October 20, 2018

A Bad Day Only Lasts 24 Hours

I woke up at 5:00 this morning and from the moment I opened my eyes my day has been getting worse. Between family stuff, work stuff, pet stuff, and this oppressive heatwave, I am emotionally and physically exhausted, and the day hasn’t really even started. It has been such an epically horrible morning that the joy that normally comes when Friday rolls in is not there. The good news is that a bad day only lasts 24 hours, so the countdown is on towards a better tomorrow.

I am a person who was born with the ability to count my blessings. Not all people are, so I am grateful I have this important gift. I am not complaining because my life is good, but there are some days when I just want to through my hands in the air and scream. Scream and cry. Mostly cry because I am not much of a screamer. I happen to look pretty when I cry, which I am sure the cat is thankful for since she is the one who is comforting me. Thank God for this cat. I love her. I am officially a cat lady.

When one thing goes wrong, it is easy to pile everything else onto the one bad thing, and before you know you have created a pile of crap. It is silly, but I suppose human nature to let one bad thing spin everything out of control. I will sit and admire the pile I have built for a little bit longer. Then I will get up, dust myself off, knock down the pile, deal with the one thing that got it started, say a prayer, and focus on counting my blessings. Bad days happen, but thank God life goes on, and life is good. Amen.

I’m going to take a deep breath, wipe my tears, hug my cat, call my mother, and take comfort in the fact there are now only 20 hours left in this bad day. If you are also building an unnecessary pile of crap, I get it. You are not alone and it will be okay. Get through today and start tomorrow fresh. Your bad day only lasts 24 hours so there is an end in sight. I’m counting down the hours in the day and the hours until cocktail time. This too shall pass so I am keeping the faith.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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/.

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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!

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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/).

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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.

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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.

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Sadness to Happiness

I have a friend who is feeling sad. They’re not exactly sure why, but there is real sadness. I’m not sure how to help, so all I can do is tell them I love them, and things will be okay. Sadness is tricky because it can easily turn to depression. I embrace sadness when it comes my way, knowing it will pass. That knowledge took me a long time to learn, but I know it will pass, and that gives me the strength to ride it out. My heart is heavy for those who seek the same kind of strength.

I am blessed sadness leads me to gratitude. I imagine it is exhausting when sadness leads you to darkness. I don’t want my friend to be in the dark. I want them to hold onto my hand and allow me to lead them to the light. It may be a long walk, but we will get there. There is nothing wrong with sadness. I have been dealing with sadness since a dear and close friend passed away. I miss her in ways I wasn’t expecting and find exhausting.

When my friend passed away I was sad and lost. I hung onto my son a little tighter and he led me away from sadness. He was my sunshine on a cloudy day, and I hope I can be the sunshine on my friend’s sad day. Life is good and we are blessed. Carl Jung said “The word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness.” I hope my friend can appreciate the importance of sadness in one’s happiness. They’re going to be fine and this too shall pass. I know it.

I know this person well. I know their family, job, joys, and sorrows. I know they are a wonderful human being and destined for greatness. These are things I know, and while I appreciate sadness plays an important role in our lives, it is not in charge. To my darling friend, I love you. Know it. You are going to be fine. Know it. This too shall pass. Know it. You have been my sunshine, and I will be yours. Know it. It will make it easier to keep the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disenfranchised Grief at Yizkor by Karen B. Kaplan

Memorial candles

[Ed. Note: I chose to publish this entry in the blog for the week leading up to Yom Kippur because the Yizkor (Memorial) service on Yom Kippur is so often a major focus in many communities. This article speaks to how memory may be fraught, and not always what we might picture. — JB]

Whether it is Yizkor or just an ordinary service, the prayers before reciting the Kaddish can make some grievers feel even more rotten instead of better. What if a mother or father was not particularly one for whom “we recall the joy of their companionship”? What if “their memory” does not exactly bring “strength and blessing?” I remember in rabbinic school wrestling with 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?

For grievers of such parents, the idea of grieving feels paradoxical. It seems straightforward enough and certainly painful enough to grieve a parent whose memories of their goodness sustains you. But a neglectful or downright hurtful mother or father elicits enough loads of guilt and anger to go round. And sadness is more about the protection or help or advice or love that parent did not provide; about the parent you never had. Thus, condolences and standard prayers before the Kaddish hardly bring comfort. Instead they are a jarring reminder of how your parent shortchanged you.

The definition a health professional gives to grieving is “reaction to the loss.” That is a broad enough definition to cover all situations. Still, how to start going about it is much more puzzling to a mourner of troubled parents. What does it mean to sit shiva for such a parent? What does it mean to recite the Kaddish for them? To me, the prepositon “for” suggests doing a ritual or prayer as an act of goodness, appreciation and love. And of course we use the expression “grieving for” so-and-so.

It seems odd to say under such circumstances, that “I am grieving for my mother.” I think part of successful grieving is portraying the process to oneself as honestly and accurately as possible. Otherwise you will hinder  the purpose of grieving in the first place, which is to allow all the feelings, great and small, peaceful and turbulent, joyful and gloomy, an open path for release. Somehow saying “grieving for” sounds like the tears are ready to roll at almost any provocation and that you miss them if not for how they were at the time of their passing, then at least for how they were in better days.

