January 18th with a discussion of Limmud UK by Holly Blue Hawkins.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at rboroditsky@jewisgh-funerals.org, rlight@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Taste of Gamliel Series

Register now for our 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, features Rabbi Stuart Kelman, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Maharat Victoria Sutton, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, and Jacob Klein of Keshet. They will be discussing topics such as Customs on Visiting the Grave, Understanding the Mourners Kaddish, an Alternative Yizkor Service, Disenfranchised Grief, and Trans Day of Remembrance, all relating to remembrance and memory.
The series begins Sunday evening, February 4, and will continue on Sunday evenings, generally one session per month, at 8 PM Eastern time and 5 PM Pacific time. Each session runs approximately 90 minutes.

February 4: Maharat Victoria Sutton
March 4: Rabbi Stuart Kelman
April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Rabbi Yoniatan Cohen
May 27: Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

The Taste sessions are done in a webinar format, where the teacher and participants can see each others’ live video feeds. The sessions are moderated, we mute participants, ask them to raise their virtual hands with questions, and call on and unmute participants when appropriate. There is time for questions and discussions at the end of each program.
Learn from the comfort of your home or office. We use a computer accessed Zoom platform with phone-in options available. It is interactive, and each session is recorded, with access provided to registrants. We’ve been teaching using this model for eight years (more than 300 classes).
Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The sessions are free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the entire series.
Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. To register, click here: register.

_______________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms. The next course will be April 25, May 2nd and May 9th, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin. Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference and Gamliel Day of Learning

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area.
Click here to register

Location – The conference will be at Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Maryland (just north of Washington, DC)

Dates and Times – The main part of the conference will be from noon on Sunday June 3 to 1pm on Tuesday June 5, 2018. There will be tours and hands-on workshops on Sunday morning.

The Gamliel Day of Learning will be from Tuesday at 2pm through Wednesday at noon.

Who Should Attend? Consider attending the conference if you:

  • are interested in the fields of community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy, rabbinic texts, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning
  • recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved
  • want to learn more about the entire end-of-life continuum – dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and at the time of death, care for the body- taharah and shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort – with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.
  • believe it is essential to shift the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community – from an attitude of denial and neglect around death, to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
  • want to participate in the development of a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Workshop Leaders – If you are interested, or know someone else who might be interested in leading a workshop, suggest it to us with a short paragraph of explanation – send to info@Jewish-funerals.org

Registration – Advance registration rates are extra-low, but they are only available until February 28th. Register early to get the best rates, and to help us plan.
Organization Pricing – is available if three or more members of an organization are attending the whole conference and the organization has paid membership dues of $180. You can cover the cost of organizational membership right on the registration form. Even if you don’t have three members attending the conference, we appreciate your organization’s support as a member.
Books – This year you can pre-order and pre-pay for books right on the registration form.

Exhibits – If you, or someone you know, would like to exhibit at the conference, let us know by sending us an email – info@Jewish-funerals.org

Conference Timing 
Noon to 10pm on Sunday
7am to 10 pm on Monday
7am to 1 pm on Tuesday.
Meals – In addition to Sunday brunch, we provide six supervised Kosher meals as part of the conference registration. Please let us know if you have allergies or special dietary needs.
Flights – Many cities have direct flights to National (DCA), Baltimore Washington (BWI) and Dulles (IAD).
Ground Transport –  Direct connections to the Metro are available from National Airport. We’ll update the website mid-January with additional ground transportation options.
Hotel – We have negotiated a great hotel rate at American Inn. Contact them at 301-656-9300 and give them group booking code KNG or email or phone our hotel contact Minoli– Minoli.Muhandiramge@baywoodhotels.com who is at extension 111. Our group rate is $139 plus 13% tax per room per night for singles or doubles. There are a limited number of doubles.
Home Hospitality – will be available. Let us know if you are interested.

Shabbat – If you would like to be connected to a family for Shabbat dinner, home hospitality, and synagogue services, let us know.

Refunds: 90% of the registration fee will be refunded if you cancel in writing before May 1; 80% before May 15; 50% May 15 or later, only if you have a really good excuse!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

 

_____________________

 

Happy Birthday Son


Today is my son’s 22nd birthday. I don’t really remember what my life was like before he was born, and every single day I have been blessed to be his mother, has brought me joy. I have not always done a great job, but he has always been a great son. He is a true blessing to not only me, but to everyone who is lucky enough to know and love him. In honor of this special day, I would like to share 22 things I love about this wonderful human being. In no particular:

  1. He makes me laugh daily.
  2. He is a fantastic chef.
  3. He is compassionate.
  4. He is talented.
  5. He is funny.
  6. He reminds me of my dad.
  7. He is socially aware.
  8. He works hard.
  9. He appreciates me.
  10. He follows his dreams.
  11. He is going to change the world.
  12. He respects women.
  13. He is a Dr. Doolittle.
  14. He is fearless.
  15. He respects the planet.
  16. He is brave.
  17. He makes good choices.
  18. He is a great friend.
  19. He is my sunshine.
  20. He lets me take a lot of pictures of him.
  21. He forgives me when I misstep.
  22. He is a feminist.

Happy Birthday Son! I love you very much and am proud of you. I hope this year brings you all you wish for yourself, plus more. Having a front seat to your life is my greatest blessing and I can’t wait to watch your dreams come true. Thank you for everything. I wish you health, happiness, and peace. Mahashooshoo. Always remember that life is better when you are keeping the faith.

Religion in an Uber


I love a cocktail, and because I am a complete lightweight, I use Uber. It is easy and inexpensive, as long as they don’t nail you with their bogus surge pricing. Important to note that if you book an Uber and it cancels on you, then you rebook it 30 seconds later and there is surge pricing, complain to them because that is both lame and unethical. This however is not a blog about Uber pricing, but rather about my recent Uber driver.

If you are interested in people’s stories, talk to your Uber driver. I have met some wonderful people while riding in their cars. I’ve been driven by a Drake lookalike who was so handsome I stuttered when we spoke. There was a grandmother making extra money to help her single mom daughter, who was so great I moved to the front seat. There was a woman who is raising 9 children and drives to get a break from her kids. Uber is great.

Saturday night I went out for dinner with a friend. He drove to my place and we took an Uber to sushi. When we got in the car there was something in Arabic playing and didn’t sound like music, as much as chanting, so I asked if he was listening to prayers, because that is what it sounded like. He told me it actually was prayers, I told him they were beautiful, and somehow we went from prayers to not all Muslim’s being extremists.

I’m not sure if my positive reaction to the prayers made him open up, but he felt compelled to say not all Muslim’s were bad, and many speak out against extremists who are bringing harm to their faith. He wanted me to explain to him why the media never talks about the brave few who are willing to speak out. I didn’t have an answer, which I think made him sad. I appreciated that he wanted to be heard, and felt bad the ride was so short.

We live in a time when it is difficult to be a lot of things. Life has levels of complication when you are gay, black, Jewish, or transgender, to name just a few. It makes me happy when people are proud of who and what they are, so it was great that this man was comfortable enough to play prayers for strangers. He asked me at one point if I was Muslim, and I said no. I didn’t tell him I was Jewish, which I am ashamed of.

