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Registration for Course 2 - Chevra Kadisha:

Taharah and Shmirah


Instructors: Rick Light, Rabbi Joe Blair, and Yael Galinson with guest instructors

Tuesdays,  January 3 – March 21, 2023; 8:00pm ET, 5:00pm PT; 90 minutes per class 

Pricing: Early-bird rate $400 until 12/15; then $500 (20% group discounts and clergy rates are offered)

The central elements of Chevra Kadisha practice include the rituals of taharah —preparation of the body for burial; and shmirah—the watching (or “guarding”) of the body between death and burial. This course addresses liturgy, training, safety, and more.

The central elements of Chevra Kadisha practice include the two important rituals of taharah, the preparation of the body for burial; and shmirah, the watching (or “guarding”) of the body between death and burial. This course addresses liturgy, training, safety, and complications. This course examines the Jewish religious significance of what a Chevra Kadisha does, as we examine the meanings of the rituals associated with taharah and shmirah. Students explore not only the physical and emotional aspects of these rituals but also delve into the liturgy behind them and how to understand why the liturgy works the way it does. This course provides students with a tremendous amount of detail and useful information to take back home to their Chevrot and helps students develop a significantly deeper understanding of these sacred tasks.

Topic areas include:

  • Taharah and shmirah basics, common practices, variations, minhagim
  • Performing these rituals during a pandemic
  • Understanding tahor and tamei
  • Chevra and taharah leadership
  • Chevra policy considerations
  • Taharah complications
  • Handling emotional aspects of this work
  • Liturgy and taharah manuals, mystical foundations, how liturgy works
  • Tachrichim and Aronot
  • Health and safety precautions for taharah
  • Emotional aspects of this work
  • Taharah and shmirah facilities

Course Overview Zoom Session was held December 4th, 2022

Click here to view the recording of the Information and Overview Zoom Session from Dec 4th

Click here to view the Overview slides 


Rick Light

Rick is a leader in the community of those who prepare Jewish deceased for burial, has published four books related to death (of the seven he has published), including the award-winning 2016 publication, Jewish Rites of Death, Stories of Beauty and Transformation.  For 18 years Rick was the leader of a local Chevrah Kadisha he started in 1996. He is a graduate of and an instructor for the Gamliel Institute, and has led local trainings  in many communities in the US.  He continues to teach and raise awareness about Jewish death and burial practices at the local, state, and national levels. For more visit

Rabbi Joe Blair

Rabbi Joe is the Dean of Administration and a faculty member for the Gamliel Institute, and on the staff of Kavod v’Nichum,. Rabbi Joe attended the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and was ordained and earned a Master of Hebrew Letters degree. Following graduation, Joe entered into the academic world with Hillel at Duke University, and then moved to the Hillel at the University of Virginia. After a few years, he became a full-time pulpit rabbi, serving two small congregations in the central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He remained with those congregations for 15 years before taking his current pulpit in Charleston WV.  He holds a B.A. from the College of Arts and Sciences at UVA, a M.C.S. from the Graduate School of Engineering at UVA, and a J.D. from Marshall-Wythe School of Law at William & Mary College (and was admitted to the Bar in Virginia and the Fourth Circuit). He was honored to be involved as the source indexer for the Stanford University publication of the Pritzker Edition of The Zohar, with translation and commentary by Daniel Matt. Joe was selected to be a Star Peer Rabbi, and has served as adjunct faculty member at multiple colleges and universities. He is a principal in the Jewish Values Online project (, and previously served as coordinator and respondent for the online Ask A Rabbi service.

Yael Galinson

Yael has a Masters and PhD in Education from UC Berkeley. Her professional experience includes working as a teacher, education researcher, program coordinator, and lecturer. Yael is passionate about providing comfort and connection to those who are facing sickness, death, and bereavement. She began her work in the field as a hospice volunteer at George Mark Children's House when it opened in 2002. She is currently a hospice and bereavement volunteer with Alameda Sutter Care at Home. She is involved in Jewish end-of-life work as a Gamliel student, as the coordinator of the Chevrah Kadisha at her synagogue, and as a board member of Sinai Memorial Chapel.


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Rabbis, cantors, kohenot, and chaplains get a discounted course tuition rate.
The Core Curriculum includes the following courses: Course 1 - Origins and Evolution; Course 2 - Taharah and Shmirah; Course 3 - Education and Organization; Course 4 - Nechamah; Course 5 - Liturgy and Practice.

Welcome to the Gamliel Institute! We are delighted to have you in our community.

Please know that Kavod v'Nichum values inclusion and respectful conversation. When you attend a Gamliel course, you enter into a holy space that might include multiple denominations, religious observances, and political thoughts. Please be sure that your comments and questions are respectful and aware of the kaleidoscope of learners and views around you. 

To help guide you through your engagement with our classes, you will be assigned an advisor to whom you can address questions about your participation as well as any concerns you might have. To become familiar with the Gamliel Institute policies and practices, please refer to the Academic Bulletin.

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Course Fees

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Multiple Chevrah Member Discount

When three or more members from the same chevrah register for a course, they each receive 20% off the full course registration. Please select the Multiple CK Member registration amount below, and fill in the number of members for which you are registering as the quantity.

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