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Chevra Kadisha (Burial Society) and Cemetery
Our tradition teaches us that it is a great honor to care for the dead and their bereaved families. Temple Israel is fortunate to have its own Chevra Kadisha to carry on this age-old tradition of service and support. Presently, our Chevra includes approximately 20 members. We also have both a Jewish Cemetery and an Interfaith Cemetery on Log Plain Road East in Greenfield.
We are often asked questions about Jewish law and tradition concerning care and burial of the deceased. If you have any questions, please feel free to call Marc Kaufmann, (413) 625-9708 (Home), (413) 695-2838 (Cell) or Shirin Morris, (413) 834-3552 (cell)
Information Regarding Jewish Burial
TAHARA, the ritual washing and dressing of a Jewish body in preparation for burial, is a symbolic purification of the body as it passes from this world, olam hazeh, to the next world, olam haba. Family members do not participate in this ritual; it is performed within 24 hours after death by the Chevra Kadisha, volunteers from the Jewish community. Tahara, governed by the principle of respect for the body which housed the soul of the deceased, is performed only on a body which has not been embalmed. Tahara is required for burial in Temple Israel's Jewish and Interfaith cemeteries as well as prior to cremation if the cremains are to be buried in the cemetery.
Three pitchers of water are poured over the body, always modestly covered with a sheet, while prayers are recited. Psalms are also read by one member of the Chevra throughout the ritual.
The body is dried and dressed in tachrichim, a white cotton shroud patterned on the clothing of the High Priest when he entered the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur. This clothing consists of trousers, a shirt, an overblouse/coat, and a head covering. Every Jew is buried in the same clothing, symbolizing the equality of all in the eyes of G-d. Men and women who wore a tallit in life are buried with their tallit. Finally, a large sheet is placed in the casket, earth from Israel is placed on it; the body is laid atop the sheet and wrapped in it. The face is covered, the casket is closed, and a final prayer is offered.
- When a death occurs, contact the Rabbi (413-772-8689 or [email protected]) or the Temple Office (413-773-5884). The Rabbi will contact a member of the Chevra Kadisha. If neither the Rabbi nor the office administrator is available, call Marc Kaufmann or Shirin Morris at the numbers above. Some people prefer to call the funeral home of their choice first.
- The Chevra Kadisha will perform the Tahara, the traditional ritual purification of the body, and will clothe the body in the simple white shroud customary for Jewish burial. This ritual is required for Jewish burial in both of our cemeteries. It is done as soon as possible after a death has occurred, preferably within 24 hours.
- The Tahara can be performed subsequent to organ donation.
- Under certain circumstances, a Tahara may be performed at a home or at a location other than a funeral home. If you are considering this, it is important that you read Out Of Funeral Home Tahara Guidelines.
- Jewish law prohibits autopsies in most circumstances. Contact the Rabbi before authorizing an autopsy.
- Neither embalming nor cosmetology is allowed in Jewish burial.
- As a general rule, burial should occur as soon as possible after death. If burial must be delayed beyond 72 hours, the Rabbi must be consulted.
- There is no public viewing of the body.
- The coffin must be made of completely biodegradable materials (e.g., wood), with no metallic components, including fasteners, and is traditionally very simple in design.
- The coffin contains only the body clad in the traditional shroud, free of jewelry or any other objects.
- Temple Israel cemetery plots may be purchased from our Chevra Kadisha. (See below for burial plot prices, as well as other fees).
- Cremated remains may be buried only in the Interfaith Cemetery, and a Tahara for a Jewish person is required prior to cremation.
- Floral arrangements are not customary at a Jewish funeral service.
- No plantings are permitted at Temple Israel cemeteries.
- Vaults of any kind are not allowed in our cemeteries.
- Burials are not permitted on the Jewish Sabbath or on Jewish holidays that forbid work.
- Designs of markers shall be submitted to the Rabbi/Spiritual Leader and/or the President of the Chevra Kadisha or designated alternate for approval. Gravestones shall be consistent in size and design with existing markers, and must be erected within one year from the date of burial.
Information Regarding Burial in Temple Israel Interfaith Cemetery
- Any member of the Jewish faith and any near relative of that person may be buried in this cemetery. "Near relative" is defined as any parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or partner of the Jewish person.
- Any clergy may officiate at the burial of a non-Jewish person, in consultation with the Rabbi or spiritual leader of Temple Israel. We recommend that religious funeral services be performed at an appropriate house of worship or funeral home.
- Jewish burials in the Interfaith Cemetery must follow the same requirements as described above, in the section above on Information Regarding Jewish Burial
- Burials are not permitted on the Jewish Sabbath or Jewish religious holidays that forbid work.
- Cremated remains may be interred in the Temple Israel Interfaith Cemetery. One or two cremains may occupy a single burial plot. A Tahara is required for a Jewish person prior to cremation. One gravestone marker (headstone or footstone) is allowed per plot.
- Cemetery plots may be purchased from our Burial Society. (See below for costs.)
- Only Jewish or non-denominational symbols and inscriptions shall be engraved on the headstone or footstone. Designs of markers shall be submitted to the Rabbi/Spiritual Leader and/or the President of the Chevrah Kadisha or designated alternate for approval. Gravestones shall be consistent in size and design with existing markers, and must be erected within one year from the date of burial. No planters, shrubs, statues, or any other decoration shall be permitted on a grave site.
Cemetery and Chevra Kadisha Fees
- Member Fee: $450
- Non-Member Fee: $750
Chevra Kadisha Services - Tahara
- Member Fee: $125
- Non-Member Fee: $250
Includes marking grave site and coordination with the funeral home (or others) regarding cemetery
- Member Fee: $150
- Non-Member Fee: $300
A member is defined as a current member of Temple Israel.
For further information about Jewish funerals, burial, and mourning, visit www.jewish-funerals.org.
Green Burial: The policies and practices of our Burial Society and Cemetery are generally in keeping with green principles - no embalming, no vaults, no chemicals used on Cemetery grounds, etc. If you would like to know more about Green Burial, visit www.greenburialma.org
Home Funerals: The decision to have a home funeral requires a serious amount of advance planning, study, and knowledge of State regulations and laws. Three resources are www.crossings.net, www.homefuneralalliance.org, and peacefulpassageathome.com.