I’m not sure why I didn’t say I was a Jew when he asked me if I was Muslim. I’m not sure why I would even have said I was Jewish in that moment. I am proudly and openly Jewish. I say openly because I have many Jewish friends who are quiet about their faith.  It struck me as odd that I would choose this moment to be quiet and not share. I respect his bravery, but am sad for thinking it requires bravery to speak of religion.

Religion has always been something we need to be careful with I suppose. It brings people together, and tears them apart. If fuels love and hate on both small and epic levels. At the end of the day I’ll continue talking to Uber drivers, because connecting to a fellow human being matters, and exchanges about religion can be enlightening if we allow them to be. Sometimes talking to a stranger inspires you to keep the faith.

 

Great Chanukah Gift! Or, Valentine’s Day! Or, Anytime


Give The Gourmet Gift Of Chocolate Connoisseurship …” says Forward Food Editor, Liza Schoenfein. She continues: “Chocolate lovers on your gift list will be delighted to take a deep dive into the delicious topic of Jews and chocolate, with the newly released 2nd edition of On the Chocolate Trail: A Delicious Adventure Connecting Jews, Religions, History, Travel, Rituals and Recipes to the Magic of Cacao (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2017). Written by Forward contributor Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz, the book offers a fascinating look into the connections between Jews and chocolate throughout history, starting with the early chocolate trade. It follows the path of Jewish migration, and illustrates the ways Jewish values infuse and affect the chocolate industry today.”
Thank you, Liza.

 Hannukah Expansion and Contraction by Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits


Chanukiah

Have you ever thought about how many candles are lit during Hannukah?

On the first day of Hannukah one candle is lit, the second day two,.. on the eighth day eight candles are lit. Each day an additional candle is added,

Talmud documents dialogues of diverse schools of thought and methods; some practiced in community and others not.  Talmud is a glimpse and invitation into the ongoing conversation.  Increasing the candle count each day was initiated by the Hillel Academy.  It invites a sense of growth, expansiveness, and encouragement.

It turns out that a different candle lighting method  was initiated by Shammai Academy – they began by lighting the maximum number of candles, eight, on the first day, seven on the second reducing to a single candle the eighth day.   Later Kabbalists teach that in the future to come, when Messianic consciousness fills the world, the Shammai Academy’s method will prevail.

Jewish traditions started in the Northern Hemisphere, and so holy time is referenced from here.  During Hannukah, the nights are dark and the days are short.

Months on the Jewish calendar begin with the new moon, peak with the moon in fullness when many festivals are celebrated. Then, cycle back to the new moon. The eight days of Hannukah begin while the moon is waning on the 25th  day of Kislev; the darkness peaks during the holiday just before the new moon of Tevet and continues a day through the second day of  Tevet as a sliver of Moon is visible.  Candles are lit bringing participation, a sense of mystery, vision, and brilliance.

The total number of Hannukah candles lit (aside from the shamus) is the same in both methods described. How many Hannukah candles are lit during the total  holiday?  1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36.

A total of 36 Hannukah Candles.

The Hasidic Master Bnay Yisaskhar from his book by the same name (1783-1841)  http://rabbishimon.com/tzadikim/showz.php?p=dinov.htm) writes:

…(The early rabbis ) established 36 candles in correspondence to the 36 hours of initial pure potent light available to the very first humans in the Garden of Eden (Pesiktah 2:2)…

(The holy rebbe, Ba’al haRokayah; Master of the Apothecary)  …whose words of Kabbalah come directly from Eliyahu haNavih z”l says, the glow of the Hannukah mitzvah candle is the glow of the Ohr Ganuz; this light hidden.  It was intentionally established (in this way)  through Ruah Hakodesh* for the future generations because they (the early rabbis) knew that each and every year this light would be revealed.

That is why these days are called “Hannukah”, – that is, it is “hinukh” training (same Hebrew root as Hannukah.) for cultivating familiarity with the coming Future Redemption. Then, this light (first light of Eden) will be revealed in fullness.

Like the sages said in Hagigah 12b – ‘and they hid it for Tzaddikim in the future to come’, also as it written in Is 60:19, ‘you will no longer have the sun to light your days and the glow of the moon will no longer illuminate for you, Hashem; G!D Who Is Was and Will Be, will be your eternal light.’

It is true that technology offers humans many conveniences and much of it is a blessing. It is important to be aware of the shadow side of privilege. Information available today is endless – too often distracting our attention, consciousness, and time. Stress and overwhelm are on the rise.  Electricity lights up our dwellings and break awareness of the natural cycles of night and day, cars and planes make travel efficient. Expediency is valued; more, faster, cheaper are “better.”   Information and change happen very very quickly. All this, and more, serves to separate humanity from the natural rhythms of Earth resulting in people becoming increasingly isolated from each other,  nature, and Spirit.  This pattern is self-perpetuating and left alone will continue to spiral out of control.

Heykhalot literature, early Jewish mysticism, offers Rabbi Yishma’el’s accounts of his journeys into the heavens. He is guided by the angel Metatron; The Holy One of Blessing’s most trusted minister.  In these writings Rabbi Yishma’el gives over  visions from the inner essence of the heavens that the angel Metatron shared with him. Consider this text from Heykhalot Rabboti (Yalkut haRoeem haG’dolim page 2):

…The first human and their generation would sit at the opening of the gates of the Garden of Eden to gaze into the patterns and forms of Shekhinah’s glowing light, for Shekhinah’s glowing light travels from one end of the universe to the other… All who absorb this Shekhinah glow – the bees and flies do not go near them, not only that they do not get sick, they do not get stressed, no demons can get to them, and that’s not all,  even angels do not rule over them…

The glow of this Sh’khinah is a cure for what ails humanity.

What if? What if this light is available here and now and no one can see it?

Hannukah offers an opportunity to train ourselves to be accustomed  to seeing with the first light of Eden. It is true there are multiple ways to cultivate vision as we see from the examples of Hillel and Shammai. Every person is unique and individual. Each one of us has special skills and work to accomplish in this life. So too, training of any kind is best when it considers the qualities and capabilities of the individual. Everyone receives at their own level in their own way.

Simply, setting an intention creates a shift. Even if you question the potency of the light of Hannukah candles themselves, no doubt there is a benefit to pause and open to light during these dark days and its impact in your own unique way.

Regardless of whether you light candles according to Hillel, Shammai, both or not at all, Hannukah is an invitation to cultivate your inner vision.  The Shammai Academy offers an alternative and valuable way of relating movement and responding to it. Earthly resonance includes ebb and flow, winter and summer, peak and valley, inhale and exhale, gel and sol, and life and death.

We can use Hannukah for personal reflection. The school of Shammai suggests acceptance of the ebb, the lessening of ability that happens in life. Change happens due to vicissitudes in time;  external events, illness, changes as we age. Our personal physical reality will diminish from time to time; it is a natural part of the movement.

Hannukah’s oil brings the ongoing need for sustainable energy sources into awareness. Fossil fuel, like the temple oil, is limited, valuable and not quickly renewable, if at all.  It’s availability is diminishing. Fossil fuel is expensive on many levels. Action is needed before the environment is ruined and oil runs out making no viable options are available.  Some say it is already too late.  It takes time, intention, and planning to shift the infrastructure to sustainable methods.

