The Albuquerque Jewish community is already blessed with the first two, and we're working on the third. The "we", of course, through whom these institutions have been and are being developed, is the Jewish Family Service of New Mexico.
The fifty-or-so members of the Albuquerque Chevre Kaddisha - Sacred Society - perform the mitzvah of traditional, ritual preparation for burial, known as tahara (purification), free of charge for any member of the Jewish community.
Chevre Kaddisha members prepare, wash, and dress deceased Jewish people in burial garments in preparation for burial, acccording to traditional Jewish practices. Participation in the Chevre Kaddisha is a mitzvah, an act of lovingkindness.
The Albuquerque Chevre Kaddisha, led by Rabbi Min Kantrowitz, performed 36 taharot - ritual purifications - in 2011 and the first two months of 2012. Of these 36 taharot:
- 20 were men; 16 were women.
- 8 were from Congregation B'nai Israel; 5 were from Congregation Albert.
- 23 were not affiliated with any Albuquerque synagogue.
- 24 were performed at French's; 11 at Daniels; others at Riverside and Direct.
More volunteers - especially men! - are always welcome and always needed.
Why would someone choose to join the Sacred Society? First of all - it's a mitzvah. Second - it's considered a chesed shel emet, an act of lovingkindness that cannot be repaid. And beyond these two - there are as many reasons as there are volunteers.
Please contact Rabbi Kantrowitz if you're thinking about volunteering. And while you're thinking, here are some resources to guide you:
- Abq Jew's Life Next page.
- An article in My Jewish Learning (reprinted from Sh'ma): Why I Joined Our Hevra Kaddisha.
- Two PBS segments from their 2004 Religion and Ethics series: Jewish Burial Practices, and Dignity Beyond Death: The Jewish Preparation for Burial.