Chevrah Kadisha Leadership— Regional Networking and Disaster Preparedness
When I first heard of the tragedy in Pittsburg, what immediately came to mind was that “this was their Shabbat morning minyan.” I thought of our own minyan, picturing the dear friends and community members I’ve known for decades.
Soon my thoughts turned to, G!D forbid if it had happened here what would I, as the Rosha of our Chevrah, what would I have done, especially since members of our tiny Chevrah might well have been at that Shabbat morning service?
I realized that, thanks to the Gamliel/Kavod v’Nichum community I had within a reasonable geographic radius, personal friends, colleagues and mentors I could call upon, who would unquestionably show up, jump in their car and get here, just as I would for them, just as I have in the past when called.
I even played out a fantasy of cashing in frequent flyer miles to show up for the Chevrah Kadisha in Pittsburg, to oﬀer to help with anything and everything. And though there was a variety of reasons why that was neither practical at my end nor perhaps useful to the community in Pittsburg, it illustrated to me just how ready I was to step in…to feel in my kischkes that we are All One Chevrah.
I knew that David Zinner was, literally, showing up in Pittsburg, with his organizational skills and expertise. I felt a sense of connection, that even here in California I could, if nothing else, stay in touch with the status of things there, light a candle late at night and sit shmirah from here, adding my prayers for a sense of calm and nechama to surround those doing ‘The Work’ in Pittsburg.
We are All One Chevrah, a Sacred Society of people who share a deep sense of commonality and calling, even if we have never met. We show up in the most distressing of times, times when many others would run in the opposite direction, or at least for as long as possible, pretend that dying is not an integral part of living. We are All One Chevrah, and we are in this together.
Our need for regional networking is not always due to a disaster of proportions such as the tragedy in Pittsburg. Sometimes it is simply a need for knowledge or expertise in the local or regional Who’s Who, such as a call that comes from another county asking for contact information, perhaps for a Chevrah willing to perform a Taharah prior to a cremation for someone who has already died, who asked to have their remains returned to a family plot far away; or for a cemetery able to accommodate the burial of indigent remains; or perhaps a newly-founded Chevrah facing a challenging situation; or as once happened to me, to convene an experienced Taharah team in another city, where the body of my soul sister’s only child was to be buried after a deadly car accident.
We need each other, and thankfully, we have each other. We are All One Chevrah, and it is up to us to network, regionally and nationally, so we are prepared. One of the Leadership roles of a Chevrah Kadisha is to HOLD THE WHOLENESS when Life includes a Death. Part of the transition from Tamei to Tahor is the restoration of a sense of Shleimut to the community, however small or large the radius of that circle may be. And part of holding that wholeness is networking, knowing one another, who to call and when.
It is preparedness, but it is more than that…it is realizing that we are here for one another; cherishing and nurturing those connections in online education, deepening the ways we know one another through chevrutah; and attending conferences such as the Kavod v’Nichum conference in Colorado this June. It also means reaching out to our own and other local congregations, havurah groups and Jewish community centers.
We are All One Chevrah!
Natural Deathcare advocate, author, educator, Gamliel Institute faculty and Rosha of the Community Chevra Kaddisha of Santa Cruz, California, Holly Blue Hawkins provides training in a wide variety of end-of-life subjects, to both Jewish and secular settings. Holly Blue serves as Roshah for her Chevrah, and is a student of the Gamliel Institute, as well as an instructor for several courses, and has presented numerous topics at the last several Kavod v’Nichum conferences. She has presented at Limmud in various settings, including England. She has extensive experience in end-of-life matters, from legal to practical, and training in a wide variety of areas. This is her first blog for Expired And Inspired, but it will not be her last.