Hannukah offers opportunity to recognize a greater world view.  Humans are finite beings living in a finite world.  It is, indeed, wondrous to open to magic, mystery, and hope of Divine intervention especially in dark moments.  May we each be blessed with what we need when we need it.

The expansive blessing of the of the single day’s portion of oil miraculously lasting for eight days makes people feel safe, builds excitement,  and opens hearts. Simultaneously we can choose to consider the ongoing aspect of diminishment as the Shammai Academy did. The ebb is part of any cycle. Anticipating any loss, by talking with trusted community and developing plans in advance serves to minimize fear and cultivate sustainable  comfort, intimacy, ease, and joy.

A light filled Hannukah to you and yours.

Ruah Hakodesh* – Prophetic, literally “Holy Spirit”

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5542-eleazar-ben-judah-ben-kalonymus-of-worms 1173-1238

The Bnay Yisaskhar

http://rabbishimon.com/tzadikim/showz.php?p=dinov.htm  1783-1841

Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits, BSE, is the founding rabbi and spiritual leader of Holistic Jew. She is known for her work with Kabbalah, Torah, and nature. An educator teaching at a variety of venues, Rabbi T’mimah works in support of traditional, cost effective, end of life options in creating The Green Gamliel Initiative in partnership with Kavod v’Nichum. She teaches “davvenlogy”  highlighting holy sparks in liturgy in seminary and privately. Authorized to teach “Continuum Movement” by Emilie Conrad obm, and a spiritual director, she meets with clients in private Liquid Kabbalah and spiritual direction sessions. Rabbi T’mimah runs the Holistic Jew garden serving homegrown produce at community meals.

Photo of Rabbi T'mimah Ickovits

Rabbi T’mimah Ickovits

___________

GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practices (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting January 9th, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2). The instructors will be Rabbi Stuart Kelman and Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, with some guest instructors during the course.

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There will be an orientation session January 2nd.

Information on attending the online orientation and the course will be announced and sent to those registered.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or see the information at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

____________________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held mnthly. Each month, different person(s) will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is December 20th with a discussion of the creation of the Chai Mitzvah curriculum on discussing Jewish dying and death by Rena Boroditsky and Rabbi Joe Blair.

Starting in January 2018, the Gamleil Café will move to the third Thursday evening of each month at the same time. Watch for information on these events.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of Gamliel ‘Graduate’ Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms. The next course will be in April, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar, taught by Beth Huppin. Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us for information, by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

_____________________

16th annual Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference

Mark your calendar and hold the dates! June 3-5, 2018, in the Washington D.C. area. Details to be forthcoming soon. And Gamliel Students – remember to hold an extra day for the Gamliel Day of Learning that follows immediately after the conference!

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED and When Other Relevant Items are published!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

 

Joan Nathan Makes a Shabbat Meal Infused with Weed


It took two seasons and 19 episodes, but VICELAND’s weed-culinary show “Bong Appetite” finally did a traditional Shabbat episode, which aired last night. The guest chef? None other than celebrated Jewish icon Joan Nathan, author of King Solomon’s Table, who whipped up a “cannivorous” Shabbat meal…and we’re kvelling.

“Have you ever cooked with cannabis before?” asked the show’s host Abdullah Saeed. “This is the first time I’ve ever cooked with cannabis, let me just tell you,” assured Nathan.

So what was served?

Challah (duh), matzoh ball soup, double lemon roast chicken and apple kuchen (to which, Saeed exclaimed, “Kuchen! That’s a fun word!”). A typical Shabbat meal, except totally infused with weed.

Upon entering the kitchen, Nathan was faced with a pantry stocked with cannabis. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen weed in my life, but that’s OK,” an unfazed Nathan said. And so, with the help of chef Vanessa Lavorato (founder of Marigold Sweets) and cannabis specialist Ry Prichard, Nathan elevated a traditional Shabbat meal to a “higher” plateau (eh?).

Here’s how: The flour for the challah was sifted with kief (the strain: “Forbidden Fruit”); schmaltz was infused with hemp for the matzoh balls; THCA (the acidic version of THC) and CBD were pulverized with salt to preserve lemons for the chicken; and coconut oil got a healthy dosage of ganjah for the apple kuchen.

When braiding the challah, Nathan told Lavorato, “What I do is I six-braid it.” Of course she does. Because she’s Joan Nathan and three braids is for amateurs. “Alright, let’s see how this bakes,” she said after putting the immaculately six-braided weed challah into the oven. “Well, it’s already baked,” quipped Lavorato. Ha. Ha. The episode is loaded with puns.

The episode ended with a Shabbat meal (Nathan didn’t indulge). A table was set. A blessing was recited over the challah. Candles were lit (and so were the guests). Oh yeah, and the candle-holder obviously was a bong…

Shabbat Shalom.

Watch the episode here.

Hour of Separation, Hour of Connection by Rabbi Janet Madden


Offering comfort

A few days ago, someone said to me “Oh, you’re a hospital chaplain,” and before I could respond, followed up with “So you go around and visit patients.”

The easiest answer was “Yes.”

I visit patients of all sorts and in all sorts of circumstances. Some are happily going home with a new baby or a new knee. Others are recovering from a surgery, have a newborn in the NICU or have survived a stroke or a cardiac event. Others are undergoing chemotherapy or are testing in hopes of discovering the cause of their illness. Still others are leaving the hospital and transitioning to rehab facilities or going home to the reality of a life-changing, life-limiting or life-ending diagnosis.

But I don’t just visit patients. In addition to providing spiritual care and advocacy to patients, I provide spiritual care to patients’ families and friends and caregivers and to the hospital staff. And because I am also an experienced hospice chaplain and a certified palliative care chaplain, my workdays often involve end-of-life decision making and death.

As a Clinical Pastoral Education-trained chaplain, I am prepared to serve patients and families of any faith tradition or none. As the hospital’s Visiting Rabbi, I am always assigned to spiritual care for the hospital’s Jewish population. In some instances, I work with patients and families over a period of months—even years. Or, as happened this week, my first meeting with a patient and family comes at the time of death. And sometimes, as in this case, facing death often prompts someone who has previously declined chaplaincy visits to open to spiritual care.

After more than a month in the ICU, there were no further treatment options for Ruth. I had been contacted by the palliative care team ten minutes earlier, notifying me that Ruth would be soon placed on comfort care. Her sister had asked for me to be present.

“She’s had a horrible life, a terrible life since she was a teenager,” Ruth’s sister Rachel told me. “Now, I want her to have peace.”

Nine years younger than Ruth, and her power of attorney, Rachel was both broken-hearted and resolute about her decision to place Ruth on comfort care.  Rachel is an RN and she was deeply involved in Ruth’s care. Rachel had steadfastly believed that Ruth would recover from some of the medical issues that had eroded her health and she had refused any spiritual care visits for her sister, fearing that Ruth would “give up hope” if a chaplain visited. Now, Rachel, her sister-in-law and her best friend and I sat together and Rachel shared her sister’s story.

Ruth, a social worker, was 57 years old. Her 72 year old husband lives in a facility for dementia patients; he is non-verbal and needs round-the-clock care. They had no children. For the last 8 years, since her husband had been moved to a facility where he can receive the care he needs, Ruth had lived with her beloved dog. When her dog died, she adopted a second beloved dog and her greatest worry, Rachel told us, was what would happen to her dog.

