The Gamliel Institute Core Curriculum
The centerpiece of the Gamliel Institute is a six-semester certification program employing a variety of distance-learning formats. Our core courses focus on five major areas: Chevrah Kadisha history, taharah and shmirah, education and training strategies, nechamah, and ritual and liturgy. These in-depth courses provide a foundation for local community leadership and education and starting, managing, and training local Chevrot Kadisha, through inspiring and stimulating explorations of all aspects of Jewish practices toward the end of life. Students meet each year at the annual Kavod v’Nichum Conference (usually in the early summer) for in-person or online training and networking, and are expected to participate in local training opportunities as well as other relevant national conferences. By the end of the program, students have developed theoretical and practical expertise in the halachot, minhagim, logistics and finances surrounding serious illness, death, funerals, burial, mourning, and legacy preparation. Students will be 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. Students can expect to complete the Certificate Program (courses 1-5 and 7) within a three-year period.
The Gamliel Institute Core Curriculum Courses are:
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.
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 liturgy, training, safety, and more.
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.
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.
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 prayers, local minhagim, and the role of the rabbi.
Jewish end-of-life practice has changed not only over time, but also from place to place. This study-mission examines variation in practices around the world, centered around a two-to-three-week exploratory adventure to New York, Prague, and Israel.
Student 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.
Core Curriculum Schedule
Course 3: February 23 – May 11, 2021
Course 7: July 6 – October 6, 2021
Course 2: October 5 – December 21, 2021
Course 1: January 4 – March 22, 2022
Course 4: March 29 – June 21, 2022
Tuition Reductions and Scholarships
No student is turned away from the Gamliel Institute due to inability to pay tuition or course fees. For more information please contact the registrar at info@Jewish-Funerals.org.
All Core Curriculum courses are offered at a discount for clergy members. Please contact the registrar at info@Jewish-Funerals.org.
If multiple members of the same Chevrah Kadisha wish to enroll in a Core Curriculum course, the Institute offers a group discount in tuition. For more information please contact the registrar at info@Jewish-Funerals.org.
Some courses may be sponsored which will reduce tuition fees for all students. In these situations the registration page will indicate reductions as appropriate.