November 18, 2018

My Jewish Mid-Life Crisis

By definition, a mid-life crisis is an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age. I am 52 years old, so likely past middle age, but I think I am having a crisis of some kind. I am questioning everything, and while I am confident I am clear on who I am, I am struggling to figure out what it is that I want, specifically in my personal life. I should know, but I don’t.

 

I used to think I wanted to get married again, but the older I get, and frankly the longer I am divorced, I’m not sure I want to. It has been 22 years since I was married and so it could be that I have just given up on the idea. I simply don’t think about it anymore, and I used to. I can barely muster the strength to go on a second date, which makes the chances of my getting married quite slim.

 

I have always been a woman of faith, and define myself as a Jew, but I am feeling a heightened sensitivity to everything Jewish. Ever since the murders in the Pittsburgh I have been on edge. I make a concerted effort every day to shake the uneasiness I feel, but I can’t. I got upset about something stupid someone I care about said about being Jewish, and I completely overreacted. Or did I?

 

I am not questioning my faith, but I am questioning how I view it and if I want it to be public versus private. It is bizarre. I had a bout of anxiety last week when I said Good Shabbos to someone, worried I had said out loud where people could hear me. The feeling I had then made me feel not only more anxious, but ashamed that I panicked about something to do with my faith.

 

Ugh. I am boring myself with this already and need to figure it out because it is effecting how I live my life. I am struggling. My life is markedly different with this crisis hanging over my head. I am questioning everything about myself, which is unfair to me, and I really need to be kinder to me. It can sometimes be easier to be kinder to others than to ourselves, and that is a real shame.

 

I need to cut myself some slack and I need to sort this all out. I have changed and I am sad about it. I hate that I second guess myself on things that shouldn’t be given any thought or attention. The back and forth in my own head is exhausting. Is anyone else going through something similar? I imagine there is, but I feel alone and am suffocating from all the questions with no answers.

 

My mother is coming to visit next week, and will surely provide clarity and comfort, but I am really the only person who can answer my questions. The most important question I have is when will I feel safe? When will I freely embrace my faith without fear? When will I stop second guessing everything? When will I date with an open mind to match my open heart?

 

I am going into Shabbat today with a real desire for peace. I want to quiet my mind and stop overthinking. I want to be free of worry. Impossible for a Jewish mother to be worry free of course, but you know what I mean. I am a good person and a proud Jew and I know this uneasy feeling will pass. I am blessed, and a little crazy, but everything will be okay as long as I am keeping the faith.

Legume Vase Floral Arrangement

Legumes, including beans, peas and lentils, have a storied association with Jewish history. In the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” historian and food writer Gil Marks notes that “the longstanding significance of beans to Sephardim may be seen from their Spanish name, judia.” He even adds that “purportedly, the favorite food of the Baal Shem Tov, Israel ben Eliezer, founder of the Chasidism, was black bean soup.” In appreciation of their history in Jewish food, I decided to create a floral arrangement featuring a legume-filled vase.

By using a vase-in-vase technique, we’re able to fill the space between the two vases with legumes of different colors, creating a lovely foundation to add flowers. They actually look like pebbles. I layered split peas, white northern beans and pink beans (that’s actually what they’re called), but you can also use any legumes that strike your fancy. These vases are perfect for fall because of the legume’s natural colors, which lend a rustic, homey feel to your décor. 

What You’ll Need:
Large vase
Small vase or drinking glass
Legumes
Flowers

1. To create the vase-in-vase arrangement, gather two vases — one of a large diameter and one of a smaller diameter. A short drinking glass can work as the smaller vase. Fill the small vase half way with water.

2. Place the small vase inside the larger one. The rim of the smaller vase should not extend too far above the larger one. 

3. In the gap between the vases, place your first layer of legumes. My bottom layer was green split peas. 

4. Continue adding layers of legumes until they reach the rim of the vases. It’s perfectly fine to only use one element instead of several. It just depends on what you have on hand. Then place cut flowers in the inner vase to complete the arrangement.


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You can see more of his do-it-yourself projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

Rethinking Jews’ Place in America

Photo from Twitter.

Unlike any other anti-Semitic incident, the Tree of Life Congregation tragedy has destroyed American Jews’ assumptions about our place in American society. We believed that deadly acts of anti-Semitism had been relegated to another era, only to see the rebirth of violent hate in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and beyond. Now, caught up in a suddenly tense and hostile political climate, America’s Jewish community is struggling to find its political voice. 

As a community, we hold to a series of core beliefs. We envision our Judaism and our Americanism to be in consort with each other. We believe each generation builds upon the last. And we see the pursuit of these value propositions advancing the perfectibility of humankind. 

Following World War II, globalism would redefine America’s place in the world. As a central player in promoting regional models of collective action, the United States would form military alliances and economic trade arrangements designed to connect this nation with the world. The genius of the Marshall Plan and the success of NATO had symbolized the post-war American model of global engagement. Many of us also became globalists. We asserted our role in advocating for human rights on the world stage, beginning with Soviet Jewry and extending to endangered communities well beyond the Jewish world.

Because of our economic and social standing, and the individual and collective achievements of Jews, we have taken pride that Jewish Americans disproportionately contribute to this nation’s cultural messaging, imprinting its social behaviors and helping to frame its political conversations.

The Trump presidency has brought about a fundamentally disruptive moment in this nation’s political culture. Not only are we experiencing strikingly different policy options and directions, but the current cultural artifacts of politics — namely how this president operates — dramatically challenge the existing norms of political behavior and action. As our society is shifting from a period of American liberalism to political populism, deep fissures are dividing Americans in general and Jews in particular. Jewish political differences may never have been more pronounced than they are today, as Jews debate and disagree over how to define their vision for America and their own self-interests.

Amid this fundamental political sea change that appears to be underway, with new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst. After decades of being seen as political outsiders, Jews in recent times have become defined as part of the United States’ power class — or, within some circles, the “oppressor class.” On the left, political forces embrace the “intersectionality” movement and interject their anti-Zionist convictions as they dismiss Jews as privileged white political actors. By embracing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, the political left has targeted Israel as a strategic gateway to its war on the Jews. On the political right, we see patterns of both blatant and subtle anti-Semitism. The liberal Jewish establishment is blamed for promoting “anti-white policies” such as immigration and diversity. The alt-right and others see egalitarianism, globalism and multiculturalism as Jewish-inspired, liberal initiatives that run counter to American nationalist norms and values. 

“With new strains of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism emerging to test America’s social fabric, America’s Jews are experiencing a new type of angst.”

A debate has arisen within the Jewish community over which of these political assaults, from the right or the left, should be considered more potentially damaging to America’s Jews and our interests. In arguing such questions, advocates seek to minimize the impact of one side over the other, suggesting that there are degrees to the new politics of hate, as if anti-Jewish behavior is somehow less threatening or damaging from one political extreme than another.

Are the political climate and social fabric of this society coming undone, and in the process are Jews finding themselves increasingly disconnected from the changing mores and values that define the changing American character? What are the contributing ingredients to this new condition?

Pittsburgh may have awakened us to this new and uncomfortable reality. The loss of historic memory and a devaluing of the past give credence to our opponents. The radicalization of our nation’s politics and the invention of political myths are contributing to this new political order. In an age when the rhetoric of hate has taken center stage, this must be seen as problematic to the Jewish condition. 

Today, there is a growing political uncertainty among some of us. The impact of the Pittsburgh attack represented more than an assault on individual Jews. It brought to light the question of our collective well-being. Many Jewish voters entered their voting booths on Nov. 6 still dealing with the aftermath of the most deadly anti-Semitic shooting in American history.

We need to remind ourselves that, historically, Jews have not fared well in political regimes built around extreme nationalism and hate rhetoric. Identity politics, which has become the mantra for some, may produce some short-term victories; but ultimately it must be seen as highly problematic for the Jewish community. 

The biggest potential story of 2018 may still be unfolding. In the aftermath of Trump’s remake of the Republican Party, where will prominent conservative thought leaders and writers such as Bret Stephens and Max Boot find a political home? Unhappy with their party’s white nationalistic rhetoric and anti-immigrant focus, what political pathways are ahead for Jewish Republicans who differ with the president? 

One needs to ask a similar question to Jewish Democrats who, in some cases, are increasingly concerned about the progressive wing of their party and, more pointedly, its anti-Israel, pro-BDS sentiments.

 Over time, are we likely to see a fundamental, political realignment involving disillusioned Jewish Republicans and Democrats? Where do American Jewish activists find a new political base in this uncertain climate?

In both real and symbolic ways, has Pittsburgh distorted and destroyed our assumptions about ourselves and our beliefs about America? We had understood this nation to represent a different proposition: here, anti-Semitism would have no space and we envisioned our Judaism in consort with our Americanism.

At this moment, we are a people in search of our political identity.

There is a heightened awareness among Jews of the growth of extremist expressions challenging not only the existing democratic norms of the nation but also how minority communities, including Jewish Americans, are being categorized and threatened. As we have seen, the fallout from this type of politics has also invaded today’s Jewish public space, where Jews are battling against one another.

Who today can speak to the collective priorities of American Jewry? A new and dangerous divide seems to have replaced the once robust voices of an energized polity. As this American Jewish journey unfolds, how we manage this moment represents a critical test about our character and credibility and our future roles as Americans.


Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. 

Pittsburgh Tragedy: Azerbaijan Extends Solidarity and Hope

Signs of support are being shown throughout Pittsburgh following last week’s deadly synagogue shooting. Photo by Alan Freed/Reuters

When I learned about the tragedy in Pittsburgh, I felt profoundly sad. Eleven Jews had just been murdered by a depraved anti-Semite; their lives ripped away in a sacred space, a synagogue, on the Jewish day of rest and prayer. For those lives taken, and for the mourners reeling from this tragedy, that Shabbat is truly eternal, and one man’s act of hateful violence is unconscionable and unforgivable. 

In my homeland of Azerbaijan, messages and sentiments of solidarity and prayers for the victims and their loved ones have been pouring out from every corner. In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev wrote: “I was deeply saddened by the news of casualties as a result of an armed attack at a synagogue in the city of Pittsburgh. On the occasion of this tragic event, on my own behalf and on behalf of the people of Azerbaijan, I extend my deepest condolences to you, the families and loved ones of those who died, and all the people of the United States.”

As consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States, I join my nation — a majority-Muslim country with thriving Jewish and Christian communities — in an outcry of support, solidarity and the most heartfelt condolences. As someone who has made Los Angeles a new home and has been privileged to become close friends with many Jewish leaders and organizations across California and throughout the United States, I reach out in total devastation as a friend and as a neighbor. To all of my Jewish brothers and sisters, my heart breaks for your loss and pain. I think of the many synagogues across Los Angeles where I have enjoyed celebrating Shabbat, and I think of the pain everyone is in, of how this tragedy is far too close to home.

“What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. “

Over the past six years, I have spoken to many shuls and organizations about the concept of multifaith harmony and respect, how it works in Azerbaijan, and how critical it is for communities across the United States and beyond; and how so many of us have shared this vision of peace that we know is possible. Clearly, our work is far from complete. We have so much yet to achieve together. 