She cared more about her dog than she did about herself, Rachel said. Ruth drank too much. She gained an unhealthy amount of weight. She wouldn’t exercise. She worked too many hours and suffered from insomnia and didn’t get the medical care that she should. She had few friends and didn’t socialize. She was not connected to a Jewish community or any community.

Ruth mourned the loss of their brothers, both of whom had died, years apart, one as a child, one as a young adult, both on her birthday. She mourned the death of her parents. She mourned her husband, lost to early-onset Alzheimers.

Rachel said that Ruth acknowledged her depression but didn’t want treatment. Ruth had told Rachel months ago that she had had enough; she was ready to die. Ruth had been her babysitter when Rachel was a child and her lifelong friend and confidante. Ruth and Rachel were the last living members of their birth family, and Rachel shared her deep hurt that Ruth did not want to live, that she wanted to leave her.

In the hour that we spent together, the last hour of Ruth’s life, we engaged in life review, talked about grief and loss and about beautiful, sustaining memories. I chanted for Ruth and Rachel, and recited the Viddui and the Shema, We blessed Ruth for a gentle, peaceful transition. Rachel told Ruth how much she loves her, thanked her for the lifetime of loving care that Ruth had given her, and told her that wanted no more pain for her.

A couple of hours later, after Rachel and the others had left, after I had sat with Ruth’s body until it had been picked by by the mortuary transport, after I completed charting the visit, after I prayed and washed my hands, and stepped outside for a few moments of air, I reentered the hospital and went to another room to visit another patient.

Rabbi Janet Madden PhD was ordained by The Academy for Jewish Religion-California. She serves as the rabbi of Temple Havurat Emet and Providence Saint John’s Health Center and has been a student of the Gamliel Institute. She is a regular contributor to Expired And Inspired.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

___________

GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practice (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting January 9th, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2).

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There will be an orientation session January 2nd.

Information on attending the online orientation and the course will be announced and sent to those registered. Register or contact us for more information. Detailed information on the preview will appear here in the weeks leading up to that event.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

____________________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held on the 3rd Wednedsays of the month (but watch for any changes). Each month, a different person will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is November 15th with a discussion of creative liturgy by Jean Berman.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Graduates of the Gamliel Institute and Gamliel students should be on the lookout for information on a series of “Gamliel Graduate’ Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. The first course took place in Fall 2017, focusing on Psalms. The next course will be in April, and will look at death as seen in the Zohar. Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Contact us –  register at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/, email info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700.

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the annual conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Continuing Education courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

 

 

Words—Historic and Current—To Be Heeded


In November, 1953, less than a year into his first term in office, during the height of the McCarthy era, President Eisenhower received an award from and delivered the keynote address at the Anti-Defamation League’s annual board meeting in Washington, D.C. As the story was recounted to me by someone who was there (I worked for the ADL for 27 years), those in attendance thought it would be a routine address by the new president making nice to one of the country’s leading civil rights/Jewish organizations, kind of a pro forma “you are nice and do good work”.

Shortly before the speech, ADL leaders learned that the national press and the then novel TV cameras would be observing and what was going to be routine was now a “major policy address.”

It turned out that the speech was among the, if not the, first times that Ike spoke out and distanced himself from Sen. Joe McCarthy. But it was by indirection, he never mentioned McCarthy’s name (to that point Ike was still trying to ignore McCarthy, as if the senator didn’t matter).

To those in attendance, it wasn’t clear what the news was, but by the next morning the message had gone out. Eisenhower had spoken about the right of every American to meet “your accuser face to face”, the “right to speak your mind and be protected in it.” He extolled the values of the “soul and the spirit” that make us proud to be Americans; who the threat to those values was became apparent:

Why are we proud? We are proud, first of all, because from the beginning of this Nation, a man can walk upright, no matter who he is, or who she is. He can walk upright and meet his friend–or his enemy; and he does not fear that because that enemy may be in a position of great power that he can be suddenly thrown in jail to rot there without charges and with no recourse to justice. We have the habeas corpus act, and we respect it.

And today, although none of you has the great fortune, I think, of being from Abilene, Kansas, you live after all by that same code in your ideals and in the respect you give to certain qualities. In this country, if someone dislikes you, or accuses you, he must come up in front. He cannot hide behind the shadow. He cannot assassinate you or your character from behind, without suffering the penalties an outraged citizenry will impose.

                                                                   ****

….I would not want to sit down this evening without urging one thing: if we are going to continue to be proud that we are Americans, there must be no weakening of the code by which we have lived; by the right to meet your accuser face to face, if you have one; by your right to go to the church or the synagogue or even the mosque of your own choosing; by your right to speak your mind and be protected in it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the things that make us proud to be Americans are of the soul and of the spirit. They are not the jewels we wear, or the furs we buy, the houses we live in, the standard of living, even, that we have. All these things are wonderful to the esthetic and to the physical senses. [Emphasis added]

I was reminded of this historic statement by two speeches this week from leading Republicans, who, like Eisenhower, bravely took on one of their own and made clear what others fear, or lack the courage, to say. They laid down markers as to what is acceptable conduct in American politics and, without being explicit, who was engaging in conduct that was beyond the pale.

On Monday night, Sen. John McCain spoke at the National Constitution Center as he received its Liberty Medal. It’s a passionate statement about what’s important and unique about America.

During the course of the speech he offered the following:

To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.

We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to. [Emphasis Added]

Like Eisenhower, without mentioning the name of his antagonist, the senior senator from Arizona got his message across loudly and clearly.

Then on Thursday, former President George W. Bush delivered a speech in which he never mentioned Trump, but the sinner he was referring to was transparently clear:

Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication…. We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. At times, it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions – forgetting the image of God we should see in each other.

We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism – forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America. We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade – forgetting that conflict, instability, and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.

We have seen the return of isolationist sentiments – forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places, where threats such as terrorism, infectious disease, criminal gangs and drug trafficking tend to emerge.

                                                                 ***

This means that people of every race, religion, and ethnicity can be fully and equally AmericanIt means that bigotry or white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed. And it means that the very identity of our nation depends on the passing of civic ideals to the next generation.

We need a renewed emphasis on civic learning in schools. And our young people need positive role models. Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children. The only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them.

In short, it is time for American institutions to step up and provide cultural and moral leadership for this nation. [Emphasis Added]

The McCain and Bush speeches are historic moments; perhaps the beginning of a wave of revulsion at the lies, distortions, hate and awful policies that emerge from the Trump White House. When two pillars of a party, much like Eisenhower in 1953, say enough is enough and that it is time to “step up”—perhaps people will listen.

As a Woman


Photo from Pixabay.

As a woman, I don’t vote for women just because they’re women.
As a feminist, I don’t vote for women just because they’re women.

As a woman, I don’t march just because something is called a “women’s march.”
As a feminist, I don’t march just because something is called a “women’s march.”

As a woman, I am offended when other women claim to speak for me.
As a feminist, I am offended when leftist feminists try to tell me what to think.

As a woman, I chose to stay home and care for my son when he was young.
As a feminist, I knew that this was my choice, that feminism means freedom for women to make these choices.

