November 16, 2018

Turn my Oy to Joy – A Poem for Haftarah Nitzavim by Rick Lupert

Oh, consolation
I’ve got seven weeks of you.
Oh, holy hug

Oh speak up those
watching over me
Oh Right Hand

You so strong
You smite the enemy
You clear the stones

You un-desolate
the Holy home
Oh, Jerusalem

We’re coming for you
Oh, Jerusalem
I can hear your watchmen

Look how our enemies hunger
Look how our red clothes turn white
Look how our children’s children

til the soil, bloom the desert
sing when they land
kiss the ground.

Oh, consolation, Oh, holy hug
You turn our oy to joy
You make me want

to read this text again.
I am standing.
I am ready.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

I Need a Camel Like I Need an Umbrella – A Poem for Haftarah Ki Tavo by Rick Lupert

These are the benefits entitled to us, according to
the prophet who speaks on behalf of the Benefit Giver

A gross darkness [shall cover] the kingdoms

Eww. The implication here is we are not part of the kingdoms
and a whole special light will, hopefully, light that grossness
right out of the realm of our perceptibility.

your heart shall be startled and become enlarged

I’m no heart-ologist, but is this medically sound?
I realize You’re the One who invented all this biology
but I had a cat die once and the veterinarian told me
his heart was too big. So as long as you know
what you’re doing.

A multitude of camels shall cover you.

A couple things here: Would it be alright if I
stick with an umbrella, or a blanket, or even just
the clothes I’ve got on. Living in the shadows of
camels feels weird to me. Also, if you have to go
in that direction, I’m not that big and think only
one camel will suffice.

All the sheep of Kedar shall be gathered to you.

Okay. You make it sound like that’s going to be
a lot of sheep. I’m not allowed to feed the outside cats
anymore as that’s how it started with the five we have
inside now. Can I just pay a fee to make sure the
sheep are taken care of, or go to someone who
has unlimited room for sheep?

to bring to you the wealth of the nations

This sounds great! I’ve got a lot of funds I’ve been
meaning to get going. There’s already the meager
college fund for our nine year old. But then there’s the
move to a nicer neighborhood fund, and the buy a
hybrid car fund (I’m only thinking of the planet).
All the wealth of the nations could really help out here.

And you shall suck the milk of the nations.

OK, is this mandatory to get the wealth? I feel most
humans are lactose intolerant after we’re weaned
from our mothers. The whole Got Milk campaign feels
like a bit of a sham. Oh Creator of biology, is this
the phlegm you had in mind?

I shall make your rulers righteousness

This sounds great right about now. The news keeps
reminding me, our rulers don’t even know how to
spell the word righteous, let alone act in a manner
that lives up to that word.

Your sun shall no longer set, neither shall your moon
God will be an everlasting light.

Is this what it’s like in Alaska? I hear black-out curtains
is doing a killer business up there. I’m going to visit
just to get a taste of what You’re offering. I’ll think of you
when I see the Aurora Borealis.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

They’ve Got Pants Just for Floods – A Poem for Haftarah Ki Teitzei by Rick Lupert

Promises are easy to forget when the Promiser
has hidden Their face. This is why sometimes

we wear pants that are too short, in case Noah’s flood
comes again, despite the occasional rainbow reminder.

It’s a fear we’ve taken so seriously you’ll find hundreds
of results on Amazon if you search for “flood pants.”

I’m glad someone’s making money off our lack of faith.
We’re told God’s wrath was only there for a moment

as we wept on the wrong side of the Babylonian border.
But a Biblical moment is long enough for an entire generation

to die out in the desert; for riverside city after riverside city
to have to appeal to FEMA for post-rain relief;

for millions to die at the hands of people with radical ideas.
It’s easy to see why we sometimes feel forgotten.

We’ve got two more weeks of divine consolation
before the cycle begins again.

