Kavod Ha-Met vs. COVID-19

Jewish burial, shiva, and bereavement in the era of social distancing

Please join the Community Alliance for Jewish Cemeteries (CAJAC) for an informative and interactive webinar on the challenges of addressing Jewish end-of-life issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Topics covered to include: 

  • Chevra Kadisha practices, including tahara 
  • Social distance burials and shiva via Zoom 
  • Burial in Israel amidst COVID-19 

Scheduled speakers: 

  • Rabbi Andrew Markowitz – Congregation Shomrei Torah, Fair Lawn, NJ 
  • Rabbi Joseph Potasnik – Executive Vice-President, New York Board of Rabbis 
  • Stephanie Garry – Chief Administrative Officer, Plaza Jewish Community Chapel 
  • Alexandra Roth-Kahn – Managing Director, Caring Commission – UJA-Federation of New York 

Thursday May 7, 2020 – 12 p.m. EST 

Registration is required at this link:
https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_BUUtkAERTpmQBjuEkti5Gw 

A Loving Call from the New York Board of Rabbis for Stringency at Cemeteries

7bd65422-1e37-4cbe-8b03-2cd8785c2a6a

 

April 6, 2020; Nisan 12, 5780
No words can express the depth of pain felt by our grieving families during this unprecedented period. We as rabbis seek to bring them the spiritual strength and support they so deeply need. It hurts us to see mourners denied the comforts that ritual proximity affords.

But we must also recognize that the principle of pikuach nefesh requires us to make exceptions to our time-honored funeral practices in order to protect human life, health, and safety. Clergy and community must find alternative ways to show comfort and condolence in these times.

Out of a deep sense of love for our colleagues and our constituents’ wellbeing, we call on one another to conduct funerals according to the most cautious standards possible while the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

  1. Ideally, clergy should not be physically present at burials. They may conduct burial rites remotely (i.e., by virtual means). When clergy feel they must be present, they should practice extreme caution (social distancing, masks and gloves, etc.).
  2. No more than four mourners should physically attend a burial. Ideally, none should attend. Cemetery staff and funeral directors should be entrusted with all procedures of burial.
  3. Clergy are encouraged to conduct funeral services online using Zoom or a similar platform – attended virtually by all mourners and guests who wish to participate – followed by a simple burial at which no clergy or mourners are present (or are present only according to the strict guidelines outlined above).
  4. Clergy should not feel pressured by mourners, directors, cemetery staff, or colleagues to exceed these guidelines. They are for everyone’s benefit.

These guidelines are aspirational, not regulatory. Every member of the community will, ideally, take it upon him- or herself to do everything humanly possible to protect life, even and especially as we show respect for the deceased and their mourners.

May The One Who Heals and Makes Whole give us the courage and stamina to weather this storm together. May we in turn give our communities the support they need to remain hopeful and healthy.

Rabbi Lester Bronstein, Past President
Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, President
Rabbi Elie Weinstock, Vice President
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President
Rabbi Diana Gerson, Associate Executive Vice President

NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CHEVRA KADISHA

The Chevra Kadisha of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens maintains the highest level of respect and dignity (kavod hames) caring for all Jewish people at the time of a death. They are available to assist families with sensitivity and expertise with any questions regarding an imminent or recent death.