As a woman, I would never do anything to advance my career that undermines my self-respect.
As a feminist, I know that feminism is not a free ride: along with rights comes personal responsibility, including the responsibility to say no in difficult situations.

As a woman, I don’t keep silent about immoral behavior, no matter what the consequences.
As a feminist, I know that silence equals complicity.

As a woman, I love being a woman. I am offended by theorists who claim that we are all gender-fluid, that my femininity is a social construct.
As a feminist, I believe in biology, not trendy theories.

As a woman, I am against all restrictions on women that are not personal choices.
As a feminist, I find it hypocritical that leftist feminists never speak out against the restrictions on Muslim women that often are very much not personal choices.

As a woman, I don’t feel oppressed living in the United States.
As a feminist, I know that oppression and patriarchy exist in other countries, countries often ignored by leftist feminists because those nations don’t fit their political narrative.

As a woman and a writer, I have been bullied by both the left and the right, by women as well as men.
As a feminist, I know that bullying is a sign of weakness and insecurity. I have taught my son that no level of bullying is acceptable, and that the only way to respond to bullies is to walk away.

As a woman, I am inspired by strong, sexy women like Gal Gadot.
As a feminist, I know that being comfortable with my sexuality fuels my strength as a woman.

As a woman, I know that Israel is one of the most feminist countries on earth: Israeli women rise to incomparable positions of power in every field.
As a feminist, I know that Zionism and feminism have historically been prominent pillars of liberalism: efforts to demonize Zionism stem from bigotry, not liberalism or feminism.

As a Jewish woman, I love the ritual of lighting candles every Shabbat, of bringing the light into my heart and releasing it into the world through singing the blessing.
As a Jewish feminist, I may not support some of the restrictions placed on women in Judaism, but I respect a woman’s right to choose, as long as it is a choice.

As a woman, I think it’s well past time to take back the word feminist from people on both the right and the left who don’t understand what it means.
As a feminist, I know that if you don’t think women should be controlled — by either the left or the right, by men or other women — then you are indeed a feminist.

As a woman, as a feminist, as an individual, I think for myself, thank you.


Karen Lehrman Bloch is a cultural critic and curator. Author of “The Lipstick Proviso: Women, Sex & Power in the Real World” (Doubleday), her writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal and Metropolis, among others.

WATCH: The Tunisian Jew Behind the Pretzel Challah Craze


In 2013, pastry chef Dominique Ansel invented the cronut (a donut and croissant hybrid). Little did he know, he was inspiring a pastry revolution, which would spawn a legion of hybrid spin-offs; i.e. the dookie (donut + cookie), the cruffin (croissant + muffin), the cragel (croissant + bagel). And then came the pretzel challah. There’s no fancy moniker (challetzel doesn’t really work). It’s no nonsense, straightforward and to the point.

Pretzel challah is the brainchild of Alain Cohen, owner of Got Kosher?, a Pico-Robertson establishment that serves Sephardic cuisine (including kosher charcuterie) in what is a primarily Ashkenazi juggernaut. Born in Tunisia and raised in Paris (where his father owned a popular kosher restaurant), he moved to Los Angeles in 1981 to pursue a movie career, but, in his own words, “life happened” and he landed, as fate would have it, back in the food industry. Cohen got the idea for pretzel challah when he was working at La Brea Bakery with chef Nancy Silverton. At the bakery, Silverton baked a pretzel baguette. “I was impressed by the idea of turning something very simple and making it different by mixing two traditions,” said Cohen.

The key ingredient that transforms a plain jane loaf of challah into a pretzel challah is lye. After the challah dough is braided, it is soaked in a lye bath (lye is a chemical solution that’s used to make soap) before being baked.

Pretzel challah has proved to be a pioneer in Los Angeles Jewish cuisine. Got Kosher’s? pretzel challah can be found at Trader Joe’s, Pavilions, Whole Foods, Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, and, of course, at its flagship store: Got Kosher?

To Cohen, the success of his challah “is amazing, it’s a gift from God.”

Recruiting Jews to the Cause of Persecuted Yazidis, One Synagogue at a Time


After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, Yotam Polizer, co-CEO of the disaster relief organization IsraAID, called his friend Haider Elias in Houston to see if IsraAID could help him.

Instead, Elias countered with his own proposition: His home was spared by the flooding, so he and half a dozen members of his religious community — a Middle Eastern ethnic group called the Yazidis — offered to work alongside IsraAID packing possessions and removing debris from flooded Jewish homes.

“There is really a shared destiny,” Polizer told an audience on Sept. 17 at University Synagogue in Brentwood, sitting next to Elias. “There is a unique partnership between the Yazidis and the Jews.”

Because of their historical proximity to genocide, American Jews are a prime target for Elias’ effort to lobby the United States government to come to the aid of this ancient religious sect as it struggles with an ongoing genocide at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

During two trips to Los Angeles last month, Elias addressed the local Jewish community in a series of synagogue visits, private dinners and High Holy Days appeals, hoping to mobilize them to lobby the United States on behalf of displaced and enslaved Yazidis. With Yazidis a population of well under 10,000 in the United States, Elias is increasingly relying on Jews to join the ranks of his supporters.

“As soon as we talk to a Jewish community member, they understand it right away,” Elias said in a phone interview after he returned to Texas. “They absorb it. They relate. They know exactly what is happening. It’s very hard for some other communities to understand.”

The Jewish community has loomed large on his recent travel schedule. In late July, Elias flew to Israel and visited Yad Vashem with fellow Yazidi activist and former sex slave Nadia Murad.

In September, he spoke on four panels in West Los Angeles with Polizer, whose group has offered aid and counseling to Yazidis in Iraq and Europe, and Rabbi Pam Frydman, an activist who heads the Beyond Genocide Campaign for the Board of Rabbis of Northern California. All four panels were co-sponsored by the Jewish Journal.

Returning to Los Angeles on Yom Kippur, Elias spoke at Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills. In muted tones from the lectern, he described the events of Aug. 3, 2014.

In a single day, ISIS overran the Yazidi homeland in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, murdering nearly 6,000, Elias said, including his 24-year-old brother, two of his cousins and nearly 50 close friends.

ISIS fighters loaded thousands more Yazidis onto trucks, with women and girls destined for sexual enslavement and young boys due to be brainwashed as child soldiers. About half a million Yazidis were driven from their homes, ending up in displaced persons’ camps where hundreds of thousands still live in tents.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government has prevented Yazidis from returning home with any food, medicine and supplies that would enable them to rebuild their lives, Elias said.

Elias grew up in Til Azir, a small city of 28,000 Yazidis in the Sinjar region. Today, it’s a ghost town.

He followed news of the genocide from Houston, his home since 2010 after earning a visa for his work as a U.S. Army translator.

His home in Iraq was ransacked down to the windows and doorframes.

At the time, he was studying toward an undergraduate degree in the hope of becoming a doctor. But shortly afterward, he abandoned his medical ambitions to start Yazda, a lobbying and advocacy group based in Lincoln, Neb., where most American Yazidis live (yazda.org).

Elias engages audiences on a frenzied schedule. Between his two L.A. engagements last month he flew to New York and San Francisco, stopping each time for a brief layover in Houston.

