Kavod v'Nichum and Gamliel Institute provide resources, education, and training along the Jewish end-of-life continuum: from visiting the sick and pre-planning, to care for the body after death, to providing comfort to the mourners.
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Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Jewish Death Practices

This page provides a central forum for resources and news in relation to Jewish death-related practices and the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 virus.  If you have new information or resources that you feel would be helpful to others, please share with us so we can help others (info@Jewish-Funerals.org).

Here’s a lovely poem about pandemics to help you keep perspective.

Recommendations for Taharah Room Safety  – Also see Alternative Rituals Below

  1. Kavod v’Nichum recommendations  (updated March 24th)  
  2. The National Association of Chevros Kadisha recommendations  (updated March 25th)
  3. Recommended book:  Health and Safety Precautions for Taharah – A Guide to Understanding Potential Risk and Injuries While Performing the Holy Work of the Chevrah Kadisha

Questions and Answers Regarding Chevrah Kadisha Work and this Virus

    • Kavod v’Nichum facilitated an online Webinar on March 8th, 2020, with a panel of experts in infection control and taharah.  Many questions were answered during this Webinar, as well as many additional items discussed. Click here to register to view the recording of this important Webinar. Upon registration you will be given the link to the video. It’s free. Download the PowerPoint presentation that accompanied the Webinar, here. See the list of recommendations from this panel below.
    • Kavod v’Nichum is facilitating ongoing Monday evening discussion and question/answer sessions online using Zoom.  These evening meetings are at 5:00pm Pacific, 8:00pm East. Everyone is welcome, there is no charge. Please register to attend the Monday night sessions here to get the Zoom meeting link. These sessions are set to run from June 29th through September 14th. Those who are registered will be sent not only the meeting link but also links to recordings of past Monday sessions. These gatherings also discuss spiritual and emotional issues.
    • Gail Tosto has created a Virtual Shmirah Box – a list of specific readings to use during shmirah online.

Spiritual and Emotional Strength

There is an aspect of this new normal that we have not been addressing. Along with our physical safety needs of having social distancing, food in the house, transferring our work to be at home and online, etc, there are the emotional and spiritual aspects of this pandemic that are just beginning to be addressed.

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Articles on Infection Control in the Taharah Room

Click here to see over 20 articles spanning some 30+ years detailing the thinking about infection control and taharah practices.

 

Kaddish without a Minyan

 

Chevrah Kadisha Policies and Articles that Deal with Pandemic Response

We are collecting local policy ideas and practices that have been put in place to deal with our changing and challenging times. The list below might be of assistance to those attempting to establish new policies in this regard.  If you have a policy in place, please share it (info@Jewish-Funerals.org).

 

Alternative Taharah Ritual Ideas – Keeping teams safe while still honoring the dead

  • Rick Light has revised his well-respected Taharah manual, To Midwife a Soul, to now include new liturgies in addition to the established liturgy based on Ma’avar Yabbok. These include new liturgy for Taharah Ruchanit – when we must honor the dead but do not have or cannot be close to their body, and non-binary liturgy to support all gender identities.    
  • When no taharah can be performed, this new ritual created by Rabbi Lynn Greenhough, provides “completion” by offering a taharah-like ritual at the grave site, perhaps long after burial, when it is safe for teams to gather. She suggests that chevrot could perhaps perform this ritual between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. You have permission to download this to use in your community.
  • The New Community Chevra Kadisha of Greater Pittsburgh has adapted their manual to create a new liturgy for the pandemic age. Here is the women’s version. You have permission to download this to use for holy work in your community.
  • The Chevra Kavod haMet of Portland, OR, has modified their existing taharah manual to create a new ritual called Tahara l’Nefesh, allowing taharah to be performed without the presence of the decedent’s body. See the men’s manual here, the women’s version here. You have permission to download these to use them for holy work in your community.
  • The Chevrah Kadisha of Kehilla Community Synagogue, Piedmont, CA, shares their new alternative taharah ritual, as a work in progress. You have permission to download and use this, with the understanding that it is still being refined, improved, and completed.

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General Pandemic Articles of Jewish Interest

 

Scientific Articles and Research Related the Coronavirus

Relevant articles and papers from the scientific community:

 

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