Image: Members of the Prague Chevrah Kadisha Pray at a Deathbed. (By Buchhändler (Prag, Jüdisches Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, c.1772)
We can assist the Jews of Pittsburgh as they mourn is to help them with the enormous task of burying their dead. Traditional Jewish burial requires that the bodies of the dead be washed by a team called a chevrah kadisha, or “holy society.” To learn more about chevrah kadisha and their work, I recommend MyJewishLearning.com’s excellent article on the subject.
Members of the chevrah kadisha receive special training in the handling and washing of the remains of the dead, so as to preserve their modesty and bury them with the utmost dignity. In order to meet the need of caring for so many dead at once, chevrah kadisha teams are traveling to Pittsburgh from other cities to assist. A GoFundMe campaign has been established to help with the expense of travel and housing, and for support for the Pittsburgh chevra kadisha, who are themselves mourners. The description from the GoFundMe site:
Funds raised from this campaign will be potentially used to subsidize the cost of numerous out-of-towners who have expressed keen interest in assisting with the monumental tasks of preparing the dead for a speedy and dignified burial (Tahahrah), and/or sitting guard for certain periods (acting as Shomrim). Counselling services may also be required for those performing such work. Additionally, funds may be used to assist in preparing Shiva (mourning period) meals for some of the bereaved families. Other needs may emerge through additional, on the ground consultation as we provide assistance and guidance to their people.
All of the monies raised through this campaign will go directly to the local burial society and their members as required, and as their needs emerge over the next few days and weeks.
I learned about this fund from a local leader of our chevrah kadisha here in California. I am grateful to Dan Fendel for bringing it to my attention. I am confident in recommending it to all readers who would like to help.
Burying the dead is a great mitzvah, because it is a kindness that cannot be reciprocated. By assisting those carrying out that mitzvah, we can participate in this holy work.
To contribute to the Pittsburgh Chevrah Kadisha Fund, click the link.