To some extent, his efforts have succeeded. In the days after the genocide, demonstrations and lobbying in Washington, D.C., by Elias and others helped persuade President Barack Obama to launch strategic airstrikes that enabled Yazidis to escape an ISIS siege.

In March 2016, following lobbying efforts by Yazda and Frydman’s Beyond Genocide Campaign, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution recognizing the Yazidi genocide.

Now, Frydman and Yazda are pushing for Congress to pass the Justice for Yazidis Act, which would extend psychosocial support and speed refugee resettlement for Yazidis and other persecuted minorities in Iraq.

Elias said his work takes its toll. Each time he speaks to an audience, it traumatizes him anew.

He drew a contrast with his previous occupation as a translator.

“Translators, they’re like instruments,” he said. “They transfer the words. Most of the time they’re too busy to feel the information. If you’ve gone through something, it’s different.”

“It affects you,” he added. “And if it doesn’t affect you in the moment, it has its negative impact soon after, in the future. It makes you different.”

With all of his speaking engagements, Elias has little time to see his wife and three children, ages 16, 14 and 6 years old, and little leisure time for himself. Once a film buff, he hasn’t finished a film since August 2014, he said. His mind always returns to the massive amount of work on his docket.

His work also impacts his children. “Their daddy is not around most of the time,” he said.

Elias said his children understand why he’s gone so often. When other kids ask what their father does, “they say nothing directly,” he said. “They say he’s helping people.”

A Different Take on the Kaddish/Yizkor Issue by Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs


Remember

[Ed. Note: A further followup on the issue of Kaddish and Yizkor in difficult situations. — JB]

I agree wholeheartedly with Karen’s (Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan, Disenfranchised Grief at Yizkor, 9/27/2017, http://jewishjournal.com/blogs/expiredandinspired/224733/disenfranchised-grief-yizkor-karen-b-kaplan/) take on the prayers that are intended to engender sadness upon recalling the loss of a “loved one” – but, do the opposite. Undeserving praise is untruthful.

I would only like to bring in the possibility of using these prayers with a different slant.

Karen poses the question, and a good one at that… “the meaning of the Fifth Commandment for those who have or did have abusive parents. How can one be good to oneself, which is a mitzvah, yet honor such a parent?”

I think flipping the question is the start to the answer. “How can I honor myself when I had less than honorable parents???” So, now we need to answer that question.

It has been shown in data and surveys that certain negative behaviors of parents – witnessed by children – can often lead to children continuing that behavior. To honor oneself, one would have to make a concerted effort to knowingly and willingly and purposefully separate THEMselves from THEM (the bad influences).

During these moments of prayer we can give thanks that WE are NOT them. We can review the past with sadness, but hopefully also see the present and how far we have come in spite of their actions. That we have overcome, that we are stronger for it, as we ARE standing here, and we are no longer broken. For those of us who are not yet completely healed – Baruch Hashem – there is tomorrow.

In bad times, we need to build ourselves up,.even when others try to knock us down. Remaining strong is the biggest pushback to their attempts to keep us weak.

These prayerful moments afford us the opportunity to give the royal finger, saying, “I  am a survivor of your actions. I am here, I am relatively happy, and I will move forward.  MY horrible memories can be countered by my successes.” There is no law preventing anyone to change the words of the prayer to fit the occasion (minhag – maybe – but not law). Reinvent the prayer to say what is in your heart. HHMMM, truthfulness on Yom Kippur?

So with every Kaddish/Yizkor moment, those of us who might find love and loss difficult concepts recalling their various and sundry relationships, we might take it as our personal time to:

1) SMILE as we free ourselves to say the truth,

2) BE PROUD that we are not them

3) STAND UP TALL, SHOULDERS BACK – for what we have accomplished IN SPITE of them!!!!

4) THANK HASHEM THAT WE ARE HERE and have become the fabulous persons that we are – on our own – with little or no help from them, and likely no support!!

5) PRAY WITH GRATITUDE AND JOY that we have this opportunity to dilute a toxic relationship and call it out for what it really was.

6) MAY WE NOT DWELL on the past negative and rejoice in our current positive? May we have the strength to look back and acknowledge the pain…but also have the strength to move forward in gladness.

HERE’S TO OUR CONTINUED SUCCESSES!!!  AMEN!

[Ed. Note: Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs wrote an earlier entry for this blog that was somewhat related. Here is the link to it:. http://jewishjournal.com/news/los_angeles/seniors/185031/zachor-prayer-unacknowledged-mourners-rabbi-laurie-dinnerstein-kurs/ — JB]

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails from Brooklyn, currently living in NJ.  Having originally learned about Taharah as a yeshiva student, I knew I would participate as soon as the opportunity presented itself.  I have participated in doing Taharah for almost 30 years.  I am currently the ROSHA of our chevrah.  When not doing Taharah, I taught school – up until I retired and went back to school and became a chaplain.  I held the Federation position of County (Mercer) Chaplain for 15 years.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

___________

GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 5, Chevrah Kadisha: Ritual, Liturgy, & Practice (Other than Taharah & Shmirah), online, afternoons/evenings, in the Winter semester, starting January 2nd, 2018. This is the core course focusing on ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means (for everything other than Taharah and Shmirah, which are covered in course 2).

CLASS SESSIONS

The course will meet online for twelve Tuesdays (the day will be adjusted in any weeks with Jewish holidays during this course).

There will be a preview of the course on Monday, December 11th. An orientation session is scheduled for January 1st.

Information on attending the online orientation, and the course will be announced and sent to those registered. Register or contact us for more information. Detailed information on the preview will appear here in the weeks leading up to that event.

REGISTRATION

You can register for any Gamliel Institute course online at jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.

For more information, visit the Gamliel Institute website, or at the Kavod v’Nichum website. Please contact us for information or assistance by email info@jewish-funerals.org, or phone at 410-733-3700.

____________________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, usually on the 3rd Wednedsays of thet month (but watch for any changes). Each month, a different person will offer a short teaching or share some thoughts on a topic of interest to them, and those who are online will have a chance to respond, share their own stories and information, and build our Gamliel Institute community connections. This initiative is being headed up by Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. You should receive email reminders monthly. The next scheduled session of the Gamliel Café is October 18th with a discussion of documents and forms that the Chevrah (or other group) in the community can offer the family at the time of a loss to help them navigate some of the issues they are facing.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or info@jewish-funerals.org.

____________________

Gamliel Graduate Courses

Graduates of the Gamliel Institute, and Gamliel students who have completed three or more Gamliel Institute courses should be on the lookout for information on a series of “Gamliel Graduate’ Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will be in groups of three sessions each quarter (three consecutive weeks), with different topics addressed in each series. The goal is to look at these topics in more depth than possible during the core courses. We plan to begin this Fall, in October and November. The first series will be on Psalms. Registration will be required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for the three sessions. Heading this intiative is the dynamic duo of Rena Boroditsky and Rick Light. Contact us –  register at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/, or email info@jewish-funerals.org.

_____________________

DONATIONS

Donations are always needed and most welcome to support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us to bring you the conference, offer community trainings, provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, the Gamliel Café, and the Gamliel Gracuates courses, provide and add to online resources, encourage and support communities in establishing, training, and improving their Chevrah Kadisha, and assist with many other programs and activities.

