November 20, 2019

Two Replies to the Recent ‘Taharah And Gender’ Blog by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Geder Yin & Yang

[Ed. Note: The following were sent as responses to the blog post on Gender and Taharah by Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs, which was itself in response to the blog post on the same topic by Emily Fishman. — JB]

[Ed. Note: The opinions expressed in posts reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily represent Kavod v’Nichum – JB.]

At the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, we are committed to making taharah accessible and available to the entire Jewish community.  We are so proud that we have among our members Jews of many gender identities and sexual orientations. Based on the Jewish value of Kol Arevim Zeh B’Zeh (BT Shevuot 39a), we are here to serve the entire community – we approach each member of the Chevrah with Kavod, we approach each meit with Kavod, and we have Kavod for the gender identity of the meitim we serve.  I could not be prouder of our Chevrah Kadisha –  we are here to serve the Jewish community without judgement.  For more information about the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, please visit us at

Barbara Neustadt

President, Board of Directors

Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston


Taharah is often called Chesed shel Emet, or the truest kindness. As volunteer with the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, we work to make taharah available to the entire Jewish community.

There is no asterisk after “entire” – transgender and gender non-conforming Jews are every bit as much a part of our community as any other member, and deserve, yes deserve, the kavod we can and do extend to all.

It is clear from the essay by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs that her understanding of gender is more than a bit outdated. As the sibling of a transgender person, I will assume that Dinnerstein-Kurs perhaps confuses compassion for politics, or maybe forgets our instruction to shmirat halashon, or maybe forgets simple chesed/kindness. Moreover, she proves the point of the original writer who wrote that it is important in death to be cared for those who respect us in life.

One thing on which we do agree is her statement that “[t]he chevres [sic] role is solely to show utmost respect to the maita throughout the process of performing the taharah.” Where we differ, though, is where she states she would not honor the gender identity of the meit/ah during the taharah. To me, that would seem the ultimate lack of respect.


James A. Cohen

Member, Board of Directors

Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston


Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. It will be offered live online during the Winter from January 8th to March 26th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructor will be Rick Light, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.


Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free informal online session, held monthly. On the third (3rd) 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 December 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

If you miss a Gamliel Café and wish access to the recording (if one is made) please send a request to receive it after the date of the session.

If you are interested in teaching a session, you can contact us at,, or


Gamliel Continuing Education Courses

Gamliel Continuing Education  Courses, advanced sessions focusing in on different topics. These will usually be in groups of three ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered roughly 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, and the second was on The World to Come and the Zohar.

The next live course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to look at death as seen in the Zohar, with a focus on the Idra Rabbah mateials, taught by Beth Huppin. This is a stand-alone course – you do not need to have taken the prior course to register for this one.

Registration is required, and there will be a tuition charge of $72 for each three session series. Contact us for information, by email, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at

You can also register for prior courses and access them via recording.


Taste of Gamliel Series

The 2018 Taste of Gamliel series has concluded, but it is not too late if you want to access the recordings. You can Register for the 2018 series, Your’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them via recordings.  There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

The 2019 series is being planned now. Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. The Registration fee of $36 for each series helps 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.



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