The Chevra Kadisha is an organization that has been in existence in this community since 1900. It is usually referred to as the "Chevra" or the Jewish Burial Society. It is the “sacred society” that prepares Jewish bodies for burial. There is a Womens Chevra who assist the needs of women and a mens Chevra who assist the needs of men. Working with the local Jewish undertakers, we provide the steps proscribed by Jewish law for a traditional Jewish funeral and burial. Should one need our services, they can get in touch with us through undertakers. If needed, you may also reach Rabbi Ephraim Epstein at 667-9700.
When a Jew passes away, there is a specific halachik manner in which to prepare the body for burial. It involves a procedure called a “Tahara,” or purification. It involves a physical and spiritual washing of the deceased person’s body, performed with the greatest level of dignity and respect, dressing of the body in the burial shroud (pure white linen garments) and placing it into a coffin. Just as the soul that once lived in the body was a pure soul, so the body is purified through Tahara before it is buried. Each Tahara is carried out by the Chevra Kadisha.
To be a member of the Chevra Kadisha is a great honor, because taking care of the deceased in this manner is the final mitzvah that can be performed for a person. Many people are uncomfortable with the prospect of being near the deceased. Yet, the members of the Cherry Hill Chevra Kadisha will tell you that it is not morbid or terrible. Chevra members actually feel inspired by one another’s dedication to performing this great mitzvah. The mitzvah of taking care of the dead is called “Chessed Shel Emet,” a true act of loving kindness, as the deceased is not able to ever return the act of kindness.
The process of doing the Tahara is fairly simple, takes about one hour, and can be done by anybody who is not a Kohen. Taharas are generally performed in the evening. Usually four to six volunteers attend each Tahara. Members are called on rotation, so that each member of the Chevra is called upon only occasionally.
The Chevrah can always use men and women volunteers, especially since our members sometimes need to take time off for personal reasons. No prior knowledge or experience is needed to be a volunteer. If you join the Chevrah, we will train you and help you until you gain confidence and feel comfortable with this special Mitzvah.
If you would like more information or would like to join the Cherry Hill Chevrah Kadisha, please contact Bill or Marcy at (856) 667-9035.