COVID-19 (CORONA VIRUS) UPDATE
To the Calgary Jewish community,
By now, everyone is likely aware of the Covid-19 (corona) virus and its effect on our lives. Many organizations and businesses have been posting messages to the public on how they are managing this concern as it pertains to their specific organization.
The Chevra Kadisha of Calgary has also implemented practices to reduce the risk from this virus. Our priorities remain to preserve the health of our community and our volunteers while at the same time, try to preserve the services and customs we offer which are considered essential by our community.
Public health and government authorities have declared large gatherings of people, or gatherings attended by out of town people or those who are medically compromised, as risky and to be avoided. Many of our mourning practices (funerals, shiva visits, etc.) are of this type of activity. Therefore, until further notice, we will be asking that funerals occurring at our site be restricted to graveside services only. Funeral attendees wishing to use our facilities will be admitted to our building individually to avoid gatherings in enclosed spaces and will be asked to sanitize their hands at the door both when entering and leaving. These attendees will also be asked to maintain safe distances from others while at services, and to wear gloves if they wish to participate in the mitzvah of burial. While we recognize that mourners are often from out of town, waiting for a self-isolation period to conclude before holding a funeral will not be possible if we are to perform the mitzvah of burial according to Jewish mourning practices.
As much as possible, bereaved families needing to make arrangements will be asked to reach us by phone to minimize direct contact. Anyone needing to contact us will be asked to phone us initially, again to reduce frequency of direct contact. Families will be reminded of the risks of large shiva gatherings and to use discretion in their mourning.
We will also be working to maintain the highest standard of cleanliness in our facility. Anyone feeling unwell or just returning from an out of country trip, volunteers and guests alike, will be asked to refrain from coming to our building and to seek medical care as needed.
Circumstances involving the corona virus are constantly changing, and it may be necessary to adjust these policies on short notice. It is our hope that this situation will resolve in the very near future and we can soon return to our usual practices.
Until then, we wish everyone good health and remind you to follow the advice of health professionals.
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