As the Chair of our congregational Chevra Kadisha, I am often asked by the mourner who they can thank for doing the Taharah for their loved one. In response, I explain that it is a time honored tradition that we do not reveal the identities of the Taharah team for any specific Taharah. For most of us on the Chevra Kadisha, it is the anonymity that is a strong attraction to being part of this group. The idea that we would be thanked for doing this work is not only strange but creates a certain anxiety.
We place you in the casket, tie a few more knots, and swaddle you up. I know almost nothing about your life in the more than ninety years since you were first swaddled, with awe and love, the same way we are doing it now. But you did it, Bubbie. You’ve arrived at the last event. We close the top of the casket, which is not to be reopened. We were the last ones to witness your physical life. Tomorrow, the people who really know you will gather to mourn and celebrate and cry and laugh and bury.
When performing a tahara, I have often noticed how the person’s face relaxes and she becomes more accepting of her death as we prepare her body. This was true with Aunt Dina. These women taught me that even a person who has been cruel deserves love and honor. We are all equal in death.
By reframing the Chevrah Kaddish as an opportunity rather than an obligation, we have formed a holy community that includes all members of the community who each participate at their own comfort level, from the very young to the very old. Some of our members became involved when they came to make their own final arrangements and became active participants. This is still a university town and students are also an important part of the team. I am proud to be a part of this holy community.
Serving in the Chevra Kaddisha, Jewish Funeral Practices Committee, is an important honor and part of being a Jew. Various roles are available, for various people with various needs and availability. Join now!
Open Hillel calls on Hillel International to withdraw its endorsement of Kenneth Marcus, Donald Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education.
This year, we must think carefully about Tu BiShvat’s call. We must think about all of those in our sightlines who are being prevented from planting their roots, the ones who are being denied the most essential human experience of building something permanent, of building something that is forever.
Willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice is, indeed, a Jewish sensibility. However, it is a sensibility that is carefully limited.
Welcome to the Queer Mikveh Project, a documentary film and project asking why mikveh, a Jewish ritual of water immersion, is not more accessible to queer and trans people. The project aims to reframe who gets to do mikveh and how, document queer mikveh projects that currently exist and create more opportunities for engaging in this powerful ritual.