My thoughts go out to my Jewish friends, colleagues and neighbors in Azerbaijan. I think of the synagogues and the hundreds of children of the Orthodox Jewish day school in our capital city of Baku, and I am thankful knowing that they are safe, that our national values and policies guarantee that safety every day. I am grateful that educating every child about the evil of anti-Semitism is part of the mandatory curriculum in Azerbaijan’s public schools, and that our society shuns it in its many forms. I think of the all-Jewish Red Town of Quba, where Jewish children walk proudly wearing kippahs, attending daily minyan and studying at one of the several shuls. 

I think of Jews across the world, and really all people of every religion, ethnicity or creed, and the blessing of each day that we walk safely through this tumultuous world. What happened in Pittsburgh is truly an assault on all people who believe in peace, because our values and our hopes are undeniably intertwined. 

The hatred of Jews hurts everyone, just as the hatred of any group of people is a sickness that affects our entire world; a revolving phenomenon of bigotry, racism and xenophobia that comes in many forms and leaves the same lasting mark wherever it exists. My condolences also extend to every victim of terror, to the many Muslims and Christians who were murdered by terrorists because of their faith. I think of the hundreds of lives lost in Khojaly in Azerbaijan, and how Jews and Muslims were killed side by side by invading forces in Karabakh, simply for being Azerbaijani. 

The loss of 11 precious lives on Oct. 27 signifies the same prejudice that has plagued our world for millennia. Whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or a member of any other group found under the sun, we all deserve a world that is free from such destructive and inhumane tendencies. We all deserve a world that is free from anti-Semitism or any other version of hatred.

I hope that with our collective perseverance and an ever-increasing measure of time, the movements of hope, peace, respect and love for each and every fellow human being will outshine and overwhelm the forces of hatred and evil. And I believe we must do more than hope. We must act boldly and exhaustively in our policy, our schools, our daily practice and in how we treat one another. We must unambiguously stand against all forces of prejudice in the world, so that we can one day know a world without hate. A world that truly embodies “never again.”


Nasimi Aghayev, based in Los Angeles, is consul general of Azerbaijan to the Western United States and dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps.

Fear: A Poem

I am different
I am unique
I am Jewish
People think of me as an outsider
People want to kill me
Because of my religion
Because of who I am
Hiding in the back of my house
Afraid and lonely
Terrified that the Nazis will break down the door
Horrible and vicious people
They killed my friends
Tortured them
They took their belongings
Fearing that they will steal my identity
Grasp my belief in God and shatter it
Like plucking all the feathers off a chicken
They will strip me of my religion
Taking my away from me
Who had dreams
Who once had dreams to travel the world
My is the town’s rabbi
A stout man with a silver beard that drops down to his chest
Passionate about Judaism and angry at the world
Praying every night
Praying that our family will be safe
A sacred, meaningful scroll to us
A piece of junk to them
The Torah
Hiding in a secret compartment in the back of our house
Guarding it with all of our lives
A scroll constructed ages ago
The Torah defines us
I am Jewish


Paul Kurgan is an eighth grader at Mirman School.

The Trump Factor: Now What?

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump gestures at a campaign rally on the eve of the U.S. mid-term elections at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

Usually, I love Election Day. Watching people vote gives me a kick in the patriotic adrenals. But in this year’s Scrooge election, too many people looked grim, too many people confessed how anxious they were.

President Donald Trump pulled it off: He made these elections compelling. Midterms are the PBS documentaries of American politics — necessary, boring and upstaged by their Netflix rivals, meaning presidential contests. But Trump’s polarizing presidency GOTVed America — he got out the vote. Turnout spiked from an anemic 36.4 percent in 2014 to record levels.

Indeed, this election, like so much else in his life — and ours! — was all about Trump. But he over-Scrooged. His vitriol parlayed booming markets and unemployment lows into a 39-percent job approval and a repudiation in the House of Representatives.

Two years ago, Trump was The Miracle Maker. This year he was an electoral computer virus, weakening most candidates in his network.

Of course, he remains president. And the Republicans held the Senate — partially because of a different backlash: Millions watching the Brett Kavanaugh hearings feared being held accountable for their teenage sins — even without corroborating evidence.

The elections thereby produced characteristically mixed results — for both parties and for American Jews, too, who may have shaped the Nov. 6 results more than any midterm ever, albeit as victims not actors.

First, the great news: The system worked. Tens of millions of Americans voted, peacefully. This everyday miracle should not be taken for granted, given the premature eulogizing about our dead democracy. Doom-and-gloom Democrats don’t like to admit that America-the-functional usually prevails and the Constitution works.

Donald Trump is the evil genie of American politics, mischievously outing inner demons among friends and foes. His refusal to act presidential has made many opponents act hysterical. His hyper-partisan, playing-to-the-base, tweet-fueled, wedge-making, presidency rejects the president’s role as the nation’s secular high priest.

Those who support him should nevertheless acknowledge his twisted priorities — and pathologizing proclivities. Similarly, his detractors must condemn their allies who turn thuggish. The right has no monopoly on shrillness or violence — remember the antifa riots.

Yet, day to day, America functions impressively for most. The checkers and balancers check and balance: from the obscure judges who defied Trump after his first Muslim-immigration-ban decree, to this week’s electoral-slap-in-the-presidential face.

Next, the less-great news: The Democratic House victory will block some Trumpian outrages. And former President Bill Clinton’s 1994 midterm loss produced presidential humility, congressional compromise, even national prosperity. But today’s atmosphere is too toxic. The fury seems bound to intensify; a Blue House and Red Senate seem destined for gridlock.

Finally, the Jews. As usual, Jews can delight in striking electoral success: A disproportionate number of Jews were elected. On the other hand, at least three new Blame-Israeli-Firsters entered Congress, all Democrats. Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — represent warning signals (not yet funeral bells) for the bipartisan pro-Israel alliance.

“Jews must unite against the left’s new anti-Semitism and the right’s renewed anti-Semitism. Political rivals are siblings who disagree with us, not enemies who betrayed us.”

Most disturbing: Most Democrats’ refusal to be furious about these three indicates how many Americans have become political contortionists: liberal Jews silly-putty themselves into rationalizing former President Barack Obama’s Iran deal, and downplaying the risks of progressive anti-Zionists Corbynizing the party. Those who complain that Israelis vote statehood issues not peoplehood issues, should admit that American Jews vote pro-choice or anti-Trump not pro-Israel.

Similarly, Jewish Trumpistas — Trumpistowitzes? — cannot tolerate any criticism of an amoral, bellicose, race-baiting demagogue — even though he was right to scotch the Iran deal and move the American Embassy to Jerusalem.

Fanatics on both sides are importing pro-Trump or anti-Trump my-way-or-the-highway litmus tests into synagogues, federations, schools — let alone Shabbat dinners. Jews must unite against the left’s new anti-Semitism and the right’s renewed anti-Semitism. Political rivals are siblings who disagree with us, not enemies who betrayed us.

Of course, to Americans, this is all internal Jewish stuff. The only Jewish story that counted was the Pittsburgh slaughter. Elections, like people, are complex, contradictory, not easily reduced to monocausal explanations. Still, it’s hard not to connect the dots between the Oct. 27 massacre and the anti-Trump vote on Nov. 6.

The Jewish vote rarely has determined electoral outcomes, unless you count the thousands of elderly Jews who wanted to vote for Al Gore in 2000 and mistakenly butterfly-balloted their way to voting for Pat Buchanan. But the Pittsburgh massacre mattered. It’s timeliness and bloodthirstiness alarmed Americans. It warned everyone where the nation could go if the polarization grows, if the hate festers, if Theodore Roosevelt’s bully pulpit only becomes Trump’s bullying pulpit.

The anti-Trump vote voted “no” to demagoguery as a presidential leadership strategy. Along with millions of moments of outreach after the shooting, this vote affirmed America-the-functional and America-the-good. It’s a decent America, an America that appreciates nationalism as a pathway to liberal democracy not xenophobia, or white nationalism. It’s a purple America that doesn’t reduce every issue to black and white, red versus blue.

I repudiated radicals who blamed Trump for the killings, who rejected Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitism or his consoling visit to Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, I heard this election answer the Charlottesville, Va., Jew-haters’ yell: “Jews will not replace us.” I heard: The shooter does not represent us, haters will not define us, toxic partisans who cannot see a fellow American behind a political rival will not replace us.

I’m not naïve. I see the hate festering left and right, on campus and online. I understand the fears that Jews are canarying in America’s coal mines — the bully’s first targets.

But since Oct. 27, the unprecedented embrace of Jews, in churches and in synagogues, on streets and online, is the rainbow after the flood. These group-hugs affirm the American covenant uniting us, defining this exceptional nation, this exceptionally accepting nation, the last, best hope on earth. Those moving voices and millions of votes cast in free, safe elections created a mandate for all our leaders, Republicans and Democrats, to break the gridlock, mute the partisanship, and help us heal.

How ironic that in this Scrooge election, the exceptional American response to a far-too-familiar Jewish trauma — except in America — generated a rare ray of light.


Gil Troy is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University in Toronto and author of the recently released “The Zionist Ideas.”

Taharah & Gender by Emily Fishman (EmFish)

Gender in the Taharah Room?

Tahara[1] is sometimes done with little information except names– that of the meyt[2] and those of our fellow team members.  Some who perform Taharah find that reading the meyt’s obituary  gives us more context to bring the person into the room in their fullness; others prefer to leave out the details and bring pure appreciation of the meyt’s humanity.  We often do not know much about the people we serve on the Chevrah kadisha[3] with either, spending hours in a room together working in silence.

From my work in the disability community, I have a strong aversion to people’s need to know more about marginalized people than they do about more centered identities.  Asking about a disabled person’s medical history or where a person of color is from, while on the surface may sound like curiosity, are in fact inappropriate questions.  Curiosity in this case is cover for gawking and sensationalization, showing the asker’s feeling that they are entitled to information.

You do not deserve to know more about a trans[4] person’s gender than about a cis[5] person’s gender.  Knowing about a trans person’s gender does not tell you any more about who they are as a person than does a cis person’s gender.

In light of the fact that trans and GNC people are deserving of recognition and affirmation and that creating a gender, a body, and a presentation is a life’s journey, I ask:  How do we respect this journey yet not make it the central focus of the preparation and tahara? 

As I grapple with an answer to this question, I make explicit the assumption that the composition of the Taharah team must be about bodies and/or identities that are similar to the meyt.  The goal here is to minimize any curiosity or exotification of the body.

Each trans and GNC person has a different relationship to their gender, though there are some narratives that cluster together. Trans men are to serve on a men’s team and be prepared by a men’s team when they die. Trans women are to serve on a women’s team and be prepared by a women’s team when they die.

Questions arise when it comes to genderqueer[6] people: are they to be prepared by a men’s team?  A women’s team?  Do they feel most comfortable thinking of their bodies at their most vulnerable only with other genderqueer people?

It is important to me to be cared for in death by people who would have shared my community in life. This is why the Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston is so critical– it allows Jews from all walks of life to care for the dead of our own communities rather than outsourcing this holy task to folks from only one strand of Judaism.  Similarly, I do not want to be cared for in death by people who would have been uncomfortable with or curious about my life.  In order to care for trans and GNC people in death, they need to be included in your life while they are alive.  Knowing that my existence was included and valued during my lifetime is the only way I can feel certain you will look at my body with love and kavod in death.

