Rochel U. Berman
Publisher: Urim Publications
Foreword by Rabbi Irving Greenberg
A basic tenet of Judaism is the obligation to value and serve the deceased, to extend dignity beyond death.
In Judaism, a death is the affair of the entire community. Preparation of the dead for burial is undertaken by a community organization called the Chevra Kadisha, the Sacred Society. The volunteers of the Sacred Society quietly and privately wash, purify and dress the deceased. They simultaneously recite lyrical prayers from Psalms, thereby bearing witness to death as the last of life’s important passages.
Dignity Beyond Death examines the rituals of preparing the dead for burial from the point of view of those volunteers who undertake it, including chapters on the Holocaust and terrorism. For the first time, through personal interviews, the author shares a wealth of fascinating anecdotal material that will engage the reader in the humanity and ultimate dignity of this time-honored deed.
Rochel Udovitch Berman was a member of the Congregation Rosh Pinah Chevra Kadisha in Westchester, N.Y. for seventeen years. She is currently a member of the Boca Raton Synagogue Chevra Kadisha and serves as a consultant to the Congregation B’nai Torah Chevra Kadisha in Boca Raton, Florida. In 2004, she narrated a Public Broadcasting System segment on Chevra Kadisha that aired on Religion & Ethics Newsweekly. Mrs. Berman holds a master’s degree in group work and community organization from Hunter College School of Social Work and has written and lectured extensively. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times, Hadassah Magazine, Voluntary Action Leadership, The Gerontologist and Religious Education. As a public relations professional, she has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the “Best of the Big Apple,” given by the Public Relations Society of America for her work on the First International Gathering of Children Hidden During World War II. Most recently, Mrs. Berman held the post of Executive Director of the American Society for Yad Vashem. She lives with her husband, George, in Boca Raton, Florida.
Rabbi Irving Greenberg is the president of the Jewish Life Network/ Steinhardt Foundation and the author of The Jewish Way: Living the Holidays (Simon & Shuster, 1988), Living in the Image of God: Jewish Teachings to Perfect the World (with Shalom Freedman; Jason Aronson, 1998), and For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity (Jewish Publication Society, 2004).
Praise for Dignity Beyond Death:
“Dignity Beyond Death is a passionate and deeply informed study of one of the most ancient and significant rituals of Jewish practice. Written in a lively and engaging style by one whose authority is drawn from long-time experience, this book will serve as a standard for years to come.”
-Professor Froma I. Zeitlin, Director of Judaic Studies, Princeton University
“This book will shed light on an often overlooked, profoundly beautiful and deeply human ritual practice, which will have enormous appeal for observant and non-observant Jews alike.”
-Rabbi Irving Greenberg, President of the Jewish Life Network
“…a must for Jews confronting issues of death and mourning in their personal or professional lives. Jews and non-Jews alike will be compelled by the implicit contrast with modern commercial funerary practices.”
-Mary Rose Noberini, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, Manhattan College
"Dignity Beyond Death brings together the voices of ordinary people engaged in an extraordinary task. In its pages we learn about the deep spiritual meaning that Judaism attaches to death and the preparation for burial. The impact of this mitzvah on the volunteer members of the Chevra Kadisha is sensitively rendered in this compelling volume. Rochel Berman continues her acts of loving kindness by sharing this world with all of us."
-Rabbi Kenneth Brander, Senior Rabbi, Boca Raton Synagogue