Don’t hide Your face from us. Just a glimpse
will keep us in line.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

Direct Contact – A Poem for Haftarah Shoftim by Rick Lupert

Oh, how we’ve changed.
An Exodus ago we saw a light so bright
and asked Moses to be the one to
do the looking.

Now, an Exodus later,
we’re inconsolable by human voices,
even those who wrote the famous books.
We need personal contact with that Light.

We need a hug from the Almighty.
We need to know it’s going to be okay.
We need to know the cup of weakness will
be put in the hands of those who made us wander.

Our sons and daughters are fainting in the streets
we need a Divine rain to wake them up.
Nothing Noah-like…rainbows not required.
Just a splash on the face in this corner

we’ve found ourselves in.
Wake us up in Babylonia with news that
the freeway to the promised land has been paved.
We’re ready to shake off our dust and roll.

If it’s not too much trouble, we’d like the drive
to be casual. None of this flat bread on our back
kind of situation. No time to pack the collectibles.
Give us a moment to say our farewells

to put in the forwarding address
to update the paint so we don’t lose our deposit
to tell the unclean, we’re so sorry, this wasn’t
going to workout anyway.


God Wrestler: a poem for every Torah Portion by Rick LupertLos Angeles poet Rick Lupert created the Poetry Super Highway (an online publication and resource for poets), and hosted the Cobalt Cafe weekly poetry reading for almost 21 years. He’s authored 22 collections of poetry, including “God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion“, “I’m a Jew, Are You” (Jewish themed poems) and “Feeding Holy Cats” (Poetry written while a staff member on the first Birthright Israel trip), and most recently “Beautiful Mistakes” (Rothco Press, May 2018) and edited the anthologies “A Poet’s Siddur: Shabbat Evening“,  “Ekphrastia Gone Wild”, “A Poet’s Haggadah”, and “The Night Goes on All Night.” He writes the daily web comic “Cat and Banana” with fellow Los Angeles poet Brendan Constantine. He’s widely published and reads his poetry wherever they let him.

THE IDEAL FOODS TO SERVE THE MOURNER FOR THEIR CONSOLATION MEAL? By Isaac Pollak

Meal of Consolation (Se'udah Havra'ah)

What should you serve a mourner at the Consolation meal?

The first indication of a specific food to be served to a mourner is found in Genesis 25:30 where Jacob is found to be boiling lentils (lentils have been found as carbonated remains alongside human habitation approximately 11,000 BCE in Greece and the Middle East) on the day his grandfather Abraham died. Why are mourners served lentils?

Explains the TB BB 16:B (YD 378:9; Gen R.63:14 ) because they are round like a wheel, and mourning/sorrow is like a wheel – it touches everyone sooner or later.

In addition, just as lentils have no “mouth” or opening but are smoothly round, so, too, the mourners have no “mouth” to speak; they are struck with their inability to speak due to their shock and sorrow at having their loved ones die. The feeling of losing a loved one is often the lowest – the most lonely a person will ever be.

This is the reason why mourners do not greet visitors, and visitors should not greet mourners unless the mourner communicates first. It allows the mourner to experience as much or as little “company” as they are able, without actually being alone. Having the mourner make the first move certainly eases the pain for everyone.

The custom evolved to serve round foods (bagels/pita and eggs are the ones I have seen most often in houses of mourning after returning from a funeral, but also black olives, sharp spicy foods, and high octane alcohol in an Iraqi /Kurdistani house of mourning) to symbolize the cyclical and continuous nature of life.

Eggs are often used these days for this purpose, as the egg is the only food that hardens more the longer it is cooked, and symbolizes that one must learn to steel oneself and be resilient when death occurs. The eggshell is fragile so perhaps the message is that while we are fragile we must also be resilient. In addition, eggs are a symbol of rebirth; indicating the cyclical nature of life. The egg is also completely sealed and has no opening, similar to the lentil. Some have the tradition that the egg is shelled by others and not by the mourner.

The tradition also developed that whatever round food is served is passed from one mourner to the next as a sign of mutual grief based on Lamentations 1:17, “Zion stretches forth her hand.”