The affirmation of the body’s holiness and ultimate beauty is key to every tahara. By the time of tahara, the human body is no longer at its most beautiful in our everyday understanding of the word. In the case of a trans person– someone who has likely spent a lot of life feeling their body to be confusing, abnormal or not worthy, someone who has worked so hard to get the world to reflect back the image they see of themselves– it is truly the greatest kindness we can offer.  We must commit ourselves to our ideal of Hesed Shel Emet, which here I will translate as the Kindness of Affirming Their Truth.  We must uphold this even if the family does not accept the person’s gender identity.  The family’s mourning and process around understanding of their loved one’s path is to be respected and supported, and this is managed by chaplains, rabbis, and therapists.  The Chevrah’s role is to reflect the meyt’s understanding of themselves with dignity, love, and complete acceptance.

I identify as GNC, not as trans.  Still,  the Taharah room is the only all-women’s space I feel comfortable in– and I have given a lot of thought as to why.  Perhaps it is because all the gendering has been done beforehand.  Once I am called, once I am at the funeral home, no one is emphasizing the fact that I am a woman; the fact of the meyta being a woman is also not brought up over and over again and being thrown in my face, contrary to the messaging in many other single-gender spaces..

But I think my comfort goes beyond that.  The Taharah room is a place of ultimate body positivity.  There is no judgment about body size or shape, medical conditions and devices, the state of the skin or hair or lack thereof.  It’s just all not a big deal.  Our task is fundamentally and crucially nonjudgmental in nature. No physical condition, or manifestation, or identity is cause for discomfort in the face of death.  And it seems to me that a natural extension of this acceptance would be making gender less of a topic of discussion than it is among the living, where people constantly want to categorize trans bodies and shoehorn them into structures they were never created for.  Our ability to care for trans people in death and to include trans people in our teams in life is something we are well-trained for as Chevrah members: to meet each body where it is, recognizing that we know so little about the life that it has led until we intersect at this very moment.

Emily Fishman (often known by her moniker EmFish) is a fourth generation Bostonian and works professionally as a speech-language pathologist in a public school.  She is a torah leyner, gemara learner, and public transit and bike enthusiast who spends a lot of time thinking about gender, class, and disability.  EmFish coordinated a blog post series by chevra kadisha members from around the country last February in advance of Zayin Adar which can be found at http://www.jewschool.com/tag/death.

 

Emily Fishman

Emily Fishman

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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.

The course planned for Spring 2019 is Course 6. Watch for more information agout it.

For Summer 2019 we will offer Course 1 – Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, & Evolution. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

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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 November 15th. More details will be sent out soon.

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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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 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, 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 info@jewish-funerals.org, or call 410-733-3700, or simply register online at www.jewish-funerals.org/gamreg/.

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

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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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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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

_____________________

[1] Hebrew for purity, the ritual cleansing of a dead body in preparation for burial. (Definition from MyJewishLearning.com)

[2] I use “meyt” in this essay to signify the body of a person of any gender.

[3] Jewish burial society, a group of volunteers who prepare the body for burial. (Definition from My JewishLearning.com)

[4] Trans (transgender) adjective: An umbrella term for anyone who knows themselves to be a gender that is different than the gender they were assigned at birth. Some trans people may have an alternate gender identity that is neither male nor female, and for some people their gender identity may vary at different points in their lives. Some transgender people modify their bodies through medical means, and some do not. (Definition from Keshet: https://www.keshetonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Keshet-Terminology-Sheet-2016.pdf)

[5] Cis (cisgender) adjective: A person who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth.  (Definition from Keshet)

[6] Genderqueer, adjective:  A gender identity used by a person that self-defines their gender as queer or non-normative. Someone whose chosen gender identity is neither man nor woman, is between or beyond gender, rejects binary gender, is some combination of genders. (Definition from Keshet)

How Jewish do I want to be?

I was born in Israel to two Jewish parents. I speak Hebrew. I sent my son to conservative Jewish Day School for ten years. He had a Bar Mitzvah. I light candles every Friday night. I go to temple regularly. I observe high holidays. I make what can only be described as the world’s best matzo ball soup. I am divorced and made sure I also received a gett. I not only consider myself to be a practicing Jew, but define myself as a Jew. I am Jewish in my soul. I am Jewish by birth and by choice. I spent a large chunk of my adult life working in the Jewish community. I write for a Jewish newspaper. All that said, I woke up this morning and wondered, how Jewish do I want to be?

 

I’m not sure what inspired the question, but I can’t shake it from my mind. It’s all I can think about and do not know what the answer is. Perhaps it is the murders in Pittsburgh that have left me with this painful question. I have been unsettled since the horrific attack and can’t seem to quiet my brain. I live my Jewish life out loud so there is part of me that wonders if I need to change that. There is another part of me that wants to scream from the rafters that I’m Jewish and defy anyone to say anything. I am stuck between wondering how Jewish I am, and if I am Jewish enough, and that is a very odd feeling.

 

I am scared by what happened, but also angry. I spent many years working in Holocaust education and to have people killed this way, in 2018, is frankly debilitating. I feel sick about what happened in Pittsburgh. I am stuck and unsure what to do or how to feel. I was not alive during the Holocaust, but I heard countless firsthand stories during the years I worked at Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, so for people to be killed again, just for being Jewish, is terrifying. I have personally experienced anti-Semitism, but this is different. This is murder of Jews for being Jewish and I simply cannot comprehend it.

 

I am a hockey fan and this week when the Pittsburgh Penguins put “stronger than hate” patches on their uniforms, I thought it was a wonderfulI display of solidarity. I was also offended that the Jewish star on the patch was done partially in yellow.  I get that black and yellow are their colors, but the Jewish star should not have been yellow in my opinion. Important to note I understand how ridiculous that will sound to some people, but it bothered me. It was a custom made patch and easily could have been another color. I sound like a crazy person but like I said, these killings are debilitating and all my senses are heightened when it comes to my religion.

 

I watched President Trump visiting Pittsburgh with his wife and I was enraged. I am offended by everything lately, which is not who I am as a human being. I want so much to understand, but am not sure what it is I am expecting to understand. If someone asks me if I am Jewish, do I say yes? If someone says something unkind about my faith, do I speak up? If someone writes me an anti-Semitic comment on my blog, do I report them? Am I supposed to just accept that people hate Jews and that is the world we live in? I am struggling not only with how to define myself within my faith, but whether to share it with the world or keep it private. I am educated and awards this shouldn’t be a struggle, but I am struggling.

 

It will pass of course, but I don’t want it to pass without understanding my feelings. I do not want to be afraid. I want my anger to become action. I want my disgust to empower me. I want to be free to live my Jewish life in whatever way I want. At the end of the day I am proudly Jewish. I am comfortable in my practice and nobody can judge me on how much or little Judaism I practice. I am Jewish enough and God knows me. I will not allow fear to make me question my faith, but it has been a stressful week.

 

As I read back what I have written I am not sure it will make sense to anyone but me. I am questioning whether or not to even publish it, which is crazy. I have written my truth here for almost a decade and have never regretted anything I write, so to be questioning myself now is very sad. I have openly and honestly shared all aspects of my life here and have been blessed with loyal and wonderful readers. There are haters of course, which is always fun, but I have never been stuck like this. I will publish this because that is what I do, but today just feels off. I am hoping someone will read it and share their own experience, which always happens and always helps.

 

I am thinking about all Jews around the world today and know we will get through this. We are united. Orthodox, conservative, or reform, Jews are the same and together we are strong. There are enough good people in the world to help lift us up when darkness comes, so while it is of course important to be careful, fear does not need to control us.  I am one day closer to understanding, so am taking it one day at a time. I am trying to be brave and hope to go into Shabbat today with some peace. I may never understand the world we live in, but I am still keeping the faith.

Giving Back – Taharah by Joyce Kendall Friedman, Ph.D.

Paying kindness forward

I waited a year after my mother, z”l, passed away, before I was able to think about doing for others what the Chevrah Kadisha had done for my mother.

I read the manual which they gave me. My friend, Helene, suggested that I watch the first time and read the prayers in English as she read them in Hebrew. Having worked in hospitals and nursing homes I was not a stranger to illness and death, but this was not medical. This was spiritual and kind and gentle. It was easier for me than I had expected, it was even a relief.

The meitah, deceased woman, was cold. We covered her body and her face modestly. We called her by her Hebrew name as we apologized for any unintended disrespect. We noted that we were going to do the “best we could.” We quietly prepared the implements, assigned duties and began checking her for bandages, medical devices, nail polish, areas that needed special cleansing. We prayed the prayers in the manual and were comforted by the excerpts from the Song of Songs describing her beauty. We were reminded not to pass items over her, as her neshamah hovered just above her. We tried to remember not to stand at her head as the Shechinah hovered there. Occasionally we spoke to her in comforting tones, as we had read that the sense of hearing was the last to go. We knew she was listening. We reminded her that we intended only respect and kindness.

We cleaned her, combed her hair and then we ritually purified her with the 3 buckets of continuous flowing water and more prayer. We dressed her as the kohanim, the priests in the Temple, were dressed, with pure white garments. We lifted her into the plain pine box, wrapped her in a white cloth, after sprinkling her with earth from Israel’s Mount of Olives. We faced her feet towards the door, beginning her journey to Gan Eden, the garden of Eden. Again we addressed her and asked for her forgiveness.

The other women had done this many times before and still were moved and impressed with the significance of the moment.

I felt quietness envelope me as I had been privileged to participate in a transition from one level of existence to the next. What an honor it was to be there with her.

I saw and felt what these women had done for my mother. I felt reassured that this had been done for my mother, and one day would be done for me. I was so grateful. I was comforted and felt my mother must have felt comforted, too. These women, this Chevrah, was the embodiment (no pun intended) of Hashem’s feminine aspects: compassion, kindness, nurturing. In a way it was like I was a voyeur, sneaking a glimpse into the next world. I came away reassured.


Joyce Friedman, Ph. D. is a hospital neuropsychologist working in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is a professor and the first Jewish chaplain (non-military) in the state of Oklahoma. She is a longtime member of the 110 year old Oklahoma City Emanuel Synagogue Chevrah Kadisha. She is the new mother of 5 Brahma chickens. She davens with Chabad. She has taken multiple courses at the Gamliel Institute

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

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 October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

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 in 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.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

Murder in Pittsburgh – My Jewish Family

Whenever there is a mass shooting in America, I watch the news in horror and cry, unable to turn off the television, naively hoping the number of dead will somehow go down instead of up. I wait for the names to be released. I want to say their names out loud and learn who they are so I won’t forget them. Whether they are Black, White, young, old, Jewish, Catholic, gay or straight, I want to know who they are. They are important to me. Sadly, we live in a country where there but for the grace of God go I. We never know when senseless killings will happen, or if they will touch close to home, to people we know.

The murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 28 hit close to home. As a Jewish woman of faith, when the 11 people in Squirrel Hill died, they died in my home. Synagogue is where I worship, so to me all synagogues are my home. A house of worship is a wonderful place. It does not matter what religion is being observed, because I respect all houses of worship the same. I am at peace whether I am in a synagogue or a church. We pray to the same God, so voices united in prayer are very powerful. For anyone to be attacked while in prayer is something I will never be able to understand.

As we learn about those who died, my heart aches so deeply I feel a physical pain. I keep thinking about the victims: 97-year-old Rose Mallinger, a vivacious regular at the temple; Cecil and David Rosenthal, inseparable brothers who had worshiped at Tree of Life since they were children; Bernice and Sylvan Simon, who married more than 60 years earlier in the same temple where they were murdered; Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz, who helped AIDS patients when the disease first appeared in America; Daniel Stein, president of New Light Congregation; Joyce Feinberg, a fellow Canadian; Richard Gottfried, who respected faith and was to retire soon; Melvin Wax, always the first to arrive at temple and the last to leave; and Irving Younger, who always spoke about his daughter and grandson. I also think about Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who heard his congregants being slaughtered as he rushed others out of the sanctuary.

I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but as Jews they are my family and I mourn their passing. 

There are fewer than 15 million Jews in the world, and we are all connected. This was an act of hate against my people, and therefore against me. When I think of the 11 people killed in Pittsburgh, I think about the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust. I think about how it is possible for one human being to try to erase another one, just because they are different. We cannot allow anyone to be erased. We must speak up. We must say their names because these lives cannot and must not be erased. As human beings we must be outraged by this hate and look out for each other.

I am scared, but not so scared that I will be quiet. This is a time for action. These lovely people were executed because of hate, and this kind of hate — whether directed at people of a different religion, color or sexual orientation — runs deep. So deep that I can feel the shooter’s hate in my soul. But I must not think about that now. Instead, I must turn my fear into strength and fight for gun reform. I must say their names and continue to practice the religion I was not only born into, but choose for myself and share with my child. I am Jewish and these people were my family. It is in times of pain and sorrow that we must focus on keeping the faith.


Ilana Angel writes the Keeping the Faith blog on jewishjournal.com

These I Remember…. by Isaac Pollak

These I Remember

I have done many taharot in the last 36 years, but there are a handful that stand out, and come back to me again and again, especially during days of Yizkor (remembrance) and Zayin Adar (7th of the month of Aar, when many Chevrai Kadisha choose to acknowledge their members), when my custom is to fast, ask forgiveness, and remember those for whom I have performed this mitzvah.

At those times I particularly recall:

–      a 16 year old who drowned

–      a 30 year old who died of AIDS

–      a 40 year old heir to a Sephardic Rabbinic Dynasty who came to the States for treatment for a blood disease,

–      and just a short time ago, an 8 month old little boy who had been abandoned by both parents.

When I think of them, all I can say is that one’s heart goes out, one has no words or explanations, one cries with the families, and one feels G-d’s pain – as G-d says in Psalm 91 “I am with him in distress.”  Ps. 91:15.

But at the same time, it makes us appreciate life all that much more, and we – all of us doing G-d’s work, all who serve as part of the Chevrah Kadisha – are better off for it. Despite the pain and sadness we may encounter, we get so much more than we give.

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. He has written multiple articles for Expired And Inspired over the years.

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

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 October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

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 in 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.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

 

Guarding the Body of a Friend by Kohenet Ellie Barbarash

Shomer/et - Guarding

I left for the airport as soon as I got the call. My friend Yosefa, a brilliant tattoo artist, educator, and fellow Kohenet, was on her deathbed, dying of a brain tumor. I booked the next flight from Philadelphia to Seattle in time to do shemirah, to guard her body and soul after her death.

Hours later, after a long plane ride and a taxi ride that felt even longer, I came to a suburban house with candles softly glowing on the porch, and a mezuzah on the door. It was past four in the morning.

I removed my shoes and went upstairs to Yosefa’s bedroom, where two other women we knew through the Kohenet Hebrew Priestess Institute were reading psalms aloud, wrapped head to toe in blankets to warm themselves against the cold air flowing in to keep Yosefa’s body cold. The two had been waiting all night, and had given up hope of my coming. We shared joyful whispered hellos, and then they left to take a break before the ritual purification, or taharah, and the funeral. They instructed me to wake Yosefa’s husband around 6 a.m., then I heard the door close and was alone with Yosefa.

A small bedside lamp lit her face. Yosefa lay covered by a light blanket, peaceful, one leg bent, with an enigmatic smile, and her scalp bare from chemo. Her arms were still warm. I wrapped myself in quilts, and read psalms aloud. The psalms were too somber, so I switched to songs and prayers from Jewish Renewal and the Kohenet siddur, quietly singing my favorite songs and prayers, walking around the room as the curtains billowed in the brisk November breeze.

I felt Yosefa’s spirit in that dark room, a sense of her energy and sweetness. She looked greatly at ease. My friends had been praying, and I felt their energy, and that of peaceful prayers and psalms. All I witnessed before me was peace, and release, and a sense of flying joy that was not my own. I stood, and prayed, and sang.

Soon after 6 I woke her husband, and I left as he went to her side. It was so hard to leave Yosefa’s side. Hard to leave that palpable energy, the growing light, the flowing curtains, my soft sung psalms and prayers. But if anyone deserved to be bathed in Yosefa’s love it was her husband, and so I woke him, and left as he entered their bedroom one last time, and shut the door quietly behind me.

I went downstairs and lay on their living room couch, warming up, waiting for a ride back to the hotel. I had worked all day and been up all night, and it was well past dawn. I floated, tired, feeling hollow and surprised and connected, held in love and mystery and gratefulness.


Kohenet Ellie Barbarash, MS, CPEA, lives and works in Philadelphia as an occupational safety specialist and educator. She is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Reconstructionist Chevrah Kaddisha, and a Gamliel Institute student.

Kohenet Elie Barbarash

Kohenet Ellie Barbarash

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

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 October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

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 in 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.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

 

Decomposing Bodies, Congealing Carcasses, Corpse Dust, and Other Rabbinic Interests by Isaac Pollak

A dead or decayed body

Questions of Ritual purity and Impurity, Tahor and Tamei, received a great deal of attention in the Talmud – much more so then the Laws of Shabbat or Kashrut Laws. The Rabbis developed intricate systems of rules of purity with no practical usefulness. Questions of purity were an issue during temple times but when the Talmud was redacted the Temple had been destroyed for around 500 years or so (as much time as separates us from Columbus); a subject studied diligently with a great deal of intricacy was, and still is useless. There were no Red Heifers and most Jews were living in the Diaspora and all Jews were ritually impure.

To explore this, let’s take a walk thru Chapter 7 of the Tractate Nazir, which I was recently studying, and see the mindset of the Rabbis.

It was known that touching a corpse (dead body) caused one to become ritually impure (Tamei). However, actually touching a corpse isn’t necessary to became impure; just being under the same roof, or in certain cases under an overhanging branch or a projecting wall is enough. It’s as if the impurity of the corpse permeates the area all around it, and taints all with which it comes into ‘contact’.

So the Talmud questions,” How much of a corpse does it take to transmit impurity?” Here is where the text gets into queasy graphic descriptions of various forms of putrefaction.

Say that a dead body has begun to liquefy: Does the fluid from a decayed corpse also transmit impurity? How can one tell that the fluid is actually flesh, and not the remains of spittle or phlegm, which do not transmit Tamei? The answer, Rabbi Yirmeya says in the Talmud, has to do with whether the liquid subsequently congeals. If it does, it is from the corpse, and thus unclean; if it doesn’t, it is probably a bodily fluid, and thus clean.

Animal corpses follow a different protocol. An animal carcass imparts “severe impurity” only while it’s still considered fit for human consumption. Once it has decayed to the point of being inedible for people but still be appetizing to dogs, it imparts “light impurity.” And when dogs would not touch it, the carcass ceases to transmit impurity at all. Then the Talmud starts discussing animals that have putrefied, animal fat that has turned to liquid in the sun, and much more – not for those with queasy stomachs.

The Rabbis ask what happens with a dead body that has turned entirely to dust. According to the Mishnah, a “full ladle of dust” is the amount required to transmit impurity – tumah; the Talmud defined this as the amount you can hold in your two cupped hands. However the Talmud continues, by the time a corpse has turned to dust, it is hard to tell whether the dust contains just the body, or whether matter from other sources has gotten mixed in – for instance, the clothes it was buried in, or wood from its coffin, and the Talmud informs us of a principle “that mixtures do not transmit Tumah.” As a result, the Talmud concludes that dust is Tamei only if it comes from a corpse that was “buried naked in a marble coffin or on a stone floor,” so there is no other source of dust in its vicinity.

The question of mixtures raises a number of other theoretical issues. What exactly constitutes a mixture when it comes to corpse dust? What if you bury two people in the same grave? You might think that this would be twice as unclean as a single corpse, but the Talmud rules otherwise: because mixtures do not transmit Tumah, a mixture of the dust of two bodies therefore does not transmit impurity.

Pushing the question further, the Rabbis ask about borderline cases. Ordinarily, the hair and nails of a corpse are impure as long as they are attached to the body. What if you cut off a corpse’s hair and buried it alongside the body- , would this then constitute a mixture? What about a woman who dies while pregnant, do she and her fetus constitute two separate corpses, or is the fetus considered part of the mother, like an internal organ?

This question, raised in BT Nazir 51:B, would seem to have major implications for our own debates about when a fetus is considered a living being. The Rabbis of the Talmud dig and push the boundaries to attempt to get to the ultimate truth of the penultimate principle of an issue, and its exacting, precise regulation. Ever more complex scenarios and legal conundrums quite removed from reality are elaborated in the process of elucidating precise detailed legal definitions.

The logic of the Talmud often seems convoluted and intimidating, every page alludes to customs and political arrangements which are terribly obscure and have little relevance to our world. But what fun to study its intricacies. The people represented in it were intelligent, articulate and dedicated to the remarkable project of helping an ancient tradition survive and thrive. The arguments stimulate, the logic and disciplined sharpness is at times breathtaking, their language and wit gives pleasure, and the immensity of their achievement provokes awe.

It has been instrumental in our survival over the millennia.

Isaac Pollak is the Rosh/Head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC, and has been doing Taharot for about 4 decades. He is fascinated by and a student of customs and history concerning the Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish burial and mourning ritual. He is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, with over 300 historical artifacts in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC, and is CEO of an International Marketing Company. He is a student, participant, and lecturer in Gamliel Institute courses.

 

 

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

[Ed. Note: another article by the same author is to be found HERE.  You can also search for other articles in this blog HERE. — JB]

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead! You can register online now.

___________

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 October 18th. More details will be sent out soon.

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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

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, You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone: Jewish Practices of Remembrance, or any of the series from prior years, and view them in 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.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

_____________________

 

 

 

My Magical Jewish Morocco Mystery Tour

With a camel on the Casablanca beach. Photos by Kylie Ora Lobell and Daniel Lobell

My husband, God bless him, has many crazy ideas. But unlike most people with lofty dreams, he actually follows through with them.

