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How Jewish Funerals are Impacted by COVID-19
Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert Gail Rubin, The Doyenne of Death, Funeral Expert
Albuquerque, NM
Friday, March 27, 2020

Gail Rubin, CT, The Doyenne of Death®

As more people die during the COVID-19 pandemic, the impact of the CDC guidelines extends to funeral directors, cemeterians, and cremationists who serve families of the dead. Jewish funeral traditions involve the community in keeping the body company, preparing the body for burial, and coming together to comfort the mourners.

Putting the community at a distance goes against centuries of Jewish funeral traditions. Yet in these unprecedented times, we must physically distance ourselves, even in mourning. Here is a statement by Jewish funeral director Syd Waldman, Waldman Funeral Care about the steps he is taking to keep the public safe.

Waldman Funeral Care Statement

Jewish star on casketThere is an overarching principle in Judaism to live our lives in such a way as to protect health and life above all else. 

After consulting with Kavod v'Nichum (Honor & Comfort) and the Congregation Emanu El Cemetery Committee, which I have sat on for more than 20 years; I have created the following guidelines which Waldman Funeral Care (WFC) will follow for the duration of this National (World) Health Crises.

First: WFC will ask the Chevra Kadisha not to come into the Funeral Home to perform a Taharah. This is consistent with latest recommendations from Kavod v'Nichum.

Our panel of experts now strongly recommends that during these periods of widespread transmission of COVID-19, and especially when communities are told to limit personal exposure, Chevra Kadisha groups should not do any form of taharot.

Second: If the Chevra Kadisha wants to send a single member to the Funeral Home to recite the Taharah Prayers in the lobby, WFC will accommodate them.

Third: WFC will strictly enforce the orders of the City, County, State and Federal Health Officials to limit the size of gatherings at the Graveside to eight family members plus the Funeral Director and Clergy person…staying at the 10-person limit. Everyone will maintain personal distancing of six plus feet.

Fourth: To help facilitate #3, WFC will not offer a tent or chairs at the Graveside Service.

When there's no tent/chairs available, family members will take advantage of the open space and self-distance with additional space between themselves, the casket and Clergy. If a family member needs a chair, they can bring one for themselves.

Fifth: WFC will provide small plastic bags of sand to each mourner to place on top of the casket, rather than touch a shovel/trowel handle. The Clergy will continue to have the opportunity to pour Israeli soil on the casket.

Sixth: WFC will only offer the laminated Kaddish Cards and not printed Service Folders. WFC staff will hand them out directly from the large zip lock bag in which they are stored in, so as not to touch them before the family members take one. We will announce these cards are to be taken home. Kippah will be treated in much the same way as the Kaddish Cards. We will ask the family members to take them home.

Syd WaldmanSeven: WFC staff is working hard to get the necessary equipment to be able to live-stream the Graveside Service. Allowing those additional family members who are not able to gather at the graveside to be a part of the service remotely, thereby helping them find some comfort and closure.

"This is a spiritually painful time for me," said Waldman. "I have prided myself in delivering a sacred Jewish Funeral for a Jewish deceased and their loving family. I know the families I work with and the Jewish Community professionals will understand these extraordinary measures I am taking to keep everyone safe during these days."


Gail Rubin, CT, is author and host of the award-winning book and television series, A Good Goodbye: Funeral Planning for Those Who Don’t Plan to Die, Hail and Farewell: Cremation Ceremonies, Templates and Tips, and KICKING THE BUCKET LIST: 100 Downsizing and Organizing Things to Do Before You Die.

Rubin is a Certified Thanatologist (that's a death educator) and a popular speaker who uses humor and films to get the end-of-life and funeral planning conversation started. She "knocked 'em dead" with her TEDx talk, A Good Goodbye. She provides continuing education credit classes for attorneys, doctors, nurses, social workers, hospice workers, financial planners, funeral directors and other professionals. She's a Certified Funeral Celebrant and funeral planning consultant who has been interviewed in national and local print, broadcast and online media.

Known as The Doyenne of Death®, she is the event coordinator of the Before I Die NM Festival. She also hosts A Good Goodbye Internet radio show and produces Mortality Minute radio and online video spots. Her YouTube Channel features more than 450 videos!

Rubin is a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association, Toastmasters International and the National Speakers Association New Mexico Chapter. Her speaking profile is available at eSpeakers.com.

Gail Rubin has been interviewed about funeral planning issues in national and local broadcast, print and online media. Outlets include The Huffington Post, Money Magazine, Kiplinger, CBS Radio News, WGN-TV,  and local affiliates for NPR, PBS, FOX, ABC-TV, CBS-TV and NBC-TV. Albuquerque Business First named her as one of their 2019 Women of Influence.

Sign up for a free planning form and occasional informative newsletter at her website, AGoodGoodbye.com.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Gail Rubin
Group: A Good Goodbye
Dateline: Albuquerque, NM United States
Direct Phone: 505-265-7215
Cell Phone: 505-363-7514
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