I think honesty in how we use language is one step in figuring out and expressing how we really feel, which is what healthy grieving is all about. As a symbolic baby step towards this goal, I am inventing a new expression for those who did not have parents who could be caring and be there for you:

“I am grieving against my mother.”

Methinks I have found a solution for us unconventional grievers. Let me know if the sentence below helps to express to yourself how you really feel about that louse. Does saying it this way give you permission to stop censoring those less socially acceptable emotions?

“I am grieving against my father.”

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

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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 roughly in January, 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).

Information on attending the course preview, the online orientation, and the course will be announced and sent to those registered. Register or contact us for more information.

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.

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session on the 3rd Wednedsays of most months. 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.

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

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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.

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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.

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We Are All Mourners Now and Again by Rabbi Janet Madden

Mourning girl

During the burning heat of summer, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av— the saddest day of the Jewish calendar—Jews remember and mourn the Romans’ breach of the walls of Jerusalem, the sacking of the city and the destruction of the Second Temple. And we remember so much more: throughout history, the 9th of Av is the date on which we commemorate a series of profound Jewish losses.

 

We Are All Mourners

We Are All Mourners

This time of set mourning on the Hebrew calendar makes the Three Weeks a period of communal observance that is both specific and inclusive. It’s different from personal observances of Yahrzeits, the anniversaries of the deaths of beloved family members, or the four Yizkor services that provide public opportunities each year for mourning by those in our communities who have experienced bereavements. The Three Weeks, and especially their culmination, Tisha B’Av, mark specific traumatic experiences that resonate deeply within our collective Jewish historical consciousness. For me, moving mindfully through the Three Weeks is an annual reliving of mourning that tethers my mind and heart to Judaism in very particular ways.

 

I find deep comfort and meaning in communal mourning. When I am observing a Yarzheit, I feel set apart; my heart aches with the reminder of my personal loss even though I am saying Kaddish within the embrace of a loving community. It’s not that my heart aches less when we chant the Book of Lamentations—it’s that I am experiencing a different kind of loss. My heart aches differently. When we sit together on the floor and chant a text that is illuminated by a flashlight, we establish a special, intimate bond of shared grief with those who sit with us and with the entire Jewish community, past and present. For me, collectively connecting to our shared sadness reminds me that I am never alone.

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.

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

[Ed. Note: Rabbi Janet Madden has agreed to submit a series of entries for Expired And Inspired – watch for them to appear fairly regularly. — JB]

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GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES

LOOKING FORWARD: UPCOMING COURSE

The Gamliel Institute will be offering course 2, Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah, online, afternoons/evenings, in the Fall semester, starting September 5th, 2017. This is the core course focusing on Taharah and Shmirah ritual, liturgy, practical matters, how-to, and what it means.

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 is a Free preview/overview of the course being offered on Monday August 14th at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST. You are welcome to join us to decide if this course is one in which you would like to enroll. Contact info@jewish-funerals.org or  j.blair@jewish-funerals.org for information on how to connect to the preview webinar.

There will be an orientation session on how to use the platform and access the materials on Monday, September 4th, 2017, at 5 pm PDST/8 pm EDST online. Register or contact us for more information.

Information on attending the online orientation and course will be 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 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.

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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/).

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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.

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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 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.

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I Grieve for the Man Who’ll Never Return

His face peered out this week from every television set in
the United States. It was impossible to escape him. It was impossible to stop
looking at him. My heart ached, a real heartache. This time, I couldn’t stop
the tears.

Even I’m allowed. So what if I’m a cynical journalist who,
in a career spanning over 30 years, covered wars, earthquakes, terrorist
attacks and grieving families? I always tried to block emotions and hide behind
my mask of professionalism.

Last Saturday morning, the mask broke.

I stand next to the enormous landing strip at Cape Canaveral,
exactly three minutes before the anticipated landing, waiting to hear a pair of
sonic booms signifying the space shuttle Columbia’s landing approach.

Standing very near me are Rona and the children. I know
they’re there behind the wall, but I can’t see them. Since the Challenger
disaster in 1986, NASA makes sure to separate the families of the astronauts
from the journalists during takeoffs and landings in the event of a disaster.

When the huge NASA digital clock races toward the zero mark,
the anticipated landing time, I think of the nerve-wracking moments Rona and
the children must be going through in anticipation of their happy reunion with
Ilan.

They’re there, in the same VIP room through which they viewed
the launch 16 days ago. They held hands in excitement and roared as if they
wanted to help the shuttle gather energy to make it safely to space.

“I wasn’t scared even for a second. I knew everything would
be OK,” Rona told me an hour after the launch. “I know Ilan smiled happily in
the shuttle all the way to space, and I was happy with him for the realization
of his life’s dream.”

Only 5-year-old Noa shouted, “I lost my daddy,” during the
launch. During their last meeting, while hugging her father, Noa said that the
shuttle would explode, and Ilan reassured her with a smile: “That only happens
in movies.”

