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Taste of Gamliel: Final Kindness: Ritual Washing After Death for Non-Jews K’rovei Yisrael at the end of life: Implications for liturgy and Chevra Kadisha.

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Presentation on theme: "Taste of Gamliel: Final Kindness: Ritual Washing After Death for Non-Jews K’rovei Yisrael at the end of life: Implications for liturgy and Chevra Kadisha."— Presentation transcript:

1 Taste of Gamliel: Final Kindness: Ritual Washing After Death for Non-Jews K’rovei Yisrael at the end of life: Implications for liturgy and Chevra Kadisha planning By Rick Light With Rabbi Stuart Kelman April 28 th, 2013

2 What You’re In For  What is this work and why should we care?  Context for this topic – why are we doing this now?  What’s in a name?  What differentiates a Final Kindness ritual from Tahara?  Liturgy considerations for Final Kindness  What does a Final Kindness ritual look like?  Presenting this topic to local communities  Comments, questions, discussion… 2

3 Questions During Class  Please use the chat box on the screen to ask a question or make a comment.  The chat box is on the lower right of the screen. Choose to whom you wish the comment to go, then type text in the box and hit return.  All logistical questions about the technical connections to the webinar should be addressed to David Zinner.  Questions should be addressed to David Zinner, who will collect them as we progress, and I’ll answer topic questions as we go if he feels it’s timely, or at the end as appropriate. 3

4 What Is This?  This work extends the scope of the current Jewish umbrella under which our dead are respectfully prepared for burial.  The entire structure of Jewish custom concerning death and dying is based on respect.  We care because all members of our community deserve respect in death as well as in life. 4

5 Context: Why Now?  47% of Jews marrying between 1996 and 2001 married non-Jews.  31% of all married Jews are intermarried. 39% of these marriages are Jewish-Catholic. 23% are Jewish-Protestant. 26% are between a Jewish person and a person who doesn't affiliate with any religion. 5

6 Context: Why Now?  47% of Jews marrying between 1996 and 2001 married non-Jews.  31% of all married Jews are intermarried. 39% of these marriages are Jewish-Catholic. 23% are Jewish-Protestant. 26% are between a Jewish person and a person who doesn't affiliate with any religion.  33% of children in intermarriages are raised as Jews. The percentage varies greatly by community, however. In Boston, for example, 60% of children of interfaith families are raised as Jews. In Baltimore, 62% of children of intermarriage are raised as Jews. Conversely, in Denver, only 18% are being raised Jewish. 6

7 Context: Why Now?  47% of Jews marrying between 1996 and 2001 married non-Jews 1. 1  31% of all married Jews are intermarried. 39% of these marriages are Jewish-Catholic. 23% are Jewish-Protestant. 26% are between a Jewish person and a person who doesn't affiliate with any religion.  33% of children in intermarriages are raised as Jews. The percentage varies greatly by community, however. In Boston, for example, 60% of children of interfaith families are raised as Jews. In Baltimore, 62% of children of intermarriage are raised as Jews. Conversely, in Denver, only 18% are being raised Jewish.  27% of married people in the U.S. are in interfaith marriages. When you count Protestant denominations as different religions, the number jumps to 37%. Roughly 35 million people in the U.S. are in interfaith marriages. 7

8 What to Call Them? “We recommend that the term k’rov Yisrael (relative or friend of Yisrael, close to the Jews) be used as a designation for the non-Jew who is (or, as in the event of death or divorce, has been) partnered to a Jew and participates in and supports the Conservative synagogue community”. A Place in the Tent, Intermarriage and Conservative Judaism, by Rabbis Bloom, Feldman, Freeman, Kelman, Manhoff, and Weisel, with Levinson and Massarano, EKS Publishing, Oakland, CA,

9 How Can We Deal With The Death of A K’rov Yisrael?  Families requesting Jewish burial for non-Jewish family members deserve a dignified ritual.  How does one prepare a non-Jew for burial using Jewish traditions and customs? 9

10 What We Do For Jews  The ceremony performed by the Chevra Kadisha members to prepare a deceased Jew for burial is called Tahara, and is composed of five steps: 1. opening prayers, 2. cleansing the body physically, 3. washing and purifying the deceased spiritually, 4. dressing the body in the burial garments and placing it in the casket, and 5. closing prayers. 10