Own a rooster? Check. Have a comedy festival in our backyard? Yup. Reside off a dirt road in Florida for three weeks and live like old people who dine exclusively on buffets and watch “Everybody Loves Raymond” before falling asleep at 9 p.m.? That was us.

So earlier this year, Daniel and I decided we’d go to Morocco after his monthlong stint performing stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. 

To prepare for our trip, we watched “Casablanca,” (which was filmed in Burbank), and connected with our Moroccan-Jewish friends to learn about life there, including Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief David Suissa.

After arriving in Casablanca, we headed to our hotel by the beach, passing Moroccan McDonald’s, Muslim women in head coverings and huge white mansions owned by kings. We went to the beach, where a camel growled at Daniel. We hung out in a hammam — a Turkish bath and steam room. I lasted about five minutes, because being hot and claustrophobic is not my thing. 

We visited Rick’s Café, a tourist spot made to look like Rick’s Café Américain from the film “Casablanca,” went to Hassan II Mosque — the second largest mosque in Africa that can hold up to 25,000 worshippers, and hired a tour guide to take us around Jewish Casablanca. 

With the Argan tree goats

Although our guide was Muslim, he worked with other Jewish tour guides and knew where to take us. Our first visit was to a small Jewish museum, which contains a shul no longer in use. Then it was on to a kosher bakery in a hidden alleyway to buy treats for Shabbat. We then made our way to Temple Beth-El synagogue, which today is used for special occasions including weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs. 

We learned that before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, Morocco had an estimated 350,000 Jews. Today, there are only a thousand or so who remain in Casablanca. Nonetheless, the city still boasts 22 synagogues, at least four kosher restaurants, 10 kosher butchers and a few bakeries. We went to one of those 22 synagogues at 5 a.m. to say Selichot, and the men (and one woman) there offered us coffee and tea. 

Shabbat dinner was spent with a family friend’s cousin, Armand, where we ate his mother-in-law’s tuna casserole and talked with his son about why he didn’t like visiting Los Angeles. “Hollywood Boulevard sucks,” he said. “I agree,” I said. 

From Casablanca, we flew to Marrakech, where there are about 500 or so Jews. When we arrived, I immediately noticed three things: How beautiful and colorful it is; how entire families whiz through town on motorbikes; and how old the city felt. When we arrived at our riad (hostel), we realized we were in the old part of town full of tiny, historic alleyways and scores of cats. 

“Returning home, I felt incredibly sad. No more culture shock. No more donkeys. No more beautiful lamps and colorful doors and kind, French-speaking cabdrivers.”

Our first stop in Marrakech was the vast, historic souk, Djemaa el-Fna. The indoor section is a huge maze and it’s easy to get lost. We certainly did. Many times. Wares are cheap by American standards and haggling is de rigueur. We quickly purchased a variety of trinkets including a Moroccan tea set, lamps, tagines, pashminas and jewelry. Over the course of the next four days, we returned to the market because it’s impossible to see everything in one day. 

We were, however, two of the very few white people in the market, and every few minutes, someone would try to get us to sign up for a tour, buy a souvenir or ask us for money. 

We saw the famous performing monkeys on chains, the snake charmers, who apparently sew their snakes’ mouths shut, and a sad owl chained to a cage filled with small squirrels. There were hundreds of chickens in cages, waiting to be slaughtered, and sheep’s heads being roasted on the street. As an animal lover, it was certainly painful to see, but there was nothing I could do except remind myself that I treat my own dogs, chickens and tortoise like family. The sad owl, though, still haunts me.

We took a dirt bike tour of the Marrakech desert. It was bumpy, dusty and magnificent. Our ride took us to a Berber hut, where the family there made us Moroccan tea, and as is custom, tried to pour the tea from the highest height possible. 

In the Marrakech synagogue

We also visited Essaouira, a port town about three hours from Marrakech. 

I Googled “Jewish Essaouria,” and there was an article about the only Jew  — a man named Joseph Sebag, who owned a store called Galérie Aida. It took several attempts with different guides to finally find Sebag and his antiques store. We said, “Shalom” and bought a wood piece from Senegal from him. Sebag ordered us orange juice and offered for us to stay in his flat the next time we were in town. 

Other highlights in Marrakech included a meal at the city’s only kosher restaurant, which had a picture of the Rebbe — the late Lubavitcher Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson — on the wall; visiting the graves of tzadikim and meeting the Muslim man whose family has guarded the cemetery for three generations; and purchasing our first shofar, which we blew on Rosh Hashanah.  

Returning home, I felt incredibly sad. I was back to reality. No more culture shock. No more donkeys. No more beautiful lamps and colorful doors and kind, French-speaking cabdrivers. Besides Israel, Morocco is the most enchanted place I’ve ever visited. I miss it every day. I understand now why Jews were there for so long, and why there are a few who choose to stay to this day. 

We may miss that beautiful magical country, but by golly, we’ll always have Morocco.

Dating 101

I went on a date this week with a man I met online. While speaking on the phone before meeting, we talked about religion. He referred to himself as spiritual, but not at all religious. He also said if forced to label himself, it would be agnostic. I told him I believe in God and was a practicing Jew. He said there were things about Judaism he thought were interesting, but was not a fan of organized religion as a whole.

 

I shared I would never have a Christmas tree, and he shared he hadn’t had one in over twenty years. I told him I like to go to temple for Shabbat services and celebrated Jewish holidays. He said he’d accompany me if he was there as simply someone to have by my side, and not to convert. It was an easy and open conversation. I’m trying to think outside the box, so we made a plan to meet for drinks. He is 55, divorced with one adult child, has a dog and a cat.

 

A Jew and an agnostic walk into a bar. They say hello, order drinks, and sit down for a chat. After five minutes of small talk about traffic and weather, the agnostic asks the Jew what she thinks about Jesus. The Jew replies that she doesn’t often think about Jesus. The agnostic then tells the Jew he “thinks about Jesus often and how he died for his sins”. The Jew reminds the agnostic that he said he was agnostic, and the agnostic tells the Jew religion and Jesus are not synonymous and can be separated from each other.

 

The Jew, also being a lady, then spends the next 30 minutes listening to the agnostic talk about Jesus. By talk of course he speaks of his hair, clothes, sacrifice, and most importantly, how Jesus didn’t want to ever be considered a Jew. The Jew tells the agnostic it was lovely to meet him and she enjoyed the drink, but she was going to have to head out. The parting words of the Jew are “take care’. The parting words of the agnostic are “Jesus loves you.”

 

I am a woman who gains strength through faith, so I would never judge someone based on what they believe. To each their own and I feel strongly that religion is personal and everyone can worship in whatever way brings them comfort. I am Jewish and I take comfort in private prayer and being with my tribe at services. That’s how I roll. I am not an expert on Jesus, but I am quite certain that even Jesus was confused by this guy and was shaking his head while watching our date..

 

My dating life has always been interesting, but lately it has taken a bizarre turn. You can’t make this stuff up, so I have to wonder what it is about me that attracts such dating. I would like to think it is because I am kind so perhaps these people simply need kindness. I asked Jesus about it, since he was clearly on my date with me, and he just laughed. He actually laughed out loud, told me he was sorry, then laughed some more. Sweet Jesus is awesome. Shabbat Shalom and Happy Friday. Be safe out there and remember to keep the faith.

Kol Nidre LIVE 2018

Worshippers will come together September 18 at 6:30 p.m. for a Yom Kippur service led by Rabbi Naomi Levy of Nashuva.

The service will be broadcast worldwide and later archived at kolnidrelive.com. Viewers will be able to follow the service in a downloadable prayer book, and connect via commenting with fellow “congregants” around the world.

Kol Nidre is the evening service of Yom Kippur, or Day of Atonement, the most important holiday of the Jewish year. Many Jews who do not observe any other Jewish custom will refrain from work, will fast and/or will attend services on this day.

Sign up for Kol Nidre LIVE updates!

 

[Support this program by donating to Nashuva]

Levy, a rabbi and best-selling author, whose latest book is Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, was ordained in the first class of women at Jewish Theological Seminary. She founded and leads Nashuva, Hebrew for, “We Will Return.” Nashuva is a post-denominational, non-membership community open to all that meshes spirituality with social action.

You can also preorder the new CD: Heaven on Earth – Songs of the Soul

Tribe Media Corp. is dedicated to improving the world through media. Our brands include Jewish Journal, jewishjournal.com, and the Daily Roundtable.

Check back on this page for updates!

 

 

A Most Remarkable Miracle by Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Hope - Magic, Miracles, and Health

[Ed. Note: As we approach Rosh HaShanah, here is an entry that offers hope and a positive story. All of us at Kavod v’Nichum offer you wishes for a Shenah Tovah Umetukah! May you be inscribed and sealed for a year of blessings. — JB]

Once upon a time, on a most average, ordinary day, I received a call from a local Rabbi asking if I was available to go immediately to the ER at a local hospital as an elderly Jewish woman was imminently expected to die… and her husband of 60 years was distraught as he stood near her gurney.

In that brief phone call … minus many details … I was informed that this very day was their anniversary. The plan had been that they would renew their vows later this evening. But as we know, often we make plans and G-D laughs.

As I changed from my jeans to more appropriate “clergy/chaplain” clothes my hubby gathered some flowers from our yard, a small glass and a little bottle of grape juice. With these items in hand, off I went to the ER.

Security guards ushered me to the correct bay, and upon my entering this cubicle, the two non-Jewish chaplains left.

So, there I was with the distraught husband, and his wife who was as white as the sheet she was laying on. I held the wife’s hand as I asked the husband to repeat a very very very condensed version of a renewal ceremony – made up on the spot!!

Concluding this ceremony with the shehechiyanu prayer, expressing thanks that they DID reach THIS day, I began to ask him about his years with her. I asked, “what was the most memorable moment that you can recall?” He responded that it was their trip to Israel the year before.

We talked about the various cities and towns where they stayed, and I asked if they had any relatives in Israel. Nope – not a one. My follow-up question was, “What in Israel moved your wife the most?” He quickly responded, “the Kotel.”

With that answer he was moved to obvious emotion. But this obvious emotion paled compared to the emotion he demonstrated when SHE responded, “the Kotel!”

This sick, frail, and dying woman somehow gathered the inner strength to say, though admittedly in a whisper, “The Kotel.”

The fact that this woman had heard us, could respond and defy the odds was strange enough. The devoted, loyal, distraught, husband NEARLY had his own medical emergency when he heard her speak. He had to catch himself from falling!

With that one unbelievable phrase – “the Kotel” – one has to wonder what the powers that be – let be. Why would THIS conversation have the power to elicit strength that was just moments before absent? How is it that she must have  heard all the previous discussions, prayers, and her husband’s pleas for her to get better, but all that for naught, and yet she heard THIS question?

The doctors were sure that death was a certainty, the chaplains were offering comfort and words of early condolence, and the husband was told to call the funeral home and “make necessary plans.” I am the Roshah of the Chevrah Kadisha in this community, and I would put out the call at news of a death.

And yet, the mention of the Kotel stirred her, emotionally and physically. Slowly, color returned to her face, and ever so slowly she began to “look” less at deaths door.

Her husband recounted to her that they had just had a Renewal of Vows, that it was in fact the day of their anniversary, and he was moved to tears that she appeared better.

