The Chevra K’vod Hamet is a volunteer group of men and women who perform the ancient Jewish ritual of preparing people for burial as an act of lovingkindness. The Chevra creates a personal dimension by caring for the dead and the bereaved and being part of something greater than themselves, thereby strengthening the bond between the Chevra members and the congregation.
The Chevra K’vod Hamet serves as an umbrella over three areas: Shomrim, Chevra Kadisha (Taharah), and Hineinu.
In Jewish tradition, volunteer Shomrim watch over the deceased from the time of death until they are buried because the neshama (soul) is believed to be present until the time of burial. Shmirah is a chesed shel emet , an act of lovingkindness, which is a final act of compassion toward our departing fellow Jews and is greatly appreciated by the deceased’s family.
Local congregations have come together to form Austin Shmirah , a Jewish community-wide group to coordinate Shomrim in order to meet the entire community’s needs. To sign up for Austin Shmirah , please fill out the short survey. If you choose to sit for other congregations as well as Temple Beth Shalom, your information will be passed on to the shmirahcoordinators at the congregations you indicate and they pledge to use it only for shmirah-related purposes.
If you have never served as a shomer , we encourage you to consider doing so through Austin Shmirah . No training is needed. You may choose to serve just once in your life, or as often as the need arises and your schedule allows. You may serve your first shift in the company of a more experienced shomer if you wish. You may choose to serve only through Temple Beth Shalom or through other congregations as well.
The Chevra Kadisha prepares the met/metah (the body) for burial. The body leaves the world as it entered. An infant is immediately cleaned and washed when it is born, and so it is when a person leaves the world. Upon death, the soul is ready to be reborn into a new spiritual world. Rehitzah (cleansing), Taharah (ritual purification), and Halbashah (dressing in white shrouds) are performed by the Chevra Kadisha.
When God called, Abraham and Moses each responded "Hineini!" --- "I am here!" Rashi and others tell us that by "hineini" they meant not only that they were present, but that they were ready -- ready to act and ready to do what needed to be done. In the spirit of our ancestors, we want to respond "We are here!" when we are needed.
Hineinu is an endeavor at our Temple to provide services and support to congregants who have faced the loss of a loved one. We hope to expand the ways in which we care for and care about one another during this difficult time.
Guidance on mourning practices, grief counseling resources, support groups, and legal and financial issues will be available, as well as a library of books for both adults and children on coping with death.
Additionally, a trained congregant will be available to family members of the deceased to help with whatever the family might need. This could include initial assistance such as visiting with the family at their home or meeting them at the funeral home, helping with errands, arranging transportation for relatives and friends, preparing the house for guests, accompanying the family to services, and referring them to helpful community resources. Ongoing support might also include such things as marking the end of sh’loshim with the family, helping them to sort belongings, ensuring that they are contacted periodically - especially around holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, and assisting in ordering a headstone and arranging for an unveiling ceremony. Needs will, of course, vary widely. Our aim is to be present -- Hineinu! -- for as much or as little as the family desires.