This time it felt like the lowering of the coffin was taking place in a slow-motion film. When it finally bottomed, the descent seemed deeper than usual too. I have officiated at perhaps over one hundred funerals, so you would think I would know the norms. But this one was for my own father. Intellectually I knew the steepness must be the same. And others present assured me the coffin was going down at the typical speed. As the funeral went on I was in two places at once: as death professional and as mourner. Would this make my mourning easier or more complex, or both? A few weeks ago, my husband Steve and I co-officiated for my 95-year-old father at this simple gathering that barely topped a minyan. I chose to chant the el male rachamim, the prayer of mercy, which came so soon I whispered to Steve, “I do this already?” It felt like we had skipped part of the service. Well, good, I thought. My professional role was not crowding out all the effects of grieving: an agonizingly slow lowering, a harrowing depth, and distorted time. As I chanted, I felt like I was doing a once-in-a-lifetime mitzvah. How many mourners have the opportunity to ritually sing of God’s “sheltering presence” and “finding refuge in the shadow of the Eternal’s wings” as part of their send-off for a loved one?
During the shiva, mulling over the idea of returning to work soon after was nauseating at first. Being a hospice chaplain is not exactly a good distraction from funerals and grieving. But there is the comfort of colleagues, and we certainly have been more on the same page than colleagues of other professions could have been. Also I do not have to bear the stupid or insensitive remarks I have had to endure elsewhere, such as, “It’ll be easier for you. Old people are so hard to take care of anyway.” Yep. A distant relative actually said that to me as the body was being shipped across state lines to its final destination. As for taking care of patients and their families, at first I told myself that other people’s problems were a break from the constant rewind tapes of my own. Maybe I could not concentrate as well as usual, but it sufficed. After the blur of the first day or so, I then pondered how my thoughts and feelings were running more parallel to those of the people I was serving than ever before. I felt more united with families, thinking, “I’ve just been through what you are going through. I’m with you. I can relate.” So the upside of going back to work is that I have not had to pretend and put on a happy face. Most of all, I feel more deeply the power of the mitzvah of visiting the sick and accompanying the bereaved. I am honoring my father’s legacy by striving to do compassionate acts in the context of a now tighter bond between myself and those I serve.
GAMLIEL INSTITUTE COURSES
NOT TOO LATE – THERE IS STILL TIME – REGISTRATION IS OPEN: THE COURSE BEGAN THIS WEEK!
Gamliel Institute Course 1, Chevrah Kadisha History, Origins, & Evolution (HOE) as planned will be offered over twelve weeks on Tuesday evenings. The schedule is from December 6th, 2016 to February 21st, 2017, online. There are still a few slots open in the entering class!
Class times will all be 5-6:30 pm PST/6-7:30 pm MST/7-8:30 CST/8-9:30 pm EST. [If you are in any other time zone, please determine the appropriate time, given local time and any Time Zone adjustments that may be necessary.]
Please note: the class meetings will be online, and will take place on Tuesday evenings (unless a Jewish holiday requires a change of date for a class session).
The focus of this course is on the history and development of the modern Chevrah Kadisha, the origins of current practices, and how the practices and organizations have changed to reflect the surrounding culture, conditions, and expectations. The course takes us through the various text sources (biblical, talmudic, rabbinic, and on) to seek the original basis of the Chevrah Kadisha, harking to Prague in the 1600’s, through the importation of the Chevrah Kadisha to America, and all the way to recent days. It is impossible to really understand how we came to the current point without a sense of the history.
SIGN UP NOW TO TAKE THIS COURSE!
Please register, note it on your calendar, and plan to attend the online sessions.
There is no prerequisite for this course; you are welcome to take it with no prior knowledge or experience, though interest in the topic is important.
The registration fee is $500.00 per person, but NOTE that there are registration discounts available for three or more persons from the same organization, and for clergy and students. There are also some scholarship funds available on a ‘need’ basis. Contact us (information below) with any questions.
You can “>jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.
For more information, visit the “>Kavod v’Nichum website or on the
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 “>jewish-funerals.org/gamreg. A full description of all of the courses is found there.
TASTE OF GAMLIEL
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 ” target=”_blank”>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.
KAVOD v’NICHUM CONFERENCE
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 You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also be sent an email link to the Expired And Inspired blog each week by sending a message requesting to be added to the distribution list to email@example.com.
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To find a list of other blogs and resources we think you, our reader, may find of interest, click on “About” on the right side of the page.There is a link at the end of that section to read more about us.
Past blog entries can be searched online at the L.A. Jewish Journal. Point your browser to ____________________
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.firstname.lastname@example.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.