Submission #341 by Beth El Men's Club - Norfolk, VA (1120)

Submission information
Submitted by hondoman18
Wed, 2013-05-01 11:52
I have read the General Guidelines, "Nuts and Bolts" and Program Advanced Planning (Excel Spreadsheet) Documents
Club Name
Beth El Men's Club - Norfolk, VA (1120)
Ganizah: Ceremony for Burial of Prayer Books and Other Jewish Artifacts
Club Representative
Person completing form
Club President at time of Convention
Club President Now
Hebrew Literacy / Ritual Literacy

Page 1

Genizah ceremony which takes place at a Jewish cemetery when a community or congregation (or even a family) has accumulated a “critical mass” of holy texts and particular ritual objects that can no longer be used. In this particular case, a critical mass is a quantity sufficient to fill a standard burial plot. While there is no casket per se, books and other materials that are to be buried are packed into cardboard boxes or clean pillowcases or even into a shroud before being put into the grave. [Strictly speaking, “genizah” refers to a place set aside in a synagogue to collect holy texts and objects which have become ‘pasul’ or unfit for use. Siddurim, Tanakhim, copies of the Mishnah or Talmud, or a Tikkun qualify for this kind of special treatment. Obvious inclusion goes to a sefer Torah, a Megillah, a mezuzah parchment, and tefillin. Kippot or yarmulkes are definitely not considered holy objects even if yours is very special to you. A genizah ceremony takes place only when needed and at a Jewish cemetery. A grave (or more) is opened and the objects needing burial are carefully placed inside. Once full, the grave is covered just as it would be if a person had just been buried. There are no clearly defined elements or prayers required; those performing the burial create their own ceremony. Following the burial, one would wash one’s hands as usual for having been in a cemetery. A simple marker is placed at the grave though without the unveiling ceremony that is customarily performed for a person.
This program took six months to plan. We gathered up all old prayer books, Old and worn Tallits and Tefillin. I had to search for two graves at a local cemetery and a funeral home to assist with the burial of the items. This had to be coordinated with the superintendent of the Cemeteries to get a permit to have this done. A family donated the graves and a local funeral home donated all of their services. This was in our monthly bulletin as well as our men's club weekly emails. Members of the Sunday School and their families participated and we had newspaper coverage as well as TV coverage. Some of our men climbed down the ladder into the two graves and stacked the boxes of prayer books in rows so we could get all of the boxes in the grave before the tractors dropped the tons of dirt in the grave. The ceremony took about one hour and then we stood by and watched as the tractors filled the graves with dirt and smoothed the dirt over. Then we all left knowing, we had completed a beautiful mitzvah, from beginning to end.

Page 2

Self Assessment
This was a most moving experience for all who attended especially our Sunday School Students who some had never been to a burial. Our Rabbi explained the difference between this burial of books vs the burial of a loved one. We did Kaddish Rabbahnan but no mourners kaddish and instead of shoveling dirt, the tractors covered the two graves. It was a warm feeling and brought you closer to Hashem. This was the first time a Synagogue has ever done anything like this publicly in 23 years. I feel the parents as well as the children took a way a much closer to feeling to the important objects we use in our every day Jewish life.
This program that we did was based on Hebrew and Ritual Literacy. The burial of sacred books and objects as compared to the burial of a loved one. Most rituals were followed. The differences were in the closing of the grave. Since this was not a person, we allowed the tractors to drop the dirt into the grave; the washing of hands did take place, since we were at cemetery, no meal of consolation and no Mourners Kaddish. We did recite the Kaddish Rabbahnan since our Rabbi spent thirty minutes doing an educational program at the grave for the Sunday School Students. This was mandatory for them to be there since classes were cancelled for this purpose.
This event definitely supported community involvement. This included the members of the men's club, Sunday school staff and parents and kids, clergy, newspaper, city officials, funeral home, cemetery superintendent. The community has a much better feel as to the importance of our prayer books, Tallecim, Teffilins and other important Jewish objects and what they mean to us. I will be forwarding a CD to the Torch Award Chairman via US MAIL. He has been advised. Never won a Gold Award.
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