With that I left the cubicle.

Outside the cubicle, several feet away, the two Christian chaplains were nonplussed and flummoxed, to say the least. Having overheard that she spoke, they wanted to know the Jewish Secret – what had I done? I simply told them “Kotel,” and left!

I did learn that the elderly, imminently going-to-die woman was released to home after 3 days – showing the power of Hashem, miracles, good luck, coincidence.

Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs hails 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 ROSHAH 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.   My two children have blessed us with grandchildren.

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

Rabbi Laurie Dinnerstein-Kurs

_____________________

Gamliel Courses

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is now open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead!

___________

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 September 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

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 in 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.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

_____________________

 

Richard Greene: How One or Two Words Can Change Your Life

One of the world’s leading experts on public speaking, Richard Greene, explains why people fear public speaking more than death, and discusses the abuse of language in the era of Trump. Visit his website.

Follow David Suissa on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Check out this episode!

Critical Care by Rabbi Janet Madden

hospital waiting area

I spend my days as a hospital rabbi-chaplain sitting with patients and families who are dealing with the unimaginable: an 18 year old college student-athlete and cancer patient who believes that she has done something to deserve her illness, a 33 year old whose wife died hours after giving birth to their first child, an 80-something member of a prominent show business family who attempted suicide because, for her, life has no meaning now that she is no longer active in the world of the arts.

One of the benefits of my professional life is that I have many opportunities to acknowledge and affirm that life is not fair. I have learned to see life as a mashup of the most wonderful and beautiful and the most terrifying and horrific, as the exquisitely heartbreaking combination of love and pain. I’ve come to see every ordinary and mundane day as, in fact, an extraordinary and wonderful day.

I was having one of those ordinary, wonderful days three days ago when I went to dinner with a friend as part of my birthday festivities. We had just placed our order when I excused myself to pick up a voicemail from my husband. His message was that he had received a call from a hospital emergency room telling him that one of our children was in critical condition and might not survive the night.

During our two hour drive to the hospital, we continued to get calls that were both updates and urgings to hurry. Beginning that evening, our family became—again—one of the families who sit in Critical Care units, waiting rooms, conference rooms and cafeterias, receiving medical updates, sharing them with those who are not physically present, waiting, hoping, praying. With a loved one in a medically induced coma and on life support, we, too, are a family signing consent forms for procedures that may or may not result in positive outcomes. We, too, are a family precariously balanced between, hope for a positive outcome and statistical medical realities.

Every morning, I give thanks that our loved one has survived the night. I do the best that I can to convey my deep gratitude for all of the help that he and we have received: the bystanders who jumped into action, began CPR and called 911; the EMTs who fought to keep his heart beating; the doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists who have kept him alive and are caring for him; the widening circle of those who praying for his healing. Most of all, we are grateful to the Creator who gives life, knowing both that it is indeed a miracle that our loved one is alive at this moment and that should he survive, his life and ours may be very different than they were or what we imagined they would be.

In these weeks of the Shabbatot of Consolation, in our acute awareness of the uncertainly of his prognosis, we find consolation in knowing that although outcomes are far from certain, we feel held by the Compassionate One. We find comfort in being together, in our ability to openly express our hopes and fears with one another and in telling our loved one that we are here and that we will continue to be. We chant the Shehekiyanu as he survives each crisis. Holding tightly to the knowledge that life offers no guarantees, in this time of fear and hope and uncertainty, we are deeply thankful for the precious gift of life and for the critical care of so many.

Rabbi Janet Madden earned her PhD in literature from The National Univer-sity of Ireland. A writer and ritualist, she is Rabbi of Providence Saint John’s Health Center (Santa Monica, CA) and Visiting Rabbi of The Oahu Jewish Ohana (Honolulu).

Rabbi Janet Madden

Rabbi Janet Madden

 

___________

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 September 20th. More details will be sent out soon.

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

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. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration $36 for each series to help 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.

_______________

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 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

_____________________

Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah. Plan ahead!

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

_____________________

 

 

My Future Life as a Gay Man

Last weekend I went to my friend Justin’s birthday party. We live only 15 minutes away from each other, but met through friend’s in Australia. We bonded quickly and have spent the past two Thanksgivings together with our Aussie posse. He is my go to friend when I need a pick me up because he always has a positive outlook. I love him very much. He is kind, funny, charming, and has a generous spirit. He is dependable and always ready with advice that is 100% spot on.

I have met wonderful people through Justin. He surrounds himself with lovely souls and has built a family of friends. When I walked into his birthday party I was greeted with kisses and genuine happiness to see me. What made it so special is that most of the people were strangers to me. Justin introduced me as his friend, which automatically made me their friend. I felt welcomed, embraced, and included.

I was a 52-year woman, surrounded by twenty something, handsome, and charming gay men. I was told I had great hair, pretty eyes, and fabulous boobs. I was welcomed into every conversation, and asked about me and my life. It was supportive and inclusive and I felt like I was in the gay version of a kibbutz. For anyone who knows what the community of a kibbutz is like, you will understand what a great feeling it was. There was something very Jew-ISH about the birthday party.

Important to note I would have made out with most of the men at the party, and a couple of the women, which is fun since chicks are not my thing. Some of the men were so beautiful I would leave the lights on and not focus on sucking in my stomach, just so I could focus on how handsome they were. Dear Lord. I left the party with a sore neck from all the head turning as I watched a parade of gorgeousness, mostly in Speedos.

I have decided I want to come back in my next life as an attractive gay man who is loved by his parents and living out loud. I loved being a part of Justin’s family and was happy to have a glimpse of what my next life as a gay man looked like. Can’t wait. To my darling Justin, Happy Birthday! I love you and was honored to be included in your celebration with your family of friends. I wish you a year of health and happiness. You make me happy and inspire me to always keep the faith.

The Taharah from Hell that Earned Me Heaven by Isaac Pollak

Fat Man Shadow

About 2 decades ago there was a man in our community who was in his early forties. He had a heart attack while taking a bath and died. Nothing unique or unusual, except that this person weighed over 400 pounds, and we just absolutely could not get him out of the bathtub.

 

The Medical Examiner, the police department, and finally the fire department were called in. The fire department was able to remove a window and use a hoist to extract the body. As if that was not enough, then the family (a brother) demanded an autopsy. Needless to say there was minimal Kavod Hamet.

 

Let’s start with talking about shrouds/Tachrichim. The extra, extra -large (XXL) size we had on hand didn’t come close to being a fit. He died on Friday, with a Sunday morning graveside funeral planned, leaving no possibility of ordering XXXL+ size shrouds. We called around to other funeral homes – no luck. So we improvised – we went across to a CVS pharmacy, purchased 2 sewing kits, took 2 sets of regular shrouds, ripped them open, and our Taharah group sewed together two sets to make one very large set of Tachrichim.

 

I was the best tailor: being a wild kid, I often ripped shirts and pants, and my mother in exasperation finally taught me how to sew, and told me next time I rip my pants I would just have to sew it up myself. I became quite proficient at it – which stood me in good stead in this case.

 

Now, let’s talk about a Taharah on a 400 pound person who had an autopsy and whose skull was sloppily reattached. Needless to say, nothing went well.

 

The Taharah table threatened to collapse, and groaned under the weight. The body could barely be contained on the table and a few times literally almost rolled off on top of us. We had a crew of eight, but this wasn’t enough. Three of us bent our backs as a support so when the deceased was rolled over to wash and get him dressed we acted as a supplement to the table, extending the table width with our backs.

 

I was the strongest of the group so I did quite a bit of the heavy lifting.

 

Almost three hours later the Taharah was complete – but no coffin was big enough, so the family purchased an elaborate $10,000+ extra large coffin from the showroom. We got the man into the casket, closed it, and left.

 

This all transpired a week before Purim, and after I left the funeral home I recalled from the Megilla that Mordechai told Ester (Megillat Ester 4:14) that perhaps “this is your reason for being” as Ester was picked to be the new wife of King Ahasuerus, thus being in a position to save the Jews of Persia.

 

I have always told my kids that we are defined by what we do for others. Perhaps this was my “reason for being,” my one defining moment in life where I was instrumental in having a deceased meet their maker in the traditional manner.

 

Not to brag, but I have completed 18 marathons, 52 100-mile bike races, and 9 triathlons – and nothing has ever exhausted me as did this Taharah. I went home showered and slept 11 hours.

 

But the story goes on. As I was engaged in the Taharah, and afterwards, I deeply resented this person just for being fodder for worms, for not being able to control his food intake, and for making it so incredibly difficult for us to do our job. I was wrong to feel this way.

 

Now, every year on the Seventh day of Adar I fast, recite Psalms, recall the deceased and remember the names of all those for whom we did a Taharah in the previous 12 months. But this person I remember every year as part of my atonement for resenting him at the time.

 

Yes – his Taharah frustrated and exhausted me like nothing else ever did, but in that very fact he also gave me my defining moment of being.

 

Robert Frost wrote a beautiful poem titled “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” It concludes:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep

The poet is enchanted by the esthetic beauty of the scene, the soft silence of the falling snow, the dark dignity of the tall trees. Oh, he would like to stay here in this timeless moment, but he knows that life has an ethical dimension as well, and this demands action, not just contemplation. He has promises to keep; he has duties toward the world.

 

And so do we in our CK work.

 

Isaac Pollak

Isaac Pollak

 

Isaac Pollak is the Rosh/Head of a Chevrah Kadisha on the upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC and has been doing Taharot for about 4 decades. He is fascinated by and a student of customs and history concerning the Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish burial and mourning ritual. He is an avid collector of Chevrah Kadisha material cultural items, with over 300 historical artifacts in his own collection. He serves as chairperson of the Acquisition Committee for Traditional Material Culture at the Jewish Museum in NYC, and is CEO of an International Marketing Company. He is a student, participant, and lecturer in Gamliel Institute courses.

___________

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 August 16th, featuring Gary Goldberg on “You Want It Darker.  The Public Performance of the Personal Death Awareness Practice of the Late Great Leonard Cohen… featuring Hazzan Gideon Zelermyer and the Shaar HaShomayim Mens Choir”.  This should be a really interesting topic! Don’t miss it!

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

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. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration $36 for each series to help 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.

_______________

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 ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

_____________________

Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel and Edna Stewart, with guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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.

_____________________

 

Rob Long: Hollywood Writer Talks Trump

Award-winning Hollywood showrunner Rob Long talks about happiness, craziness and, of course, Donald Trump.

Follow Rob and Ricochet on Twitter 

Check out this episode!

“How to Die” By Rabbi Beth Beyer, RN, MS, JD

A good death

From chasidic writers to hospice workers, there is a notion called, “a good death.” This seems to imply a death with dignity and without excessive pain. However, there are those who actually consider dying a mitzvah to be done with thought and intention. Perhaps it’s a bit chutzpahdik to write about “how” to do something while never having actually experienced it completely myself (unless one counts a near-death-experience), yet my hope is to provide some insight for the journey which all of us must face.