(I find this to be in startling contrast to the tradition of not passing the shovel hand to hand while filling the grave; rather, the shovel is put down and the next person picks it up; perhaps the death of a loved one is unique to each person but the grief of losing that person is a common one.)

Another aspect of the condolence meal is that it is the second formal expression of consolation. The first is the parallel rows of friends and relatives through which the bereaved walks through as they depart the graveside. That is a silent tribute, but it is eloquent testimony that we share the mourner’s anguish. The second stage of condolence takes us one step closer to the mourner in his state of misery; we move from the role of spectator to that of participant, from sentiment to service. We bring the mourner the sustenance of life, figuratively and literally. The next step is the Shiva visitation; it’s time for the beginning of the mourners remerging into society and perhaps verbalizing their feelings of loss.

Just to end on a positive note, I will quote Psalm 30:11; “you have turned for me my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness.” Mourning turns into joy. May it be so.

Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 5 grandchildren (and more soon!).

Isaac has written for Expired And Inspired multiple times over the years, contributing a wide variety of entries, many scholarly and detailed with sources on history and tradition.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. 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:

April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

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 – this 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- taharahand 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 – Registration is open now.

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

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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THE CONSOLATION MEAL: WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? By Isaac Pollak

Meal of Consolation (Se'udah Havra'ah)

“Do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife ) is taken from you: “ a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes on your feet…. And you shall not eat the bread of men.”

The TB in MK 27:b traces its source to Ezekiel, Chapter 24:17 where God tells the prophet Ezekiel – do not mourn when the desire of your eyes (your wife) is taken from you; ”a mourning of the death you shall not make, put your shoes upon your feet…. and you shall not eat the bread of men.”

The Talmud explains that this is textual proof that when regular mourning is mandated, the meals of the first day (after burial) is to be prepared by others. Ezekiel was told by God not to mourn and to eat his own food.

God informs the prophet that the relationship between Ezekiel and his wife symbolized the relationship between God and his temple, and both would be destroyed.

The Rabbenu Yarichim (quoted in the B’Y”-Yorah Daoh, Hilchot Avilath, 378-379) also discusses a practical reason as well why the food of the mourner should be supplied by others. The mourner is deeply upset and doesn’t think of eating; the mourner often wishes to die as well (How can I eat when my beloved is in the cold ground?). They would deprive themselves of food in order to achieve a “symbolic death.” (Perhaps that is a reason as well why a mourner sits on a low stool; to be symbolically closer to the person that just died.) Therefore, food is supplied by the community.

Making this “mandatory” doesn’t give the mourner the option, and the mourner understands that as much as they would forgo meals and wallow in solitude, they have not lost their place in the community.

The tradition in medieval Germany and France evolved that food for the mourners was supplied by the community for all seven days. Many were very poor and not being able work they had no funds to purchase food. In order not to embarrass those who didn’t have any funds to purchase food, the community supplied food for all – rich and poor – for all seven days.

We have in our collection an 18th century CK Charity box that was put by the community in a house of mourning, the inscription on which reads in German –Yiddish, “ if you have extra funds please put it in and if you need funds , please help yourself.”

The TY in MK 14:A discusses the issue of a mourner needing to go to work in order to have funds to purchase food. It emphasizes that for the first three days it is imperative the mourner not go to work and after the third day one can go to work “Ba’tzina” hiddenly or in an unobtrusive manner.

Judaism demands that at moments of great joy or great grief – both which require concentration and undistributed mediation – we refrain from daily pursuits. This is based on the prophet Amos 8:10 recording the words of the Lord: “And I will transform your festivals to mourning”; teaching us, just as on festivals, labor is prohibited, so too in days of mourning.”

The Korban Ha’yadah (quoting BR Chapter 100) explains that the soul hovers over the body the first three days wanting to reenter the body, but on the third day the facial features decompose and the soul no longer recognizes the body and it “releases” its hold on the body.

