April 12, 2024
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Teaneck/Bergenfield Chevra Kadisha Invites Community to Mark Zayin Adar

The 7th of Adar II, which this year falls on Thursday, March 17, will mark the nearly 20th anniversary of The Day of Introspection held by the Chevra Kadisha of Teaneck and Bergenfield.” The Hebrew date marks the Yahrzeit of Moshe Rabbeinu, our peerless leader whose humility in serving the needs of his people is our model of what the chevra kadisha is all about. In a humble and private way, we perform the ultimate mitzvah of chesed shel emet by preparing our deceased loved ones for their heavenly abode,” said Joseph Appel, chairperson of the Bnai Yeshurun Chevra and organizer of the other local chevras.

Since the late 1970s, Appel has been actively involved in the men’s chevra kadisha, forming committees, organizing shifts for the performance of taharot, readying the homes of families for the week of shiva, and generally providing comfort to mourners during their stressful and emotional periods. Many late-night calls have come into the Appel home, followed by numerous calls to schedule and arrange pick-ups and deliveries to the funeral homes, at first Wein & Wein in Englewood and for many years Gutterman and Musicant in Hackensack. “Over the years we have dealt with special situations such as missing persons and suicides, specifically through drowning. Under these circumstances, the bodies must be identified which is often a complicated process.”

Preceding her husband in the performance of this ultimate mitzvah is Linda Appel, whose involvement dates back to 1975. Mrs. Appel was interested in learning about the tahara process as her father had been a member of the chevra kadisha in Riverdale. As a young woman, she attended the series of lectures by former Bnai Yeshurun Rabbi Macy Gordon. At the conclusion of the class, he asked for volunteers to chair the group in formation. Even today, Appel remembers how timidly she put up her hand to volunteer and how this slight movement of the hand has made a difference in her life. “After nearly 35 years with the chevra kadisha, I can truly say that it was a special gift from Hashem, a true privilege, to be able to participate in this lofty mitzvah of chesed shel emet. In the greater scheme of life, we don’t need a name down here—but upstairs.”

Both Joseph and Linda Appel pay deep tribute to their mentor in this project over the past many years. Rabbi Elchanan Zohn, director of the Vaad Harabanim of Queens Chevra Kadisha and founder and director of the National Association of Chevra Kadisha (NASCK), has been at their side to answer difficult questions of practice under specific and unusual circumstances. Over the past decade, with the advancement in life-prolonging medical procedures, questions have arisen about the proper removal of tubes and other instruments from a meit.

As the communities have grown, individual shuls have organized their own chevra kadisha committees and consulted their own rabbis on issues that arose. According to Joseph Appel, the move to decentralize has made the service more efficient and available. “I am very thankful to all of the community members who serve as volunteers in this lofty endeavor. Over the years, I have found people to unhesitantly participate in this mitzvah. Included in our team are doctors who are present at each tahara to provide needed professional input. We thank them for the time they take out of their practices to join us,” he said.

The Appels are particularly proud of the stepping-up of young members of the community to become involved in this holy work. “The fact that young people are volunteering and taking the mantle of leadership is most gratifying and tells us that our work will be perpetuated in the best way possible.”

The 7th of Adar seuda will mark the culmination of the Day of Introspection during which chevra kadisha members traditionally fast. Each year the seudah takes place at a different host shul. This year, Congregation Keter Torah will host. In past years it has been held at Bnai Yeshurun, Rinat, Beth Aaron and Beth Abraham. Each year features a special inspirational speaker and this year is no exception. Rabbi Duvie Weiss, assistant rabbi at Keter Torah, will deliver a dvar Torah to mark the occasion. Former speakers have included Rabbi Elchanan Zohn, Rabbi Steven Weil, Rabbi Steven Pruzansky and Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt.

The schedule for the evening is as follows: For those members of the chevra who will be fasting to mark the occasion, the fast begins on Thursday morning at 5:42 a.m. Mincha with leining is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The fast concludes at 7:42 p.m., followed by the seuda at 7:45 p.m.

This year, community members are invited and encouraged to attend in honor of the day and to applaud the outstanding efforts of the community’s chevra kadisha. Couvert is $15 per person before March 10 and $18 subsequently. To RSVP, please contact Warren Levy of Keter Torah at [email protected].

By Pearl Markovitz

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