The Chevra Kadisha of the Shaar Shalom is a group of caring individuals who look after both the deceased and the grieving family when a member dies. The group is always ready to lend a hand in time of need, at the funeral home, at the funeral, and at the shiva.
For more information about the Chevra Kadisha, contact the Shaar Shalom Synagogue or:
Jon Goldberg: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark David: email@example.com
Mitchell Zusman: firstname.lastname@example.org
When a Member Dies
When a member dies, the family should immediately contact Jon Goldberg at 902-492-2838 (home) or 902-422-7491 ext. 224 (work). If Jon cannot be reached, contact Mitchell Zusman at 902-223-7144.
If the deceased is female, the family should also contact the women’s division of the Chevra Kadisha, Rita Pink at 902-443-1102.
The Chevra Kadisha will contact Cruickshank’s Funeral Home, where they will perform the ritual preparations. They will also arrange for transport of the remains. However, it is important the family arranges to have the death certificate issued before the remains can be moved.
The death of a loved one is a traumatic experience. Jewish law, custom and tradition provide the bereaved with guidance and support for coping with this difficult time. At Shaar Shalom, we believe that it is our sacred duty to ensure that the final act of lovingkindness for our members is performed with respect, dignity, and adherence to Jewish tradition. The Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) aids and assists members who have experienced a death in the family. The volunteers of the Chevra Kadisha prepare the body for burial, supervise funeral arrangements, provide the traditional meal for mourners following the funeral, and assist with a daily minyan for the shiva house. They assure a proper and respectful traditional Jewish burial for the deceased.
Congregation Shaar Shalom maintains a cemetery on Connaught Avenue in Halifax, under the administration of the Cemetery Committee. All members of the congregation are entitled to be buried there. There is no charge to members for a burial plot.
Jewish Burial Practices
Over time, the Jewish religion has developed funeral and burial practices that meet the social and spiritual needs of the mourners and the community, and emphasize respectful treatment of the dead. The formal mourning period (shiva) does not begin until after the funeral: thus, the funeral should not be delayed, and usually occurs the day after the death. Special cases or circumstances must be referred to the spiritual leader or Ritual Committee.
Traditional Jewish burial practices emphasize the natural returning to the earth of the deceased. Any practice that impedes the natural return is prohibited. Thus, embalming is not allowed, except where required by civil law, as in the case of transporting the body by common carrier. Cremation is not allowed: a cremated individual should not be buried in a Jewish cemetery, as cremation has unduly hastened the natural return.
The body is clothed in a white shroud and placed in a plain wooden coffin. The Chevra Kadisha arrange all these matters. Autopsies should not be performed, unless required by law, or to save a life (pikuach nefesh). Organ donations are permitted.
Custom discourages viewing of the deceased, and the coffin is closed during the funeral service. Both practices encourage the bereaved to face the reality of death. Flowers are not present at Jewish funerals. They are not a Jewish custom, and such symbols of life are not deemed appropriate at the time of recognition of death. Instead, Jewish tradition recommends that those wishing to pay their respects to the deceased do so through acts of t'zdakah, charity, by making donations to the synagogue or other organizations to further Jewish life.
Non Jews, even those who are parents, spouses, or children of a Jew, cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Although Jews are not required to follow Jewish mourning rituals for a non-Jewish relatives, they are permitted to do so.
Mourners are those immediately related to the deceased: parents, siblings (brothers and sisters), spouse and children. From the time of death until the burial, these immediate relatives are onen, who have no religious obligation except to arrange the funeral. Following burial, these immediate relatives are considered mourners.
Before the Funeral
The Chevra Kadisha has made arrangements with Cruickshanks Funeral Home that allow them to prepare the deceased in the appropriate way. Members of the Chevra Kadisha perform tahara, the ritual washing of the body that cleanses and purifies. They then clothe the body in tachrichim, shrouds made of white linen or cotton. A tallit with one of the fringes torn away is wrapped around men, and a package of earth from Israel is placed in the wooden coffin, which is provided by the funeral home.
When the time of the funeral has been set, congregants and the Beth Israel Synagogue are notified of the details according to the Funeral Notification policy.
The Funeral and Burial
The funeral service is conducted in the synagogue, or at graveside at the Shaar Shalom Cemetery. Under normal circumstances, a spiritual leader will perform the funeral. If this is not possible, a qualified member of the congregation will lead the service. Jewish law does not require a rabbi to perform the funeral.
