The Gamliel Institute
The Gamliel Institute offers five 12-week core courses, a sixth study-mission style course, and a project-based seventh course. In addition, there are continuing educational offerings that include Taste of Gamliel (a yearly community educational series), two three-week advanced classes (one set in Spring, the other in Fall), and an ongoing monthly learning café. This page is a summary of these opportunities.
Core Curriculum Courses
The Gamliel Institute offers a Chevrah Kadisha Certificate Program that covers life’s spectrum of illness, comfort, death, funerals, burial, and mourning. The Academic Bulletin for the Gamliel Institute can be seen here.
Course 1: Chevrah Kadisha: Origins and Evolution
The institution of Chevrah Kadisha has its origins in Biblical and other traditional texts. This course traces the evolution of Chevrah Kadisha practice and the chevrah’s role in the community from early times, through the standard of practice in Medieval Europe, and into the changes that took place in the transition to the Western Hemisphere and modern times.
Course 2: Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah and Shmirah
The central elements of Chevrah Kadisha practice include the rituals of taharah —preparation of the body for burial; and shmirah—the watching (or “guarding”) of the body between death and burial. This course addresses a wide range of issues, including liturgy, training, safety, and complications.
Course 3: Chevrah Kadisha: Education, Organizing, and Leadership
Creating and maintaining a Chevrah Kadisha involves leadership, communal education, and organizational skills, including developing relationships with funeral homes and cemeteries. This course addresses these issues, while providing a skill-foundation for students to use in their own communities.
Course 4: Chevrah Kadisha: Nechamah
The mitzvah of nechamah (comfort)—both comfort for the ill (bikur cholim) and comfort for the grieving (nichum aveilim)—is a vital part of Chevrah Kadisha work. This course looks at the skills involved in this work, and includes areas such as listening techniques, the concept of an ethical will, and principles involving remembrance. It also provides students with opportunities to examine and deepen their own attitudes and outlooks about illness and death.
Course 5: Chevrah Kadisha: Liturgy and Ritual Practice
Our tradition has a broad and rich liturgy and practice around end-of-life issues. This course examines the liturgy and related practice in detail, focusing on funeral and burial, traditional sources, variations, and the role of the rabbi.
Course 6: Chevrah Kadisha: International Perspectives
Jewish end-of-life practice has changed not only over time, but also from place to place. This trip examines variation in practices around the world, centered around a two-to-three-week study mission to New York, Prague, and Israel.
Course 7: Chevrah Kadisha: Student Projects
Projects may involve various aspects of Chevrah Kadisha work, including organizing and education as well as more academic pursuits. Projects have two primary goals: (a) to improve students’ leadership skills and/or knowledge, and (b) to serve as contributions/resources for others in the field. This course is open only to students who have successfully completed Course 3.
For registration and tuition information for current course offerings see the registration page, here.
Continuing Education Offerings
Each year in conjunction with the annual North American Chevrah Kadisha and Jewish Cemetery Conference, the Gamliel Institute offers a “Day of Learning,” usually composed of three learning sessions, each taught by an invited instructor who is a specialist in the topic at hand. These sessions are open to all current and past Gamliel students, and prospective students with permission from the Dean. The topics are usually advanced text study or interesting historical presentations on aspects of Jewish death-related practices, augmenting the information taught in the core Gamliel Institute courses.
Gamliel alumni and students who have successfully completed three core courses are encouraged to participate in our Continuing Education series, which is offered twice yearly; three weeks in the Fall and three weeks in the Spring. We provide students with ongoing opportunities to engage with selected material in more detail and depth.
Current, past, and prospective Gamliel students and even those just thinking about the possibility, are invited to attend Gamliel Cafe. One evening a month we get together for a short teaching or presentation, followed by shmooze time – discussion of the topic of the evening, sharing our current projects, ideas, and challenges as we take our chevrah work into our communities and beyond. Gamliel Cafe is a great opportunity for some relaxed conversation and connecting.
Find this year’s Continuing Education and Café offerings here.
In addition to the above, Kavod v’Nichum and the Gamliel Institute sponsor an annual Taste of Gamliel webinar series. This series gives participants a taste of online learning similar to regular Gamliel courses. Those students who have experienced Gamliel courses and are already familiar with online learning have the opportunity to enjoy presentations by outside experts. There is an overarching theme each year on the topics around Jewish ritual related to sickness, death, funerals, burial, and mourning. The “Taste” program is offered once per month, from January through June. A different scholar presents each session, and the sessions are independent of each other although the overall theme is presented in each session. The program is free, with a suggested minimum donation of $36 for the full program. The sessions are online, 60-90 minutes, usually on Sunday evenings, beginning at 8pm east, 5pm west. You can learn from the comfort of your home or office, using Zoom, a particularly friendly tool. The teachers and topics are chosen for their pertinence, inspiration, and depth. Previous presenters have included Dr. Richard Address, Rabbi Yonatan Cohen, Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rabbi Dayle Friedman, Rabbi Steven Moss, Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Rabbi SaraLeya Schley, Rabbi Elie Spitz, Maharat Victoria Sutton.
For more on this year’s Taste of Gamliel series, click here.
Registration information for all Kavod v’Nichum and Gamliel Institute courses, including registration fees, forms for online registration, and course offering dates, is available here.