Judaism certainly values life, yet, there is an inevitable call by the Malach HaMavet (Angel of Death), which is inescapable, with the exception of a few notables, such as Elijah. Some of our Sages resorted to trickery to avoid the pain of death. For example, Rabbi Joshua asked the Malach to show him his place in paradise. The Malach agreed to take him there. Rabbi Joshua asked to hold the Malach’s knife so it would not frighten him on the way. When they arrived, Rabbi Joshua leaped over the wall into paradise, but the Malach could not follow. He was allowed to stay, but had to return the knife. Ket. 77b. That strategy only worked once, because when Rabbi Pappa asked to hold the knife, the Malach refused. However, the Malach did allow him an extra thirty days of life to put his affairs in order.

At the time of death the Kotzker was surrounded by his disciples and grieving family. He asked for some strong drink to wish a L’chayim (toast to life). He explained that “If G-d has willed my death, I am now performing G-ds will and it is proper to do so in a joyous spirit.” With the same rationale, another recorded custom is that certain saintly individuals calmly washed their hands before dying, as one would do preparing for a ritual. Beit Lechem Yehudah to Yoreh De’ah 338:1 in Lamm, N. “The Religious Thought of Hasidism.”  YU Press, 1999, p.  490.

In another example, Rabbi Abraham Kook said of when his righteous ancestor Rabbi Isaac Katz (one of the Besht’s disciples) lay upon his deathbed he said, “Is it not written, ‘and she laughs at the last day’” (a verse from Proverbs 31:25)?  So, in a spirit of joy, he asked for Shabbat candles to be lit and for musicians to play and sing to accompany his soul on its journey.  Id.  

In a drash on Beresheet (Genesis) from Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, he explains that “duty” of dying was incumbent upon Adam who was told that he must surely die (Gen. 2:17). It was a commandment given, not merely a prediction. As humans, we are also commanded. Since it is a mitzvah, one must invest one’s dying with kavanah (intention), and even as one does with other commandments – be joyful. Id.  May the Holy One grant us the ability to carry such a positive attitude whenever our time to meet the Malach HaMavet arrives.

 

Rabbi ElizaBeth Beyer, R.N., M.S.N., M.S.J.S., M.R.S., J.D.

Rabbi Beth Beyer serves as spiritual leader for two synagogues.  She is the founding rabbi of Temple Beth Or, Reno, which is dedicated to experiencing G-d, encouraging music, text study and promoting Jewish learning.  For the past two years, she also serves as the rabbi at North Tahoe Hebrew Congregation.  Her background includes working as a registered nurse, an attorney, mediator, and judge. She taught ethics at the University of Nevada, Reno and was the past Department Chair for Health Care Ethics at the Nevada Center of Ethics & Health Policy. She was ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion in CA, received a Master’s Degree in Rabbinic Studies, a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies from Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, a Master’s Degree in Psychiatric Nursing from University of Maryland and law degree from the Nevada School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Nevada. She is married to Dr. Tom Beyer, DC, a chiropractor. Rabbi Beyer has a strong commitment to working within the Jewish community and also working with interfaith groups. 

 ___________

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 July 19th, featuring Edna Stewart.

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

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. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration is free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for each series to help 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.

_______________

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 ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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/.

_____________________

Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel, Edna Stewart, with other guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah.

_____________________

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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depends on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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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Loss Is In The Details by Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan

Loss is in the details

I would never have noticed except that Pam pointed it out to me as I looked at her mother Nora sleeping in the hospital bed:  She did not have any eyebrows.  There were two crescent depressions in their place. “That’s because when Mom was eighteen years old she thought she would be smart and shave off her eyebrows and put makeup there to look like she had them. But they never grew back.  So I would always see her, flipping out her little mirror, and making her quick little movements with her cosmetic pencil to make them keep looking like they were there. So it’s weird looking at her face and not seeing anything there where the eyebrows should be.  So I miss seeing them there and now that she is too weak to use her liner I miss seeing her fill in those two bare recessed spots on her face.”   Thus her mother had surrendered even her stand-in eyebrows for good.

Nora’s granddaughter Merced was there as well, reminiscing about this micro story of the eyebrows as well. Meanwhile I could not help but notice that Pam’s and Merced’s eyebrows were only minimally present on their faces, like the sketchiest of crescents.  After everyone ran out of things to say about eyebrows, the talk tilted away from intimacy and more towards small talk, as if they were afraid anything more than a normal pause would hint they had enough of seeing a hospice chaplain and that I should go. Merced announced she was a real estate agent. I said, “I bet you encounter plenty of emotional drama with people buying and selling such an important thing like a home.”  “Oh yes,” she agreed. “Each home has its own story.”

I thought about Merced’s remark, and all that it implied. So much emotion and personal history is invested in the places we dwell in, and so much loss and confusion faced when we sell them. Then there is so much disorientation upon occupying another. If one little thing out of place like eyebrows gone missing can throw us off it is no wonder what a confounding experience it is to move into a new place.

Nora of course, who had transferred to a hospice residence, was in alien surroundings.  But almost constant sleep guarded her from registering all the other things she had given up besides the mock eyebrows. She still had one more “home” left to move to, and the story about that place is perhaps the one most often told albeit with so little to go on besides the hypotheses of one’s religion.

Rabbi and board certified Chaplain Karen B. Kaplan is author of Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died, (Pen-L Publishing, 2014) a series of true anecdotes capped with the deeper reasons she chose her vocation. She has also recently published a collection of science fiction stories, Curiosity Seekers (Createspace Independent Publishing, 2017). She has submitted multiple entries published in Expired And Inspired.

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan photo

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan

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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 July 19th, featuring Edna Stewart.

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

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. There are usually five sessions in a series, and each session is approximately 90 minutes.

Registration for Taste of Gamliel is mandatory to access the sessions. Registration is free, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $36 for each series to help 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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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 ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered 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 course will be November 28th, December 5th, and December 12th. We will continue to 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 each three session series. 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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Gamliel Course

The next course in the cycle of core courses offered by the Gamliel Institute will be Course 4 – Nechama/Comfort. It will be offered online during the Fall from October 9th to December 25th on Tuesday evenings, for 90 minutes each week for 12 weeks. The classes will begin at 5 pm PST/8 pm EST. Primary instructors will be Dan Fendel, Edna Stewart, and Janet Madden, with other guest instructors.

Registration is open – click here.

The course planned for Winter 2019 is Course 2 – Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah & Shmirah.

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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. There is a matching donation program in progress so your dollars go further. See the website for details.

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 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/).

___________

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

Please note: this blog depens on you for content. Without you it cannot publish new material. 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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Salvador Litvak: Can Talmud change your life?

Hollywood filmmaker and Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak recounts his journey of how one moment of learning Talmud led to a million followers on Facebook.

“What we learn from the students of Hillel is that you should be able to state the opinion of your opponent in a way your opponent will say, ‘yes, that is my opinion.’ When you do that, you are opening a door for him to say ‘I feel heard. Now I am willing to hear what you have to say.” -Salvador Litvak

Accidental Talmudist Salvador Litvak

From left: David Suissa and Salvador Litvak

Check out this episode!

Widows, Orphans, and Strangers at the Border

“You will not undermine the justice due to a stranger or an orphan and you will not seize the widow’s garment as collateral.” Deuteronomy, 24:17

“Fathers and mothers have been humiliated among you, strangers have been cheated in your midst, orphans and widows have been wronged among you.” Ezekiel 22:7

“There is no greater or more glorious joy than bringing joy to the heart of the poor, the orphans, the widows and the strangers.” Maimonides, Hilchot Magila v’Hanukah, 2:17

On June 11, U.S. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions ordered immigration judges to cease granting asylum in the United States to fugitives from domestic abuse and gang violence. This act should shock the conscience of every American, but for Jews it is a particular outrage.

Why does our Torah, echoed by our prophets and sages, exhort us repeatedly to care for the orphan, widow, and stranger and warn of catastrophes for those who ignore the call? In the patriarchal society of the ancient Hebrews, widows, orphans, and strangers were people without protection. They were socially naked, vulnerable, and, according to Jewish values, owed the community’s help.

Vulnerability is no shame in Judaism. We are all “the weak.” We are temporary, puncturable, fleshy creatures, puny even by mammalian standards. We are not made, as tigers are, to hunt alone. We are made to form communities, to speak, and to care. Our founding story of slavery and redemption reminds us of that mutual dependence and obligation which offers whatever glory humans can attain.

Women and children who live in countries where domestic abuse and violence are not taken seriously by authorities and where everyone but the most privileged is subject to impressment by brutal gangs are “members of a particular social group” with a “well-founded fear of persecution.” The Geneva Convention of 1951 and U.S. law allow such people to find asylum here.

Yet, when such families present themselves at the border of our country, they have been pulled apart. Children are yanked out of their parents’ arms and forced into detention without explanation, often by people who cannot communicate in the child’s language. They are kept away from parents for months at a time, inflicting trauma that will reshape their brains and wound their hearts for a lifetime. This has been happened to all border-crossers and asylum-seekers since May when Attorney General Sessions declared a “zero tolerance” policy for every person who is caught or who presents themselves without documents at our borders. Previously, such families could remain together until the parents could make their case in court. This brutality does not reflect ‘how things have always been,’ it is a terrible new policy of the current administration.

Now Attorney General Sessions has said that women who have been beaten, raped, mutilated, or threatened with death by domestic partners and been routinely ignored by authorities in their birth countries don’t count as persecuted people who need our help. He has said that teens who have been threatened with torture, including sexual violence, if they themselves do not aid the perpetrators of such violence cannot count on us either.

We American Jews cannot allow this to stand. The fugitives from patriarchal violence who arrive at our borders are the widows, orphans, and strangers of our day. They are precisely the people we are commanded to help—those who, because of their position in society, are denied the political means to defend themselves where they are. We whose ancestors found sanctuary here are obliged to be the welcoming neighbors for whom those ancestors prayed.

There is much we can do. We can support a bill introduced by our state’s Senator Diane Feinstein, the Keep Families Together Bill along with the Help Separated Children Act (S2937) and S2468, which provides free counsel for children in immigration court. We can call and write the office of the U.S. Attorney General. Every day. We can march today with Families Belong Together.

We learn in Gittin 61a that, “The Rabbis taught, we support the non-Jewish poor with the Jewish poor, and visit the non-Jewish sick with Jewish sick, and bury the non-Jewish dead with the Jewish dead, because of the ways of peace.” We also act on behalf of the widow, orphan, and stranger, no matter where they are from.

Dating 101: Jaded but Hopeful

This week I was asked out by a yet another man in a dress, one in his eighties, one who posted jail pictures, and one who has a dog named Ned. By Ned, of course I mean his name is N.E.D. as in No Erectile Dysfunction. Important to note when he wrote to tell me what NED stood for, he spelled dysfunction wrong, which I found to be sad and hilarious. My dating life continues to be entertaining and pathetic. I’m exhausted from all the eye rolling I do.

Over the weekend I received an email from a man we will call “Benjamin”. Benjamin wrote me a short but sweet note. I responded, we briefly emailed, then moved on to phone calls. He is entertaining, funny, educated, open, honest, Jewish, a dad, good with banter, and attractive if he actually looks like his pictures. Over email he was very clever, which I find appealing. He drew me in with a wonderful combination of boyish charm and sarcastic smartass. I was interested.