The immediate family of the deceased remains with the funeral officiant until just before the service begins. There, they perform the ritual of kriah, the rending of a garment as a sign of mourning. Today, people wear a torn black ribbon. The family can designate pallbearers, or rely on the Chevra Kadisha.
The closed coffin, covered by a pall, is brought to the service site about 15 minutes before the service. Those attending to pay their respects should maintain quiet with funeral decorum in the presence of the coffin. The mourners and officiant enter the sanctuary just before the service begins. The service lasts approximately 30 minutes, and includes Psalms, readings and eulogies. The service ends with the Eil Molay Rachamim, expressing the hope that the deceased will be granted eternal peace. Pallbearers then carry the coffin to the hearse, and the funeral procession moves to the cemetery.
When the mourners and comforters have gathered at the cemetery, the coffin is lowered completely into the ground before the brief service begins. The Eil Molay Rachamim is said again, and then the mourners recite the kaddish for the first time. Each mourner, and family and friends that wish, put three shovels full of earth into the grave. The mourners leave the cemetery flanked by two lines of comforters and receive traditional expressions of consolation.
After the Funeral
The period of sitting shiva, the seven days of mourning, begins immediately after the funeral. Before entering the house of mourning, the mourners and those who have attended the funeral wash their hands as a symbolic act of purification. The Chevra Kadisha provides the mourners with the traditional meal of bread and eggs.
During shiva, kaddish is said daily at home in the presence of a minyan. In this period of intensive mourning, the bereaved are encouraged to confront the new reality of their lives. They should refrain from going to work or school, should not attend social functions, and generally avoid other routine activities such as meal preparation, shaving, etc. Mirrors are covered, as one in mourning should not be concerned about personal appearance. Mourners sit on low chairs or stools, and should remain at home so that family, friends and members of the community can come to offer condolence. Those coming to offer comfort should act appropriately for a house of mourning.
Shiva ends on the morning of the seventh day after burial. Shabbat is counted as part of this period, although public mourning rituals are suspended, and the mourners are encouraged to attend services in the synagogue. Holidays affect shiva in a number of ways- please consult the spiritual leader or Ritual Committee.
After the shiva period ends, mourners should observe shloshim, the first thirty days following burial. Mourners return to work and normal activities, but refrain from public entertainment or social activities. They wear the kriah, and should recite kaddish in a daily minyan.
Mourners for deceased parents observe shanah, the first year, with a daily recitation of kaddish for eleven months, and by avoiding celebratory activities for a full year.
When mourning ends, we continue to remember the deceased through memorial activities. Kaddish is recited on the anniversary of the death, or yahrzeit. As well, the mourners light a 24 hour memorial candle. The synagogue office sends out yahrzeit notices. Yizkor (remembrance) services are held on Yom Kippur, Sh'mini Atzeret, Pesach, and Shavuot.
At some point after shloshim, usually after three months and before the first yahrzeit (depending on the season), a headstone is erected and unveiled. The cost of the headstone is the responsibility of the family. However, please contact the synagogue office to get the headstone form and complete it before ordering a headstone. Our spiritual leader is available to assist you in completing the form. The completed form is used to order the headstone, but before the headstone is manufactured, a proof of the inscription must be reviewed and approved by the family and synagogue.
As a further memorial, a plaque may be placed on the Memorial Tablets in the sanctuary, and/or on the Tree of Life.
For further information regarding funeral and mourning customs, you can consult the spiritual leader, the members of the Chevra Kadisha, the Ritual Committee or the synagogue library.
What costs are involved?
The services of the Chevra Kadisha are a mitzvah of lovingkindness and respect for the deceased, and are provided without charge. As well, the burial plot is a membership privilege of Shaar Shalom, and is also provided without charge. The fees for burial and perpetual care are detailed in the Fees for Membership, Burial, Perpetual Care and High Holidays policy. The services provided by Cruickshank's Funeral Home are billed directly to the family.
In addition to the support our spiritual leader provides to grieving families, the Simon L. Gaum Bereavement Centre consists of a group of volunteers who assist the Chevra Kadisha during the shiva period and will continue to support a grieving person/family during the difficult months that follow. All volunteers have participated in a grief workshop. The Bereavement Centre is administered under the direction of the Board of the Shaar Shalom Congregation and The Simon L. Gaum Bereavement Committee.