An early Midrash (Tana D’ve Eliyahu) alludes to the fact that for the first three days, the soul is trying to find its shadow; on the third day of not finding its shadow, the soul goes to a muddy riverbank and tries to imprint his/her footprint in the mud ; when the deceased sees that there is no footprint, it then releases its hold on the body.

The Iggerot Moshe in Yorah Da’oh 279 (magisterial responsa of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein) discusses the fact that bringing food to the mourner fulfils the commandment of consoling the bereaved. One should not eat of their own , thus forcing others to bring the mourner food and, therefore fulfilling the obligation of consoling the mourner, and this is valid for all seven days.

Isaac Pollak is President and CEO of an international marketing business for almost 4 decades at this point. He holds graduate degrees in Marketing, Industrial Psychology, Art History, and Jewish Material Culture from City College, LIU, JTS, and Columbia University. He has been a student in the Gamliel Institute, and serves as a consultant to the institution. He has been the rosh/head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, for over 3 decades, and is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, having several hundred in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC. Born and raised in NYC, married, with 3 children and 3 grandchildren.

Isaac has written for Expired And Inspired multiple times over the years, contributing a wide variety of entries, many scholarly and detailed with sources, on history and tradition.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

___________

Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to an informal online monthly session, held monthly. 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.

____________________

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:

April 8: Jewish Trans Day of Remembrance – Jacob Klein
April 29: Disengranchised Grief – Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
May 27: An Alternative Yizkor Service – Rabbi SaraLeya Schley

If you cannot attend a session, no worries! They are recorded and made available to those registered.

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.

_______________

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!

_______________

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 – this 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- taharahand 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 – Registration is open now.

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

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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What the Klinghoffers taught me — and the world

I first met Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters in 2004, shortly after my father and stepmother were murdered in a robbery.

Back then I was a TMI machine, telling my story not only to friends but also to anyone in my line of vision. One Shabbat, after going to the Village Temple in New York to say Kaddish, I approached the rabbi, Chava Koster, and told her, too. Unlike the sales clerk at Staples or the dinnertime telemarketer I had forced off script, Koster listened intently and offered to connect me with two of her congregants who had experienced something similar.

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer’s father, Leon Klinghoffer, wasn’t just the victim of a random murder. He was shot and thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship on which he and his wife had been vacationing.

Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old man in a wheelchair, was the sole victim of the Achille Lauro hijacking. His murder — 30 years ago this month — prompted a dramatic U.S. military operation, and inspired books, made-for-TV movies and a controversial opera produced last year at the Met.

In honor of this year’s milestone anniversary of the attack, Lisa, 64, and Ilsa, 58, have donated their parents’ archive — comprising family photographs and stacks of condolence notes written by everyone from schoolchildren to Holocaust survivors to President Ronald Reagan — to the American Jewish Historical Society. The archive will be housed at the Center for Jewish History in New York, where the Klinghoffer sisters recently recounted onstage the story of the siege and its aftermath.

“When you read through [the letters],” which the sisters did on tough days in the beginning, and then every couple of years after that, “they are just amazing, inspiring, overwhelming,” Ilsa told me when we reconnected last week after more than a decade.

My own family tragedy was of the more mundane variety — mundane in that it happens every day to someone, if not to someone you love or even someone whose name you know. I was 24 when a methamphetamine addict forced his way inside my father and stepmother’s home in Sedona, Arizona, and killed them.

Most of my friends hadn’t lost parents, let alone known anyone who had been murdered. I was eager to connect with others who understood what it was like to lose a loved one to violence, who understood that if these kinds of things could happen on a cruise ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, where the Achille Lauro was hijacked, or in view of Sedona’s dramatic red rock formations, they could happen anywhere.

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer understood.

There was something reassuring about meeting the Klinghoffer sisters. Here were two women who had endured something so hellish as young adults and gone on to lead lives so positive, productive and purposeful. In honor of their parents — their mother, Marilyn, died just four months after their father’s murder (and six weeks before Ilsa’s wedding day) — Lisa and Ilsa have long dedicated themselves to educating people about terror and its victims. They are a driving force behind what is now the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Anti-Defamation League, which leads conferences for law enforcement on combating terrorism, anti-Semitism and hate crimes.

