I am writing to you to ask for your help, for a cause that not only involves a mitzvah, but is aimed at a chesed shel emet, a true kindness for those who cannot do it for themselves, and are unable even to thank those who perform this service for them.
I am writing concerning the Gamliel Institute, the leadership training and education arm of Kavod v’Nichum, which is the preeminent North American organization that focuses on all aspects of the end-stage of the continuum of life and death in the Jewish tradition, from illness through comfort of mourners. Many Gamliel students are now completing the full range of training, coursework, projects, and chevruta (“partner”) study to be certified as having mastered the knowledge, skills, and experience of a fully trained and participating member of a Chevrah Kadisha (“holy society”), the group with Jewish communal responsibility for end-of-life activities, such as preparation of bodies for burial and comforting mourners. This study mission will qualifying them not only to participate in and organize, educate, and lead a Chevrah Kadisha, but also to reinvigorate Jewish end-of-life practices, helping Jewish communities to fully embrace the sacred tasks and beauty and depth of rituals relating to the end of life, enriching and uplifting all who are touched by this work.
The final aspect of the Gamliel program includes a study and travel mission in which students will be working with, learning from, and teaching members of international Chevrah Kadisha and Nechama groups. The students are from throughout North America, and will meet with groups, organizations, and governmental agencies in New York, Prague, and Israel. Those groups will include funeral homes, cemeteries, hospices, hospitals, the IDF, universities, Rabbinical seminaries, Yeshivot, and many others. The mutual goal will be to share and learn from each other best practices, as well as the most effective recruiting and training methods, and to create relationships and connections with others engaged in this holy and meaningful work. This will equip Gamliel students to be leaders and teachers in bringing this mitzvah to life in their own communities and beyond. The vision is to make it possible to have a Chevrah Kadisha available to every synagogue and Jewish community, and to make the fulfillment of this sacred task a mitzvah that is a realistic possibility for all Jews, no matter where they may live.
Such a travel and training program is very expensive. My request is that you consider supporting this program in the form of a donation to the scholarship fund. Kavod v’Nichum is a recognized 501(c)(3) organization. You can find more information online at our website, which includes options for donations.
You are also welcome to send a check (please note for ‘Scholarship fund’ or “Mission Trip”) to:
Gamliel Institute Scholarship Fund
8112 Sea Water Path
Columbia, MD 21045.
I thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and for your consideration of my request.
Rabbi Stuart Kelman
Gamliel Institute Dean