October 13, 2019

How’re We Doing?

Expired and Inspired debuted on June 9th 2014. There have been 88 posts in the thirty months since then up to this one. Almost every posting has been a gem (at least, in my humble opinion), a tiny jewel that served as a prism, focusing a beautiful light on to the topic it addressed.

There have been postings that looked at Bikkur Cholim, visiting the ill; vidui, the final confession; the moment of death; transporting the deceased; Shmirah, the guarding of the body; Taharah, the ritual of preparing the deceased through washing and elevating/purifying and dressing; funerals; burial; Shiva, the seven day period of intense mourning; Sheloshim, the 30 day period of mourning; Kavod HaMeit, honoring the dead; and Nichum Avelim, comforting the mourners.

We have looked at the work of the Chevrah Kadisha, the holy society; how the work touches those who do it, and others; some difficult Taharah stories; and even when things go wrong.

We have shared about tattoos; “kosher” caskets; funerals, funeral costs, and Jewish values; and standards of care and honor for the deceased.

Posts have looked at ritual; meditations; legal rights; pre-planning; Death Cafés; philosophy and approaches; the concepts of judgement, atonement, and a ‘good death’; comparisons with other religions and cultures death practices; and what ritual might be appropriate to offer for non-Jews for whom this kind of final caring is requested. One entry addressed how a veterinarian felt about euthanizing animals; and several addressed how a Chaplain in a hospital setting might function.

Some of the entries spoke to the annual Kavod v’Nichum Conference (coming this year June 5-7 in Boston MA); and others discussed the 2015 Gamliel Institute graduates’ Study Mission trip (next one planned for 2018).

That is our catalog to date. Here I take the liberty of quoting myself – this excerpt appeared as part of the first entry posted on this blog, describing what we were trying to do.

What is this blog?

It is a blog about death and dying – and the Jewish ways thereof.

It is about the Jewish rituals, forms, customs, behavioral norms (and not-so-norms), about Jewish ideas and thoughts on and around this topic. It is about how Jews approach death and the dead, how they treat them, what they do, and how they do it.

It is about transforming a physical task into a holy act; bringing sanctity and compassion to souls who are in need of it.

It is really about caring for the dead and comforting the living; the sacred, loving work of helping to bring closure and peace at the end of life to those who have died, and comfort to those who care about them. 

Expired & Inspired” is  The topic of death and dying has long been taboo. Because death comes to all of us, and touches most of us in life, it needs to be open for discussion – though not in a morbid fashion: there are aspects of this part of life that are beautiful and touching.

The death of a loved one is sad, but the sacred, holy work in which we engage can be spiritual, loving, transformative, and life-affirming. Talking about it should not be ‘taboo’ or avoided. There is even room, at times, for humor, as well as awe, love, and honor, as we explore this universal part of life.

Expired & Inspired is intended to educate, reveal, and share stories in an interesting and compelling way about the people involved, and the Jewish process, rituals, and activities that include “>Chevrah Kadisha – the Holy Society that provides care for the deceased, and comfort for mourners and those bereaved. 

Accompany us as we draw back the curtain a bit, and let you see our work, the results of it, and how it affects those of us who do it, and others. Join us as we offer you an aspect, a viewpoint, a glimpse of the transformative power of the work we do. 

That was the goal we set ourselves. Now, a year and a half later, I am asking: How’re we doing? What have you found valuable, informative, interesting, or provocative? What did we not include? How can we do even better?

I am also asking: do you have a story or something you think would meet our goal that you would like to submit? If so, please be in touch with me at j.blair@jewish-funerals.org.


Rabbi Joe Blair is a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, class of ’96. He serves two small congregations in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, is an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Bridgewater College, and serves as a principal, webmaster, and coordinator for Jewish Values Online. He studied at, and was one of the first group of graduates from the Gamliel Institute. He serves as a staff member of Kavod v’Nichum, and as a faculty member and Administrative Dean of the Gamliel Institute. He is the editor of the Kavod v’Nichum’s blog, Expired and Inspired, which appears on the L.A. Jewish Journal blogs website. He is involved in several Chevrot Kadisha.






Please Tell Anyone Else Who May Be Interested!

Spring 2016:  

During the coming semester, the Gamliel Insitute will be offering the online course. Chevrah Kadisha: Education, Organizing, & Training (EOT). The prerequisite for this course is prior successful completion of Course 1, 2, or 5. This course will run from May 3rd to July 19th, 8-9:30 pm EST/5-6:30 pm PST/9-10:30 pm AST. (12 class sessions). There will be an online orientation session Monday May 2nd at 8-9:30 pm EST. Past Students, please note: We will be using a new (to us) online Platform for the classes, so definitely plan on attending one of the orientation sessions if you were not a student in Winter 2016! 

For more information, visit the “>Kavod v’Nichum website.

Course 3 is a practical, hands-on course that helps students bring Jewish practices and values to fruition. Its central component is the support and mentoring of students in conceiving and carrying out useful projects of their own related to the Chevrah Kadisha world, whether in their own community, congregation, or business, or on a larger scale. Thus, the course offers students a way to make a difference and have a meaningful and positive impact in the world—a “real-world” effect. The course includes material on principles of education and organizing, and projects can range from academic research and writing, to community organizing, or creative and artistic endeavors. Organizing efforts might include starting a new Chevrah Kadisha, educating the community about the Chevrah Kadisha’s work, teaching about the running of the local Jewish mortuary or cemetery, helping the Chevrah Kadisha to expand its services, or producing materials for education or to share the beauty and meaning of this work. This course is a vehicle for those who wish to undertake a project, with guidance and support from the Gamliel Staff and other students, that will provide benefits and information to their own community and/or other communities. You can see examples of completed Student projects at Fall 2016:

Gamliel Institute Course 5, Chevrah Kadisha Ritual, Practices, & Liturgy (RPL) from September 6th, 2016 to November 22nd 2016. This course has no prerequiste. Please note it on your calendar, and plan to attend.


NOTE: Tuition for Gamliel Institute classes is $500 per person per course. Groups of 3 or more from the same organization can request a 20% discount. There are also clergy and student discounts available, and we work to find Scholarships and help students seek sources of funding to take Gamliel Institute courses. Contact us to inquire about any of these matters.


You can “>jewish-funerals.org/gamreg.


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.




Donations are always needed and most welcome – online at   You can also become a member (Individual or Group) of Kavod v’Nichum to help support our work. Click






Taste of Gamliel registration is also open. Join us for a 5 part webinar with the theme The World To Come – Do You Have Your Ticket? The series will include one session each month from January to June.  The first session will be January 31st at 8 pm EST/5 pm PST.  Free, with a suggested $36 donation to help us defray the expenses of presenting the series.

View the program and speakers by clicking  Register  


Be on the lookout for information about the 14th Annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference, to be held in Lexington, MA June 5-7 2016. Register Gamliel students (past and present) are also encouraged to plan to remain for an additional day following the conference for a live educational program. Information will be forthcoming about this event – look for it, and mark your calendar now!    




Check out our new website for Gamliel Institute information, and Gamliel Student projects at  



If you would like to receive the Kavod v’Nichum newsletter by email, or be added to the email discussion list please be in touch and let us know at info@jewish-funerals.org. You can also be sent an email link to this blog each week 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  


Sign up on our Facebook Group page: just search for and LIKE “>@chevra_kadisha. Email J.Blair@jewish-funerals.org to be receive an email with the link to the blog weekly.


To find a list of other blogs and resources we think you, our reader, may find to be 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.