You can donate online at http://jewish-funerals.org/gamliel-institute-financial-support or by snail mail to: either Kavod v’Nichum, or to The Gamliel Institute, both c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum [and the Gamliel Institute] is a recognized and registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations may be tax-deductible to the full extent provided by law. Call 410-733-3700 if you have any questions or want to know more about supporting Kavod v’Nichum or the Gamliel Institute.

You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click here (http://www.jewish-funerals.org/money/).

___________

MORE INFORMATION

If you would like to receive the periodic Kavod v’Nichum Newsletter by email, or be added to the Kavod v’Nichum Chevrah Kadisha & Jewish Cemetery email discussion list, please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org.

You can also be sent a regular email link to the Expired And Inspired blog by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.

Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute, courses planned, and student work in this field also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.

RECEIVE NOTICES WHEN THIS BLOG IS UPDATED!

Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE Chevra Kadisha sponsored by Kavod vNichum, or follow our Twitter feed @chevra_kadisha.

____________________

SUBMISSIONS ALWAYS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit to this blog, please be in touch. Email J.blair@jewish-funerals.org. We are always interested in original unpublished materials that would be of interest to our readers, relating to the broad topics surrounding the continuum of Jewish preparation, planning, rituals, rites, customs, practices, activities, and celebrations approaching the end of life, at the time of death, during the funeral, in the grief and mourning process, and in comforting those dying and those mourning, as well as the actions and work of those who address those needs, including those serving in Bikkur Cholim, Caring Committees, the Chevrah Kadisha, as Shomrim, funeral providers, in funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.

_____________________

Q & A with Daniel Radcliffe


Photo courtesy of Momentum Pictures.

In the “Harry Potter” films, actor Daniel Radcliffe battled the evil Lord Voldemort with his wand and fortitude. Since the eighth Potter film premiered in 2010, the English actor has tried to diversify his career with films such as the supernatural thriller “Horns,” the gay, Jewish beat poet saga “Kill Your Darlings” about Allen Ginsberg, and the horror film “The Woman in Black.”  Now he’s back with a new movie, “Jungle” — which hits theaters on Oct. 20 — based on the book of the same name by Israeli adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg. The memoir tells of Ghinsberg’s misadventures during three weeks stranded in the Amazon jungle in Bolivia in the early 1980s. The Journal recently caught up with Radcliffe, whose mother is Jewish, to talk about his new film.

Jewish Journal: Why were you drawn to the story and to the character of Yossi Ghinsberg?

Daniel Radcliffe: I pursued the part passionately. Sometimes when a story is true and incredibly powerful and communicates something that’s useful about the human survival instinct, I just wanted to become a part of further disseminating that story into the world.

JJ: Did you identify with the story’s themes of survival, especially as an actor after Harry Potter?

DR: You can be worried that people will typecast you, but I’ve been lucky because for every director who saw me out there as just Harry Potter, there was another one who was excited by the prospect of reinventing that image.  You just sort of grab those opportunities when they come around as much as you can. And also I’m very lucky that I’m in a position where I don’t have to work, so I don’t have to accept roles that I’m not passionate about.  

JJ: You spent many hours speaking to Yossi about his experiences. What kinds of questions did you ask him?

DR: Just talking to him about his inner monologue; how he kept himself going.  He said an interesting and also very sad thing about hope. I asked whether the hope of getting home is what kept him alive, and he said actually the opposite was true. Most of the time, he was just surviving from one moment to the next. He said that the moment when a plane flew overhead, he thought he was going to be saved. But the second when that plane flew away was the most demoralizing, deepest despair he had ever felt. He said as useful as hope can be, it can also break your heart.

JJ: Did you learn anything interesting from Yossi about Israelis?

DR: It was this idea that for the generation of kids who grew up as the sons and daughters of Holocaust survivors, like Yossi, what is your responsibility?  What do you have to live up to? I think that because Yossi wanted to go off backpacking, that was a disappointment to his father, a Holocaust survivor, and so I think his journey was tinged with a bit of guilt.

JJ: You went on an extreme diet for a month to lose weight for the final scenes of the film.

DR: I was generally having a fillet of fish or chicken and a protein bar every day, as well as vast amounts of coffee and cigarettes. It just makes you feel a tiredness that seeps into your whole being.

JJ: What was it like to film the scene in which your character removes parasitic worms from his forehead with a pair of tweezers?

DR: When you look up and you see the crew looking beyond grossed out, you go, OK, clearly it’s gone all right.

JJ: What was your most difficult moment on the shoot?

DR: One moment that was particularly heartbreaking was when the final scene was postponed for a week because the river had risen 7 or 8 feet and washed away our set. In my hotel room, I had a massive bar of chocolate and I had asked the kitchen to give me a steak for that night; I was going to eat finally. I was so close that I could practically taste it, and then it got rescheduled a week. 

Jewish pianist Mikhail Klein collapses, dies on stage


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

(JTA) — The celebrated pianist Mikhail Klein collapsed and died on stage at the age of 72 while performing his own composition in his hometown of Irkutsk.

Klein, who in 1987 was awarded the prestigious title of Honored Artist of Russia, died at the foot of a grand piano of the Irkutsk Philharmonic Orchestra on Tuesday before hundreds of people who had come to hear him play, said the municipality of the Siberian city, situated near Russia’s border with Mongolia.

“I was sitting in the front row and, seeing that Mikhail Leonidovich was ill, ran up to him,” the head of the city department of culture, Vitaly Baryshnikov, told RIA Novosti.

Two of the city’s most prominent physicians were in attendance but their attempts to reanimate him with a cardiac massage did not succeed. He died, reportedly of heart failure, just before 8:30 p.m. He had lived in Irkutsk for the past 45 years and has worked for the Irkutsk Philharmonic for all that time, the orchestra wrote in an obituary mourning his death.

With his “fanatic devotion to the arts,” the obituary said, he “brilliantly represented Russian musical art in many cultural and educational activities” locally and abroad. “His other passion was sports, loyalty to his friends — colleagues in the volleyball team, which he carried through all his creative life,” the statement also said.

Known in Russia and beyond for his renditions and interpretations of works by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and other great composers, Klein, who was Jewish, was also a prolific jazz composer and enthusiast.

He was playing “This is all Russia,” a jazz composition that he wrote featuring fragments of several famous Russian songs, before he collapsed.

Close Encounters of the Spielberg Kind


Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Although Steven Spielberg is one of the world’s most respected and successful directors, earning critical acclaim and billions at the box office, he hasn’t been the subject of a feature-length documentary — until now. In more than 30 hours of interviews conducted over a year, filmmaker Susan Lacy (PBS’ “American Masters”) got the Academy Award-winning moviemaker to talk at length about his influences, his films, their themes and how his life has informed them, resulting in an HBO documentary, “Spielberg,” which premieres Oct. 7.

“He is very shy about interviews, does very few. So this was quite an extraordinary experience to hear him really open up,” Lacy said at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. She also got more than 80 of Spielberg’s colleagues, collaborators, friends and family members to comment as Spielberg dissects his work in the film.