If they could find happiness and meaning after what they endured, I reasoned, so could others. So could I.

Fast forward more than a decade, and the Klinghoffer sisters were at the Center for Jewish History on Oct. 8 telling an extended version of the story from which I had drawn inspiration. They painted a vivid portrait of their parents: their family Shabbat dinners, their Saturday nights on the town, their circle of friends who spent summers at the Jersey Shore (“the beach people”), the planning that went into what would be their final vacation.

“One thing that keeps us going is that we’re just a regular family and knowing that this can happen to anyone,” Lisa told me. “It’s one of the reasons we continue to speak out, so people won’t forget what happened.”

The Klinghoffer archive at the American Jewish Historical Society comprises Leon’s U.S. Army-issued Jewish prayer book, a menu from the Achille Lauro dining room on which a fellow hostage sketched composites of the captors, and the “Mr. & Mrs. Roto-Broil Cookbook.” Never heard of the Roto-Broil? It was a countertop rotisserie oven popular in the 1950s invented by none other than Leon Klinghoffer.

“We wanted people to know things that hadn’t been in the news — personal things, factual things,” Ilsa told me of their decision to tell their story publicly, and to donate to the historical society 15 boxes of their parents’ belongings. “The American Jewish Historical Society said to us, ‘We’re not just going to take these papers. We want to know: Who was Marilyn? Who was Leon?'”

The realization that Marilyn and Leon Klinghoffer were people like any other, that we are all just as exposed as the next person, can foster not only a resolve to fight terror, but empathy for victims of violence everywhere. It was a point that Marilyn Klinghoffer herself expressed before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in testimony delivered just three weeks after her husband’s murder and whose contents are preserved in the archive.

“I believe my husband’s death has made a difference in the way people now perceive their vulnerability,” Marilyn testified. “I believe what happened to the passengers on the Achille Lauro and to my family can happen to anyone, any time, any place.”

A Lamentation on the Destruction of the Temple

1.  The absence of Presence
The Romans are approaching. We wallow in callous pettiness. The city will fall soon.
Desolation.

2. The presence of Absence
They are despoiling the sanctuary. We wail in piteous grief. Sun and moon are eclipsed. Horror.

3. The presence of Presence
It’s all over now. The dew washes clean our punished world. A lilac is blooming.
Consolation.

Copyright © 2013, Jonathan Omer-Man. For more, visit omer-man.net.

How to comfort and be comforted

Consoling people after they’ve suffered a loss, especially when it’s the death of a loved one, is never easy. No matter what we say, we can never bring back the beloved to this world. How often do we sit by the mourner’s side in awkward silence, feeling completely impotent in our inability to remove the pain.

Tisha B’Av is the day that commemorates not only the destruction of the two ancient Temples in Jerusalem, but also all our people’s national tragedies throughout Jewish history. The Shabbat after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu, because we recite the words of the prophet Isaiah (40:1): “Nachamu, nachamu, ami….” (“Be consoled, be consoled, my people….”) There will come a time, the prophet says, that your exile will end, and your future will once again be bright.

The seeming paradox is that on the very same Shabbat we read about the prophet’s consolation in the haftarah, we also read in the Torah portion about Moses’ personal tragedy, which seems to have no consolation. God tells Moses that although he’s faithfully led His people through the desert these past 40 years, and although the Jews are now standing at the very border of the Holy Land, Moses himself will never be allowed entry, and will die and be buried outside of Israel.

How is God’s refusal to Moses consistent with the theme of consolation on this Shabbat of consolation?

Moses was teaching the people a new form of consolation: Know, my brethren, that sometimes the answer will be “no.” Sometimes, God, in his infinite wisdom, must say no to our petitions. We may not understand how this can possibly be good, but I, Moses, assure you that it is ultimately for our benefit.