He is very aware of who he is, what he needs, and how he is going to get what he wants. He is articulate and not afraid to speak his mind, which I find to be very attractive. He is a lot like me to be honest, which is interesting and strange. I like who I am and there are parts of my personality I think are wonderful, and the more we talk, the more I see similarities, which is fascinating because we are very different. It makes him both intriguing and intimidating.

I have been down this “pre-dating” road before and as you all know, and it never turns out well. I have pre-dated men who I was certain I was connecting with, only to meet them and have there be no connection at all. Pre-dating is tricky, somewhat necessary, yet useless. I’ve been divorced for 22 years. I have dated, had three important relationships, and had my heart broken. I want to believe each experience got me closer to my bashert, but that isn’t always easy to do.

I want to find love, share my life, go on adventures, and have a partner. I want my son to see me in a relationship with a man who loves me in the same way I love him. I want my son to see me happy in a way that he wants for himself. I have a wonderful life and sharing it is the goal, but it is a hard game to play, so goals can be elusive. I remain hopeful, which is frankly a miracle because I know many who have stopped trying. But enough about me, let’s get back to Benjamin.

We were texting and he responded to something I sent in a way that hurt my feelings. I wrote back with what I thought was a clever reply. I suppose I was thinking about only my feelings, so it never occurred to me that my response was anything other than funny and charming. What I said however, rubbed him the wrong way and he was put off. This is why texting is not good when you are getting to know someone, as interpretations are most often wrong. I am not a fan of texting and try to avoid it whenever possible.

Then yesterday something funny happened and I wrote to tell him about it. (We don’t know each other well so I wasn’t sure if I could call him the middle of a work day, thus the text.) He wrote back telling me to give him a call. I called, we chatted for a minute, then he said he wanted to talk about the text exchange. He told me how he interpreted my text, which was not good. He thought it was rude and condescending, which of course was not my intention, but in retrospect I could see how he might have thought it was. He then explained how he thought I had interpreted his text, which he understood, but felt was wrong.

It is truly interesting to be dealing with a grown up. He didn’t sulk, he didn’t disappear, he wasn’t an ass, he simply wanted to talk about it in a kind and open way. He is an advanced communicator, as am I, which I appreciate. We talked, each taking time to explain ourselves, both apologized for the miscommunication, agreed texting is not a good way to communicate, and moved on. He handled the situation with maturity, which I respect. It was a pleasant surprise to hit a bump, talk about it, and have it be done.

At the end of the day I have no idea what I am doing. I am jaded but hopeful, and blessed that hope is in the lead. I am old enough to know exactly who I am and I am searching for someone who is secure with who he is, so that we make sense. Benjamin seems like a good guy, but also very complicated, so we’ll see how it plays out. We are meeting today, and I have no idea how it will go, but there is pre-dating flutter that is lovely. I could be wrong, as I most often am, so all I can do is just roll with it, relax, and focus on keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Studying for Taharah by Gloria Saltzman

Washing the Dead in a Taharah

Ruth was dying.

That is why we had to learn to do Taharah, the Jewish ritual that prepares the body for burial.

About ten of us would gather on the couch and chairs in my living room and pay attention to the Rabbi who explained each sacred step.

“There should be no excessive talking. If you must speak, address the Metah.” The Metah is the deceased, the body that was the vessel that held something that becomes ephemeral once it stops working. Is it a soul, a life? Someone had been housed in that body no matter what we each believe.

“You can simply explain to her what you are doing, be careful with her.”

Each step includes various prayers. The washing must be done in particular ways. When the body is clean, the blood wiped away from the pick lines and the catheters, the finger nails cleaned, polish removed, the hair cleaned and brushed, then we dress her.

We ease her into the white linen pants without openings at the feet that will no longer be used for walking. The top get slipped over her head and covers her arms.

There is an apron and a bonnet with lace edges. As the Rabbi displays the shroud I think it looks Amish. In Hebrew this clothing is called Tachrichim. The local Jewish funeral home, a Chevrah Kadisha (a sacred society), has generously donated it to our community.

At last she will be cleansed and purified and blessed. Then we can place another sheet over her that covers her face.

As we complete each step we will cover our eyes with goggles and wear surgical gloves, changing them often if we touch whatever is considered not sacred, not cleansed.

We learn how to make the “Shin” knots (knots that resemble the Hebrew letter ‘shin’, the initial letter of a name for G-d). We close each article of her death outfit with a knot that looks like the Hebrew letter Shin. This stands for Shaddai, one of the names for G-d.

And then together, we will lift her and place her in the plain pine casket that will disintegrate completely over time. It’s really true, I thought to myself as the Rabbi spoke. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I wasn’t there when Ruth died. Months later, the Rabbi called on me when a woman who did not belong to a synagogue needed a Taharah. Several women from various Northern California congregations volunteered.

“This will be an opportunity for you to continue to learn,” the Rabbi said. “I will go also. I’ll be with you.”

Even though I was scared I agreed to go. We drove together to the green cemetery in Marin County.

“Cover your head with a scarf to protect your hair,” the woman who was leading the ritual instructed me. I wore comfortable shoes that would protect my feet and would not be used for any other purpose. They were clean and new, not soiled.

Still feeling scared, I stood to the side as the more experienced women unzipped the plastic bag the Metah had been put in.

She was dead. I had been present at other deaths before but this was different. I was part of the team who would be preparing her for her last journey.

It took me a while to get to know her, to imagine who she had been in life. For her age, late seventies, she was in good shape. Her nails were covered in chipped red polish that we had to remove gently.

“She had been a lady,” the inner dialog with myself continued as we moved along quietly.

We carefully cleaned every part of her. With each progressive step I felt closer and closer to her. When I brushed her hair I told her how nice and thick it was, remarking on how pretty she looked in her new white shroud. As I took a warm wet cloth and wiped her arm, the Rabbi chanted prayers and I imagined who the women might be who would be doing this for me when I died.

That is the gift of the Chevrah Kadisha. It is a secret society because the act of Taharah is something that is invaluable and can never be repaid. The payment is that the ritual will continue and our own bodies will be held in love and respect when our time to leave life as we know it arrives.

At last she was prepared. We had completed each step according to the instructions that had been posted on a large laminated sheet of paper on the wall of the room she was in. This was the room where the refrigeration had stored her and where we had performed the assigned rituals on her body as she lay on the metal table and we lovingly cared for her. Soil from Israel was sprinkled on her and we placed shards of pottery on her eyes to symbolize that the “vessel of her soul was now broken.” 1.

That’s when I saw her. With an illuminated face, her thick grey hair was coiffed and she had on makeup as though she was dressed for an elegant event. She looked down on herself beneficently, with a warm smile on her face. It seemed she was expressing gratitude. I was not scared at that moment and she was at peace.

  1. classroom.synonym.com Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

Gloria Saltzman is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco. In addition she provides grief counseling to mourners and is on staff at Sinai Memorial Chapel, a Chevrah Kadisha in the Bay Area. She has an MFA from USF where she majored in poetry and creative nonfiction. She has been published in PHAROS, a literary journal in Paris, Tikkun’s on line magazine, and the SF Chronicle. Her writing will be included in the upcoming Write on Mamas Anthology, “She’s Got This”.

Gloria Saltzman

Gloria Saltzman

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Gamliel Café

Gamliel Students are invited to a free 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 April 19th, featuring Abigail Salisbury.

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 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 to help 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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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 ninety minute sessions (three consecutive Wednesdays) offered 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.

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 session series. 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.

Additionally, 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, and  Aaron Alexander and Lauren Holtzblatt on Wednesday – 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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SUBMISSIONS WELCOME

If you have an idea for an entry you would like to submit it 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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Rabbi Joseph Telushkin: curiosity and other values

Prolific author Joseph Telushkin discusses some of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world, including a need for more curiosity.

“If people are only going to read things that reinforce what they believe… they’re going to end up demonizing the people that disagree with them.” -Joseph Telushkin

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

From left: David Suissa and Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

Check out this episode!

Mementos Mori By Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan

Memnto Mori

“When I look at even a tiny scrap of paper in all the ‘clutter’ I can’t part with,” my cousin reflected, “the whole memory comes rushing back, completely reconstructed.” I was having a heart-to-heart discussion with her about hoarding and clutter in general.  Being a “declutterer” par excellence I wanted to understand more about savers, and possibly more about why I am so “Spartan”( as a saver friend of mine puts it). So when I asked my cousin  why it was so hard even to part with what she admitted were “no longer necessary things like the three extra coats my mother had and which are just sitting there in the closet,” she gave me a moving answer: “If I throw something out, I am so afraid I will lose the memory.”

I think my cousin would highly appreciate what some wise aliens had to say to a human visitor who could not fathom why memories of a pleasant event are “just as good” as the event itself. In Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis, the alien patiently explains to the human that memory is not separate from the event remembered:

“A pleasure and the memory are all one thing…What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure. When you and I first met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days until then—that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it.”

Now that may be going too far, but so much about Judaism, and perhaps all religions, is about remembering, and by so doing, reenacting the event. The example that comes most readily to mind is Passover, where the principal purpose of the Seder is to relive the story of transitioning from slavery to freedom. Shavuot, which commemorates receiving the Torah, asks us to feel as if on that very day of the holiday we were receiving and hearing the words of the Torah for the very first time, re-experiencing its revelation to us. Even the Sabbath is about recalling the opening moments of Creation and the refreshing break that God took after all that work, which goes for us too at the end of each week. That is a lot of remembering!

When we lose someone, they die. But our memories of them can last throughout our own lifetime. True, they are a distant remove from the “real thing”, but we cling onto whatever we can. Maybe that is why we do whatever it takes to make these memories as enduring as possible. As Jews, we do not want to “forget” the pivotal events that make up our identity and understanding of who we are such as becoming a free and distinct people and receiving the Torah. As individuals, we want to remember our loved ones through letters (I can’t seem to bring myself to say “emails”), photos, videos, conversations with others who knew them, and through things they owned such as jewelry, awards, or things they created. Yes, things can add up and become clutter. And yes, saving too little can imperil those cherished memories, causing a secondary death.

But whether you are a “saver” or a “declutterer,” there is another even more enduring way to keep them alive. Bear in mind the Hebrew expression, “Zichrono/a l’bracha,” used in referring to someone who has recently died. Literally this means, “Remember him/her for blessing.” Setting aside the exact technicalities of this phrase, to many Jews, this suggests that whatever mitzvot we perform as a result of the influence of our loved ones perpetuates their legacy. Just as whenever we read Torah we can ponder what is being revealed to us at that moment, when we carry out the good deeds that our loved one has done and has modeled for us to do, these bring our loved one to life anew.

Rabbi and board certified Chaplain Karen B. Kaplan is author of Encountering the Edge: What People Told Me Before They Died  (Pen-L Publishing, 2014) a series of true anecdotes capped with the deeper reasons she chose her vocation. She has also recently published a collection of science fiction stories, Curiosity Seekers (Createspace Independent Publishing, 2017). She has submitted multiple entries published in Expired And Inspired.

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan photo

Rabbi Karen B. Kaplan

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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 April 19th.

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 10th and run for 12 weeks. There is an orientation session on April 3rd. 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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