COVID-19 (CORONA VIRUS UPDATE)
To the Calgary Jewish Community,
As we continue to make our way through this pandemic with an end hopefully soon to come, we pray that everyone in the community is keeping safe and well.
Our governments and health authorities are slowly beginning to ease restrictions, and the Chevra Kadisha is also adjusting our practices. Our focus remains on following mourning practices as best as possible while keeping the health risk to a minimum.
Physical/social distancing remains a key to holding the virus in check. Thus, funeral and unveiling services will continue to be at graveside only and the Chapel will remain closed to the public. We ask that families restrict those in attendance at services to 20 people. Those attending a service will be required to wear a mask for their own protection, and if they wish to participate in the mitzvah of burial, are asked to wear gloves when using shovels. As before, anyone feeling unwell should refrain from attending a service. Bereaved families are encouraged to consider the use of virtual platforms such as ZOOM to enable additional family and friends to participate in funerals.
Announcements of funerals and unveilings will continue to remind the community that, until further notice, to comply with restrictions on gatherings, all services will remain “private services”. While we are aware that it is difficult to bury a loved one without the additional support of extended family and friends, our adherence to these protocols allows us to report that there have been no COVID-19 related cases arising from our gatherings.
We will still be meeting with bereaved families “virtually” whenever possible through video links or over the telephone. We continue to advise families that in order to proceed with funerals promptly, they not wait for anyone who may be required to self-quarantine.
Even though COVID restrictions are slowly being relaxed, the arrival of warmer weather provides the opportunity for mourning families to consider outdoor physically-distanced shiva minyanim as a way to gather to say Kaddish and provide consolation.
We will continue to adjust our practices to stay in line with guidelines recommended by our governing authorities. However, should circumstances change adversely, we are aware we may be required to revert to “lockdown” practices again.
We wish everyone good health, and may we soon see an end to this crisis. We salute all those who continue to serve the well-being of our community during these challenging times.
A Voluntary Service to The Jewish Community
The Chevra Kadisha, literally “The Holy Society,” is Calgary’s oldest Jewish communal organization.
Its mandate to provide Jewish burial services and is the continuation of an age-old tradition of burying the dead with dignity, with proper ritual, and as a communal service. Over a thousand burials have been conducted by the Calgary Chevra Kadisha over a 112 year period, all by dedicated volunteers from every spectrum of the community.
The Chevra Kadisha was formed in 1904 when Calgary had only a few Jewish families. An infant, Goldie Bell, died. Her father, Nathan Bell, and Jacob Diamond approached the City and the Jews of Calgary purchased a small plot adjacent to Union Cemetery on 30th Avenue S., on what is now Macleod Trail.
The “Hebrew Burying Ground” cost the tiny Jewish community $160, a substantial sum for the time. There was one burial in 1904 and one in 1906, and there were seven in 1907. The original plot of land was expanded in 1907, and again in 1909.
When the Congregation House of Jacob was formed in 1907, the Chevra Kadisha was carried on by a synagogue committee (with essentially the same leadership). The community was growing rapidly, and in 1914 the Chevra Kadisha was incorporated as an independent society. First President was Charles Malkin.
Funeral services were conducted in a small building on the cemetery site, from private homes, and later at cooperating funeral homes.
The original cemetery continued to expand, and in 1943, the Chevra Kadisha took over management of a Jewish section of Queen’s Park Cemetery. In 1976, a third Jewish cemetery opened, and is owned and operated by the Beth Tzedec Synagogue.
In 1961, the Chevra Kadisha opened its own funeral chapel on 17th Avenue W. The Chevra Kadisha is now located at the North East corner of Highway 22X and 37 Street SW. Here women and men still religiously perform Tahara – the ritual care and preparation of the deceased – arrange the memorial service, and supervise burial.
It is a labour of love, and a dedication to faith and community.
101, 17818 – 37 Street SW, T2Y 0M9
Corner of 37 Street SW and Highway 22x ( Spruce Meadow Trail)
PHONE: 403-244-4717 (24 Hours)
President Bill Aizanman received a Shem Tov award from Calgary Jewish Federation president Bruce Libin June 21, 2017 in recognition of his years of service. Bill has been a Chevra Kadisha executive member for 26 years, serving as president for 23 years