(Indeed, our sages on this passage go to great lengths to explain why it was in the Jews’ best interests for Moses not to gain entry into the land, which is a discussion that requires a separate essay.)

An additional lesson is contained in Moses’ words: When I asked God to enter the land with you, my brethren, it was because I had just succeeded in my latest mission of defeating those nations just east of the Jordan River. Perhaps, I reasoned, since we are so close to our goal, God will allow me to see it to its final stage and let me enter the land. But alas, even though I was so close, it was not meant to be. Sometimes, it may appear that we are so close to our goals, and then, at the last moment, our hopes are dashed and tragedy strikes.

Devastated though I may be, Moses continued, God did console me with one last wish: He is allowing me to go up to a mountain top where I will at least be able to see all of the Holy Land that you, my disciples, children and brethren, will inherit and enjoy. This, too, is consolation indeed.

In this light, Moses’ tale of tragedy is consistent with the consolation of the prophet. Sometimes, God’s answer must be “no.” But even when it is, God will find a way to give us a glimmer of hope for the future, that life will go on, our people will live on, and there will be a brighter tomorrow.

We have experienced, in our long national history, many misfires of messianic redemption and have heard “no” many times bellowing from heaven. We have witnessed, in our own generation, great hopes for peace in Israel, only to see those hopes dashed to pieces a short time later. But we mustn’t lose sight of the consolation contained therein: God is watching from heaven, and even when the answer is “no,” we are still provided with a vision, with a glimpse of what can yet still be. Imagine when the answer finally will be “yes,” how beautiful that “yes” will be.

There is no such thing as hollow consolation. The answer to one’s prayers might have been “no.” But when the mourner is embraced by his friends and family, when he or she is reassured that no one is ever alone and that life will go on with joy amid the pain, this is truly consolation.

Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin is rosh kehilla of Yavneh Hebrew Academy and director of synagogue and community services for the Orthodox Union’s West Coast region.

Jews Flop in Big Oscar Award Wins

The 76th Academy Awards brought much cheer to New Zealand, home of the 11 Oscar-winning "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," but little to ethnocentric Jews.

There was a dollop of consolation in the best actor win for Sean Penn, son of the late Jewish television director Leo Penn. The elder Penn was the grandson and great-grandson of rabbis and the son of Russian and Lithuanian immigrants, whose surname, Piñon, was anglicized at Ellis Island.

During an interview before his death, Leo Penn told Journal Arts & Entertainment Editor Naomi Pfefferman that he grew up near his father’s Jewish bakery in Boyle Heights. Leo Penn was married to Catholic actress Eileen Ryan and, according to reports, Sean and his two brothers were raised in a secular home.

Leo Penn was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and there was some speculation that Sean’s leftist views and a prewar visit to Iraq might harm his Oscar chances for his dramatic role as a distraught father in "Mystic River."

Comedian Billy Crystal, returning for his eighth stint as master of ceremonies, was in top form, serenading director Clint Eastwood for his "’Mystic River’ as dark and murky as mom’s chopped liver."

Crystal also had some fun with the controversial "The Passion of the Christ," which opened last Wednesday, noting that the Academy Awards were being simulcast in Aramaic (a language resurrected for much of "Passion’s" dialogue).

At a later point, Crystal suggested that another best picture nominee, "Lost in Translation," was the favorite film of California’s Austrian-born Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

During the in memoriam segment, commemorating entertainment industry figures who died in 2003, the mention of Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite filmmaker, was met with markedly sparse applause.

In the documentary feature category, which has been traditionally hospitable to Jewish and Holocaust themes, two nominees focusing on rather dysfunctional Jewish families lost out to the Vietnam War-era "The Fog of War."

"Capturing the Friedmans," which centers on a father and son convicted of child molestation, might have been hurt by charges brought by six of their former victims that the film had distorted important information about the case. The other entry, "My Architect," chronicled the professional triumphs and highly unorthodox personal life of American architect Louis Kahn.