Noa was just an infant when Ilan arrived with his family in
the United States four and a half years ago. The family settled down in a house
in the town of Clearwater, Texas, and Ilan left for his new workplace at the Johnson
Space Center in Houston.

I soon flew to Houston to interview the first Israeli
astronaut for the daily newspaper, Ma’ariv. At our first meeting, I still saw
him as Col. Ramon, the legendary fighter pilot, secret bomber of the Osirak
nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, a brave pilot who risked his life in the Yom
Kippur War in 1973 and the Lebanon War in 1982.

During subsequent years of one-on-one interviews and many
more phone conversations, however, the boundary between the journalist and the
colonel fell. Behind the uniform I discovered a beautiful man, pleasant,
intelligent and brave. The kind you’d like your daughter to meet. The kind
you’d be proud to have as your friend.

Like everyone else, I wrote about Ramon’s biography: his
commitment to Shabbat and kashrut while on the space shuttle, and the personal
items he took with him to space — the little Holocaust Torah scroll, his
college pennant and a sketch of Earth as imagined by a teenage Holocaust
victim.

I flew back to Houston to interview Ilan several more times.
While doing so, I learned several fascinating things about the U.S. space
program, as well.

But even more importantly, I learned about the character of
Ilan Ramon: serious, intense, always prepared and organized, diligent about
doing his homework, never one to trust luck.

He arrived in Houston as an experienced fighter pilot, but
quickly learned that no one expected him to fly the shuttle and bomb the moon.
He needed to forget that, swallow his pride and work the many science
experiments assigned to him. Ilan studied his scientific missions seriously,
and especially took pride in those from his alma mater, Tel Aviv University.

Though he’d originally come to NASA as a payload specialist,
he was quickly transformed into an astronaut in every sense of the word,
familiar with all the systems and able to perform every possible mission. NASA
people couldn’t get enough of him. I couldn’t either.

I’d pestered Ilan more than once with the question that
bothered me most of all: If he was afraid of an accident occurring in space. At
first, he tried to explain to me that after his combat experience, including
two injuries, he wasn’t afraid of anything anymore. When I continued my
pestering, he merely smiled.

As the years went by, I learned what an optimist Ilan Ramon
was. Maybe the biggest optimist I’d ever met. Before going into space,
astronauts customarily prepare their wills. Ilan didn’t.

I asked him about everything. I even asked him about sex in
space. Ilan answered with a smile that there are only two things that aren’t
discussed at NASA — sex and death.

What’s the thing that scares him most of all? Disappointing
the scientists in whose name he’d gone out to space. “One wrong move on my
part could destroy an experiment 20 years in the making,” Ilan told me.

Very few journalists came to see the Columbia land on
Saturday morning. Only three Israeli journalists were there.

The launch was supposed to be the dangerous and exciting
part; the landing a matter of routine. But having accompanied Ilan for four and
a half years, I came to Cape Canaveral to close a personal circle with him.

At the communications center at the Kennedy Center, I follow
the astronauts on the closed-circuit television monitor making final
preparations. They are wearing their jumpsuits as Houston gives approval for
landing. “Go,” the cry of the NASA crew sounds. The time is 8:10 a.m.

We walk outside toward the landing strip. The weather is
great and the visibility perfect. It was supposed to be a good conclusion to a
perfect space mission.

I stand on the runway as the Columbia starts its approach to
Earth in the skies above Australia. The entrance into the atmosphere is over
Hawaii, the entrance to the continental United States is San Francisco Bay. It
was supposed to be a very quick and smooth flight from West Coast to East
Coast.

At Cape Canaveral, the emergency and evacuation crews
deployed to the landing strip, including two portable labs for monitoring and
sterilizing the outer envelope of the shuttle from remnants of hazardous
materials. A military helicopter with a guard armed with a machine gun hovers
over the runway. Medical crews stand ready to attend to the astronauts
immediately upon their arrival.

Every few minutes, a Grumman G-2 jet plane flies over the
runway, its characteristics similar to that of the Columbia. It tests the wind
direction and the readiness of the landing strip.

Everything is ready for landing. Even the stairs are being
brought to the side of the landing strip for the astronauts to descend from the
parked shuttle.

On the runway, the digital NASA clock shows three minutes to
landing. I wait for those twin sonic booms and hear nothing. I wait to see the
shuttle glide toward the landing strip but see nothing.

The giant clock continues to race too quickly toward the
zero mark, and three NASA veterans look at each other apprehensively.

No one yells. No one cries. We just stand there, shocked and
hurting and realizing that something terrible has happened.

Through loudspeakers, the journalists are requested to
return to the bus for the short ride to the communications room. The large
clock is already showing a three-minute delay. It could happen in a regular
United or American Airlines commercial flight but not at NASA.

The Columbia isn’t late. She’s gone. Ilan Ramon won’t be
coming back.

He remains in the heavens.


Yitzhak Ben-Horin is the Washington correspondent for Ma’ariv newspaper.