Full of anecdotes and fun facts about iconic movies, the documentary also is intensely personal, with revelations about Spielberg’s childhood and family and how both affected his movies. His parents’ divorce and its impact on his family influenced “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” “Saving Private Ryan” was inspired by the stories he heard from his father, a pilot who served in World War II.

“His early movies drew on what he knew,” Lacy said of Spielberg, who grew up in the Phoenix suburbs watching television, reading comic books and chasing his sisters Anne and Nancy around with a Super 8 camera. He was also the target of bullying and anti-Semitism, which made him ashamed of being Jewish.

“He didn’t want to be connected to Judaism as a child because he didn’t want to be a pariah. Growing up in the suburbs of Phoenix in the only Jewish family on the street, it made him an outsider,” Lacy told the Journal.

Neighborhood kids would laugh when Spielberg’s grandfather called him by his Hebrew name, Shmuel. “I always wanted to fit in, and being Jewish, I couldn’t fit into anything,” he confides in the film. “I began to deny my Jewishness … I didn’t want to be Jewish.”

Lacy explained that when Spielberg met actress Kate Capshaw, who converted to Judaism before their wedding in 1991, “She said, ‘You must reconnect with your faith.’ Then he made ‘Schindler’s List,’ and it brought him back completely into the fold, and proud of being Jewish.”

Spielberg had read Thomas Keneally’s book about Oskar Schindler in 1982, but held onto it for a decade until it was the right time to make the film, which earned him two Oscars and led to the creation of the USC Shoah Foundation.

“It was, emotionally, the hardest movie I’ve ever made,” he told Lacy. “It made me so proud to be a Jew.”

Capshaw and Spielberg’s seven children are not in the documentary, but his sisters, his father and his late mother are “because they were there at the birth of his becoming a filmmaker and could talk about who he was at that time in his life,” Lacy said.

With 2 1/2 hours to work with, Lacy focused on Spielberg’s film directing, eschewing other projects and giving less play to his less successful movies, including “1941” and “The Color Purple.”

“He was not reticent to talk about failures,” Lacy said. “But if you want to tell a real story with a beginning, middle and end, and in any kind of depth, you simply cannot cover everything.”

It was more important, she said, to highlight the common themes in his oeuvre, including families’ separating and reuniting, the resilience of children, fighting for freedom and good people trying to do the right thing against all odds.

“Steven is actually an incredibly personal filmmaker,” Lacy said. “The box office has never been what’s driven him. What has interested him has changed and matured as he’s grown up. But that boy who loves movies, loves moviemakers — that kid is still in him.”

Just 21 when he made his first television movie, “Duel,” he stood up to the network, refusing to blow up the menacing truck at the end of the film. He insisted on shooting “Jaws” on the ocean, although it was a logistical nightmare to do so. “Having a vision and sticking to it, not letting anybody get in the way of it — that’s probably the best lesson you could learn from Steven Spielberg,” Lacy said. “ ‘Schindler’s List,’ a 3 1/2-hour, black-and-white movie about the Holocaust, could have been a huge flop. But it was something he needed to do, he knew how to do it, and he stuck with that.”

Lacy appreciated that Spielberg “in no way tried to steer this film and did not see it until it was finished.” So when he called to tell her he liked it, “I almost fell on the floor. What happens if Steven Spielberg doesn’t like your movie?” she said. “I’d set a very high bar, and I was nervous all the time that I would not achieve it. I hope I did.”

She came away from the project secure in the knowledge that Spielberg “is exactly who he seems to be. Sometimes you’re disappointed when you meet a hero and that did not happen with Steven,” she said. “He was everything I expected him to be and more. I’m not trying to be gushy here, but he’s a really, really good human being. He’s a mensch.”

How My Muslim Journey Led Me to Study Jews


I never envisaged that my life journey would take me to study the Jews of my southern Moroccan oases and North Africa. Growing up as a practicing Muslim in a Moroccan village, I never could have imagined that I would, one day, do research with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Vichy and Nazi policies in North Africa, or that I would become affiliated with the UCLA Center of Jewish Studies, one of the oldest centers in the United States, and become a member of the Association for Jewish Studies.

How did this happen to a Muslim Moroccan boy?

One starting point is that I experienced discrimination in my youth. In southern Morocco, where I grew up, race is a factor in determining social and economic status. The Haratine, who have a darker skin color and are seen as socially inferior, farmed lands owned by the local Maraboutic families known as Shurfa (historically light-skinned). For decades, my father served these families as a day laborer. I grew up affected by this.

When I began my research on Jews, on a few occasions I was called a Falashi (Black Jew from Ethiopia), signaling that I was not only breaking rules by studying Jews but also highlighting my lower social status as a dark-skinned Muslim.

But the more I learned about Jews and the more opposition I received, the more I wanted to continue. Maybe subconsciously, I identified with the foibles of a minority. But there was something else: I also was moved by the deep attachment that Moroccan Jews have for their Moroccan heritage and the positive feelings toward Mohammed V as a righteous king for protecting Jews during World War II. This helped me persevere and overcome personal and professional obstacles.

Still, I have to say I got lucky. My parents, illiterate and with no comfortable income, raised a family of four sons and four daughters on subsistence farming and herding. Having a child who would end up earning a doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology in the United States was never part of their agenda. But I was always thirsty for knowledge, and my educational ambition got the attention of some prominent people in Morocco. Their support gave me my first break and my perseverance did the rest.

In my first year in graduate school at the University of Arizona, I struggled to come to terms with the option of specializing on the Jews of Morocco. I knew that going back home with a degree with a limited audience would be a big risk, especially in the context of a negative political environment over the Palestinian-Israel conflict.

What kept me going was becoming immersed in the amazing story of the Jews of Morocco. Moroccan Jews worldwide represent one of the largest Jewish communities of the Arab world. Despite the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict, most of them remain deeply connected to their Moroccan homeland. While fewer than 4,000 Jews currently live in Morocco, Jewish shrines and cemeteries are protected and maintained by the local Arab population and the government.

In my studies, I wanted to tell a Muslim story about living with Jews as neighbors. My book, “Memories of Absence: How Muslims Remember Jews in Morocco,” was an attempt to describe Jewish life in the southeastern Moroccan region based on Muslim generational memories. I tried to make the point that, in Morocco at least, you cannot study Jews without factoring in Muslim participation in Jewish life and Jewish-Muslim relations. 

The Moroccan Jewish tradition of Mimouna — in which Jews create a magical neighborhood feast on the last night of Passover — is a good example of the relationship of mutual respect and co-existence that existed, and continues to exist, between Muslims and Jews.

As a historical anthropologist, I was exposed over the years to strong cultural connections between Moroccan Jews and Muslims. Attending Shabbat dinners, I recognized Moroccan cuisine that I enjoyed at home. Visiting synagogues in Marrakech, France or Los Angeles, I heard sounds that reminded me of recitation of the Quran in the mosque. Researching a shrine such as Baba Sale in Netivot, Israel, I remembered the days when my village would travel to Muslim shrines.

I have come to recognize that in their language, food, music and rituals, many Moroccan Jews have preserved their Moroccan identity, no matter where they live. As I continue my research, it is this deep cultural connection, above all, that will nourish my journey. 


AOMAR BOUM is associate professor and vice chair of undergraduate studies in the anthropology department at UCLA.

+