January 16, 2019

On Being a SHOMERET – Different Perspective, Same conclusion

[Ed. Note: This was penned in response to a recent post I wrote about My First Shmirah, found at .http://www.jewishjournal.com/expiredandinspired/item/my_first_shmirah. — JB] 


Shomer: Guardian (M)

Shomeret:Guardian (F)

Shomrim: Guardians (PL, M)

Shomrot: Guardians (PL, F)



Over the course of many many years, I have had the honor of being a shomeret numerous times…too numerous to count. What makes each experience different for me is the location of the Funeral Home (FH), the layout of the FH, the specific rules of each FH, the designated space for the shomer(et) in that FH, where the meit/ah is kept in relation to where the shomer(et) is required to sit, and what amenities, like a water fountain, are available. Additionally, not arriving during daylight is just one more feature that can add to the overall experience. Of course the highlight of the shomer/et experience is the actual “doing” – which in and of itself requires very little physical exertion from the shomrim. But the heights to which their mental, emotional, and spiritual elements are challenged and raised – have no limits.

Now, as to where the FH is located…Not all FH are in the center of a populated, noisy, busy well trafficked city street. Many can be found in rural, deserted remote areas. During the day, it is likely not an issue. BUT – Pulling into a deserted, not all that well lit, absolutely soundless night, can give one pause. The parking lot is usually at the front door…which is often locked at night as “help” uses the rear door. Walking alone, to the back, in the darkness….looking for the right door….and hoping the person you are replacing answers your knock speedily, simply adds to the discomfort.

Once in the building, one quickly realizes not all FH are designed for the convenience of shomrim. In buildings that were NOT created solely for Jewish funerals…meaning – not anticipating taharah and shomrim groups using the building…prep rooms are often in unkempt, less than clean basements. Oftentimes, the refrigerator room is not within view. It could be at the far end of the prep room – behind a solid door, a door without a window. It could be in a garage or anteroom. If one is to be true the cause of Shomrim…it is not impossible to find yourself sitting on a bridge chair, in a poorly lit isolated area – no where near the meit/ah.

Now, where is that bathroom?? Upstairs? Down the hall and around a bend?

WAIT A MINUTE!!! What was that??? – what was that unidentifiable noise??? Not pipes clanging, motors running or heaters firing up….not the usual basement noises…. Where’s a phone?….oh…upstairs, at the other end of the building but – all the offices are all locked. Thank goodness for cell phones….IF they are charged and IF they work in the boonies without many towers. 

Silence again. Then suddenly – I hear footsteps!!!…not maybe – for certain!!! The sound of heels on the linoleum is undeniable. they are coming closer……and then I see him…..in a panic I ask “WHO ARE YOU”??? The tall stocky man replies, “ I am a shomer for a meit….who are you? Once the palpitations subside, color returns to my face and the mystery is solved.  BUT…can this be…I am here to bring protection to the meit/ah and am worried about my own safety realizing HE and MOI will be together for 8 hours!!!!  Who is he? I know nothing about him, a total stranger … and WE are now alone, in a desolate neck of the woods in the silence of the FH and devoid of any other living being!

In all past shomer experiences, I have been accustomed to being alone, with not a hint of another live being around, unencumbered by extraneous thoughts, fear or undesired fellowship, able to focus solely on the task in front of me. This particular night proved quite the challenge.

Baruch Hashem, I picked my corner of the room and he picked his. And, with all the kavana I could muster – All my words were intended for the ”soul” purpose of reminding my soul that the soul of the meit/ah before me who can no longer perform mitzvos (mitzvot) on this earth.

Time passed. Dawn came, as did 8AM …. and nary a word had been said between us, till each said goodbye and we  went our own ways!

The moral of this story 

ASK questions…IS ANYONE ELSE GOING TO BE COMING INTO THE BUILDING – F uneral Directors, FH Workers, helpers, other shomrim?? What time, when? What door will they use?

Where will you be sitting? IF it is in the basement, and its January..is there heat there? Are there mice?

Is there a bathroom and, where is the bathroom in relation to where you will be sitting? IS there a water fountain and where is it? IF the water fountain, bathroom or house phone are on a different floor.. are any lights going to be on?

ASK: What is the closest spot that you can sit and comfortably see the refrigerator room or the casket or the gurney???

