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The Chief Rabbi’s Chevra Kadisha Seminar attracts volunteers from across the UK at first event of its kind

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Over 120 members of regional Chevrot Kadisha came together for the first time last Sunday at an unprecedented seminar dedicated to providing practical training in the preparation of a Jewish person for burial (Tahara). Demonstrations for both male and female volunteers formed the cornerstone of a programme which also recapped on the halachic (Jewish legal) requirements for those safeguarding the deceased and provided insight into both coronial procedure and the advent of scanning for Jewish communities.

The day-long seminar at Prestwich Hebrew Congregation, which welcomed delegates from Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Hale, Leicester, Liverpool, Hull, Newcastle and elsewhere, was devised by the Chief Rabbi to show his appreciation for volunteers. Dayan Gelley, Rosh Beth Din of the London Beth Din, opened the event by explaining the halachot volunteers must observe, immediately following a person’s death, taking questions throughout.

After lunch, Professor M. Jennifer Leeming, Senior Coroner for Manchester West and Shlome Sinitsky, volunteer liaison between burial societies and Coroner’s Offices in London, gave a joint presentation. This covered new ground for many participants and helped to demystify the role and remit of the Coroner. It also confirmed a person’s right to request scans instead of post-mortems, given the latter procedure is invasive and regarded in Judaism as compromising the sanctity of the body.  Mr Sinitsky was instrumental in standardising the practice of using scans in London 15 years ago, so drew on his experience to explain this further.

Throughout the day, participants enjoyed engaging and networking with others similarly committed to this essential mitzvah and noted with interest the regional differences between minhagim (customs) observed during Taharot.

Dayan Berger, Av Beth Din of the Manchester Beth Din, gave well-received Divrei Bracha (words of blessing) during lunch, before the Chief Rabbi expressed his delight at the turnout and opened the floor to questions to the theme of ‘Where do we go from here?’

One participant said: ‘It was the first time in 39 years of involvement [in Chevra Kadisha work] that I have been offered a demonstration. It was great, and the talk by the Coroner was also very relevant and beneficial.’

The Chief Rabbi told delegates: ‘Let no Chevra Kadisha in the country feel that they are operating without anyone to approach for guidance. Come to us, come to the Dayanim, come to your Rabbanim with your questions.’