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THE AMLIEL INSTITUTE
Creating Holy Community in Life and Death
"Formerly, the expense of carrying out the dead was harder on the family than the death itself; the family therefore abandoned the corpse and fled. [This practice changed when] Rabban Gamliel [President of the Sanhedrin] disregarded his own dignity, and had his body carried out in flaxen shrouds. Afterwards, all the people followed his lead and had themselves carried out in flaxen shrouds."
Babylonian Talmud, Moed Katan 27a-27b
The Gamliel Institute is a center for study, training, and advocacy concerning Jewish end of life practices. The Institute is a project of Kavod V'Nichum (Honor and Comfort), a North American organization which provides assistance, training, and resources about Jewish death and bereavement practice for Chevra Kadisha groups and bereavement committees in synagogues and communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Currently no North American rabbinical school, chaplaincy, mortuary or thanatology certification program offers a comprehensive articulated certification program to deal with all the issues surrounding the end of life from a Jewish perspective. The Gamliel Institute fills that gap by addressing the issues and challenges which have an impact on individuals and families and which have implications for communal responsibility. In an environment that acknowledges the contributions of all the streams of Judaism, the Institute brings together diverse disciplines, community organizing, consumer advocacy, bikkur cholim, chaplaincy and rabbinics, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning and preparation into the creation of a unique, comprehensive training program.
Institute students include Chevra Kadisha volunteers, rabbis, chaplains, funeral directors, and Jewish communal professionals. Institute faculty will be drawn from notable, respected educators, historians, scholars, and activists. The Institute's Academic Dean is Rabbi Stuart Kelman, author, Jewish educator, and founding rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley. Dan Fendel is the Dean of Students. David Zinner is the Executive Director.
The centerpiece of the Institute is a certification program employing a variety of distance-learning and on-site practicum formats. Students meet each year at the annual Kavod v'Nichum Conference (usually in the early summer) for in-person training and networking and are expected to participate in local training opportunities as well as other relevant national conferences. The culminating component of the certificate program is a three-week practicum/study tour to New York, Prague (the home of the first Chevra Kadisha), and Israel to study with local chevra kadisha groups and experts. Our course focus covers five major areas: chevra kadisha, tahara, education and training strategies, nechama, and traditional practices.
By the end of the program, students develop theoretical and practical expertise in the halachot, minhagim, logistics and finances surrounding serious illness, death, funerals, burial, mourning, and legacy preparation, including ethical wills. Students are prepared to work with and assist grieving families before and after death and to organize and train volunteers to perform these mitzvot in their communities.
Will students attend? At the beginning of 2014, there are 70 students. And there is great interest in the Jewish community. Over 3/4 of a million people have visited www.jewish-funerals.org, Kavod v'Nichum's website. The Chevra Kadisha Conferences are well attended and have generated enthusiastic response. There is a hunger for in-depth education. The Gamliel Institute fills this critical void in education and service delivery and has the potential to change the current culture surrounding end of life issues in the Jewish community - from denial and neglect to awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.
Course 3: Chevra Kadisha: Education, Organizing, and Training - begins April 8, 2014
Course 4: Chevra Kadisha: Nechama - begins July 8, 2014
Course 1: Chevra Kadisha: Origins and Evolution - begins October 7, 2014
Course 2: Chevra Kadisha: Tahara and Shmira - begins December 30, 2014
Course 5: Chevra Kadisha: Ritual Practice - begins December 30, 2014
Registration is open.
Interested in learning more? Contact:
Rabbi Stuart Kelman
1003 Mariposa Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94707
For additional information about Kavod v'Nichum see www.Jewish-funerals.org
Thank you to our many generous supporters, especially:
The Covenant Foundation
The Irving & Marian Rosenblum Tzedakah Fund of the Oregon Jewish Community Foundation