ASK for a comfortable chair!!

Trust me when I say … the awesomeness of the spiritual lift, the intangible connection one feels, and the reality of doing such a fabulous, time honored mitzvah in the end far outweighs any challenges one may be confronted with!

Ask questions, get answers, and go! 🙂 



Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs: I am 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. Married for 46 years, our two children have blessed us with grandchildren. 



From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying.

In 2017, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are again sponsoring a five part “Taste of Gamliel” webinar. This year’s topic is From Here to Eternity: Jewish Views on Sickness and Dying. Last year’s Taste of Gamliel topic was Jewish beliefs about the Afterlife. 

Each 90 minute session is presented by a different scholar. Taste of Gamliel gives participants a “Taste” of the Gamliel Institute’s web-based series of courses. The Gamliel Institute is the leadership training arm of Kavod v’Nichum. The Institute, offers five on-line courses, each 12 weeks in length, that deal with the various aspects of Jewish ritual around sickness, death, funerals, burial and mourning. Participants come from all over the United States and Canada.

Webinars are on January 22, February 19, March 19, April 23, and May 21. Learn from the comfort of your home or office.

The Taste sessions are done in a webinar format, where the teacher and students can see each other’s 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. We’ve been teaching using this model for seven years (more than 250 session). We use Zoom, a particularly friendly tool.

Webinar sessions are free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for all five sessions. Online sessions are 60-90 minutes. Sessions begin at 5 PM PST; 8 PM EST.

Those registered will be sent the information on how to connect to the sessions. The link to register is: http://jewish-funerals.givezooks.com/events/taste-of-gamliel-2017

Information and technology assistance is available after you register. 

You can view a recording of the sessions after each session.

More info – Call us at 410-733-3700   

Attend as many of these presentations as are of interest to you. Each session is between 60 and 90 minutes in duration. As always, there will be time for questions and discussions at the end of each program. 

The entire series is free, but we ask that you make a minimum donation of $36 for the five sessions. 

Click the link to register and for more information. We’ll send you the directions to join the webinar 24 hours before the session.

Suggestions for future topics are welcome. 





Gamliel Institute will be offering course 4, Nechama [Comfort], online, evenings in the Spring on Tuesdays (and three Thursdays – the day of the week will change in those weeks with Jewish holidays during this course). The date of classes will be from March 28 to June 13 2017. Please note: due to holidays, classes will meet on Thursdays on April 13th, April 20th, and June 1st. There will be an orientation session on Monday, March 27th, 2017.  


If you are not sure if the Nechama course is for you, plan to attend the Free one-time online PREVIEW of Nechama session planned for the Monday evening March 6th, 2017 at 8-9:30 pm EST. The instructors will offer highlights from the material that the course covers, and let you know what the course includes.

You can register for Gamliel Institute courses 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 look at information on the Gamliel Institute at the Kavod v’Nichum website or on the Gamliel.Institute website. Please contact us for information or assistance. info@jewish-funerals.org or j.blair@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or 925-272-8563.



Looking ahead, hold June 18-20, 2017 for the 15th annual Kavod v’Nchum Chevrah Kadisha and Cemetery Conference, scheduled for San Rafael, CA.



Donations are always needed and most welcome. Donations support the work of Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute, helping us provide scholarships to students, refurbish and update course materials, expand our teaching, support programs such as Taste of Gamliel, 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, c/o David Zinner, Executive Director, Kavod v’Nichum, 8112 Sea Water Path, Columbia, MD  21045. Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute are reognized and registered 501(c)(3) organizations, and donations may be tax-deductible. 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/).




If you would like to receive the 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.

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Be sure to check out the Kavod V’Nichum website at www.jewish-funerals.org, and for information on the Gamliel Institute also visit the Gamliel.Institute website.



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Past blog entries can be searched online at the L.A. Jewish Journal. Point your browser to http://www.jewishjournal.com/expiredandinspired/, and scroll down. Along the left of the page you will see a list of ‘Recent Posts” with a “More Posts” link. You can also see the list by month of Expired and Inspired Archives below that, going back to 2014 when the blog started.  



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, Shomrim, funeral providers, funeral homes and mortuaries, and operators and maintainers of cemeteries.