11 What We Do For Jews  The ceremony performed by the Chevra Kadisha members to prepare a deceased Jew for burial is called Tahara, and is composed of five steps: 1. opening prayers, 2. cleansing the body physically, 3. washing and purifying the deceased spiritually, 4. dressing the body in the burial garments and placing it in the casket, and 5. closing prayers.  The ceremony is very sensitive to the sacredness of the task and the modesty and dignity of the deceased.  It can be thought of as midwifing the soul of the dead from this world into the next. 11

12 What’s In A Name?  The ritual used to prepare Jews for burial is called Tahara from the Hebrew root that means “pure.”  Since the ritual for non-Jews should not be the same as that done for Jews, we distinguish this new ritual by calling it a different name: Final Kindness.  Since it is assumed that not all who participate in performing Final Kindness rituals are current members of a Chevra Kadisha, we will call the assembled group who do this ritual, the Final Kindness Team. 12

13 What differentiates a Final Kindness ritual from Tahara? TaharaFinal Kindness Jewish liturgy, prayers, names of God.Secular and generic biblical readings. No reference to Jewish People, Jewish God, Jewish theology. Hebrew name of deceased used.English name of deceased used. Hebrew included for all readings.No Hebrew at all. 13

14 What differentiates a Final Kindness ritual from Tahara? TaharaFinal Kindness Jewish liturgy, prayers, names of God.Secular and generic biblical readings. No reference to Jewish People, Jewish God, Jewish theology. Hebrew name of deceased used.English name of deceased used. Hebrew included for all readings.No Hebrew at all. Tachrichim, special knots used to represent the names of God. Generic burial garments, or tahcrichim, simple bow knots used Only Jews present.Jews and non-Jews can be present. Simple wooden casket, Magen David star on top. Simple wooden casket recommended, no symbols at all. 14

15 Ritual Considerations  Brit milah and simchat bat: rituals designed to bring a child into the community of Israel.  Similarly, we need another ritual parallel in function to Tahara, but with a different name and components, to honor k’rovei Yisrael.  These rituals include prayers. Prayer awakens us to our task, and establishes an order through which the team progresses. 15

16 What Does A Final Kindness Ritual Look Like?  Structure is the same as for Tahara, but much of the content has changed to become appropriate for k’rov Yisrael.  Emphasis is still on respect for the dignity and modesty of the deceased, and midwifing the soul from this world to the next.  Still includes the basic 5 steps of Tahara. 16

17 What Does A Final Kindness Ritual Look Like?  Example ritual is “Guidelines for Preparing K’rovei Yisrael For Burial,” being published this year. 17

18 What You’re In For  What is this work and why should we care?  Context for this topic – why are we doing this now?  What’s in a name?  What differentiates a Final Kindness ritual from Tahara?  Liturgy considerations for Final Kindness  What does a Final Kindness ritual look like?  Presenting this topic to local communities  Comments, questions, discussion… 18

19 Presenting this Topic to Local Communities  Expand educational efforts to include discussing the need for Final Kindness.  Offer training to local rabbis, cantors, chaplains, social workers, and others who work with k’rov Yisrael in how to perform Final Kindness rituals. 19

20 Presenting this Topic to Local Communities  Expand educational efforts to include discussing the need for Final Kindness.  Offer training to local rabbis, cantors, chaplains, social workers, and others who work with k’rov Yisrael in how to perform Final Kindness rituals.  Educate and raise awareness in chevra members as to when and how to perform Final Kindness.  Have copies of a Final Kindness manual available along with the manual used by the community for Tahara. 20

21 Presenting this Topic to Local Communities  Expand educational efforts to include discussing the need for Final Kindness.  Offer training to local rabbis, cantors, chaplains, social workers, and others who work with k’rov Yisrael in how to perform Final Kindness rituals.  Educate and raise awareness in chevra members as to when and how to perform Final Kindness.  Have copies of a Final Kindness manual available along with the manual used by the community for Tahara.  Update community brochures about Jewish death practices to include the need for interfaith death rituals, and their availability. Tell the community how to ask for these, and who to contact. 21

22 Presenting this Topic to Local Communities  Even though the Final Kindness ritual is available to all communities, the community must choose to include it into their practices. Each chevra must decide if their policy as a community is to perform this ritual when a k’rov Yisrael in their community dies.  If the chevra decides to do this, the policy must allow for each member of the chevra team to choose whether to participate in Final Kindness rituals.  The Gamliel Institute provides insights and expanded learning in all aspects of chevra work, including this one. Scholarships may be available. 22

23 Questions, Discussion…  Please use the chat box to ask a question or make a comment.  Send your chats to David Zinner, who is collecting the questions. 23


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