Certain passages in our lives stand out as peak moments that create meaning.
Life cycle events can be likened to chapter headings, and they often bring with them monumental changes. Jewish ritual has mastered how to help us to negotiate those changes, whether they are accompanied by joy or sorrow.
CBI is proud to work with you to craft a ceremony that suits your needs and reflects your unique family while preserving the power and beauty of Jewish tradition. We want to share births, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and other celebrations with you. And we will share your grief and help in the event of an illness or a loved one passing away.
People who celebrate life-cycle events with us find it to be a moving, meaningful and deeply spiritual experience.
Naming and Welcoming
We welcome children into Judaism’s brit (covenant) with song, prayer, and blessings. Rabbi Rachel works with each family to ensure a meaningful ritual, whether an in-home brit milah with a mohel/et (trained expert in circumcision), an in-home naming and welcoming ceremony, or an opportunity to call family up to Torah during Shabbat services for a personalized blessing for them and their child.
Bar and Bat Mitzvahs
At thirteen, each Jewish child comes of age, becoming b-mitzvah – a “child of the mitzvot.” After participating in our b-mitzvah prep class, each child is celebrated in a way that suits who they are.
Most of our students choose to celebrate b-mitzvah during Shabbat services. They are called up to Torah, read or chant verses from the scroll, offer aliyah blessings, and give a d’var Torah linking their Torah portion with modern life. (Helping the rabbi lead services is optional but welcome!) Some of our families choose other modes of celebrating this lifecycle moment, for instance, a Shabbat evening gallery showing of midrashic / Torah-related art created by the b-mitzvah student followed by havdalah to mark the transition into Jewish adulthood.
We ask our students to learn for a meaningful amount of time before marking this celebration – ideally, they begin with our younger educational offerings and then learn with Rabbi Rachel and with each other during sixth and seventh grades.
Rabbi Rachel is delighted to preside over congregational weddings and works with each couple to craft a custom, personalized wedding ceremony that is meaningful and real. Our stunning sanctuary and outdoor grounds are beautiful locations to celebrate partners’ commitment. Weddings do need to be scheduled well in advance (and may not take place on Shabbat or festivals), so advance planning is needed.
End of Life
Our chevra kadisha (“holy society,” the group of community volunteers who lovingly dress, bless, and prepare bodies for burial) has been in operation since our community was founded. (As of this writing, the chevra kadisha is on pandemic hiatus, but we look forward to reconvening as soon as health conditions permit.) Here is an essay about a first experience on the chevra kadisha. If you are interested in joining that group, please use our contact us form.
Our cemetery, in the hills of Clarksburg (about ten minutes from the synagogue), is a serene and beautiful final resting place. Burial in our cemetery is reserved for CBI members.
When there is a death and you plan to use the CBI Cemetery in Clarksburg, please immediately call the Flynn & Dagnoli funeral home (413-663-6523). They have 24-hour phone coverage and will contact the Rabbi, the synagogue office, and the Cemetery Committee. Flynn & Dagnoli are thoughtful, kind, and supportive, and we will work with them whether burial is in our cemetery or in another Berkshire cemetery.
If you will not be using the CBI Cemetery, please contact Rabbi Barenblat and the office using the contact us form. They will receive an email immediately and the Rabbi will respond as soon as she is able.
After the funeral, we offer shiva services both onsite (in mourners’ home, pandemic permitting) and online (via Zoom) so that far-flung friends and family can support those who mourn.
Directions to Beth Israel Cemetery
The cemetery is always open to the public. It is located on a beautiful hillside overlooking the Berkshire Mountains. From State Road (Rte. 2) in downtown North Adams, travel east. At the intersection with Main St. and Walker St., turn sharply left (north) onto Walker St. Stay on Walker St. for about a mile. (You will enter the town of Clarksburg.) The cemetery is on the left just by Brooks Heights, which is on the right.
The address is 512 Walker St, Clarksburg, MA 01247. Link to Google Map.
Information for Mourners
The text below is excerpted from the Congregation Beth Israel Book of Life. Please download the Book of Life for more complete information.
Flowers are not part of Jewish mourning practice. In the spirit of honoring the memory of the dead by helping the living, it is customary to suggest in the obituary that in lieu of flowers, donations be directed to an appropriate charity. If flowers are sent, share them with the living by giving them to a hospital or other institution where they could give joy to others.
The Funeral Service
A funeral can be held at the graveside or at the synagogue. Selections are read from Psalms, and there is a eulogy depicting the life of the deceased as a guide for the living. Eil Malei Rachamim, which expresses our faith in the immortality of the soul, is recited. Once at the graveside, the service consists of short prayers and burial followed by the recitation of the Mourners’ Kaddish and Eil Malei Rachamim.
After the funeral, those attending form two lines to let the mourners pass between them. As they do, traditional words of comfort are said, “Ha-makom y’nakhem et-khem b’tokh she-ar avlei tziyon vi’yerushalayim, May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
After the casket has been lowered, family members and friends are invited to shovel earth into the grave. This mitzvah, like taharah, is considered hesed shel emet, true loving kindness, for which one cannot be repaid. This mitzvah demonstrates our continuing concern for the deceased as we make sure the final journey of the deceased is completed. Participating in this mitzvah has been shown to be of great psychological benefit for mourners since it is meant to serve as an important action of finality and closure.
Children at a Funeral
Families often question whether children should attend a funeral. There is no hard and fast rule that applies. If a child is old enough to understand the purpose of the funeral and to know that people will be visibly grieving, then generally that child should come to the funeral. The child should sit with an adult he or she knows during the service. Remember that children need the opportunity to say “good-bye” to a loved one, as do adults. A child who is old enough to understand should not be deprived of an opportunity to say farewell and to begin to grieve.
After the Funeral: Shivah
Upon arriving at the house of mourning, it is customary for all those who have been at the cemetery to pour water over their hands. The washing of hands is a symbolic cleansing of ourselves after being at an interment. For this purpose, a pitcher and towels are placed outside the door of the house.
Mourners should partake of a light meal (se’udat havra-ah) following the funeral service. This meal is prepared by someone other than the immediate mourners (spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the deceased). While this meal is mainly for mourners, those who come to comfort them may also partake.
Shivah lasts seven days. Many liberal Jews choose to sit shivah for less than seven days. You should discuss your options with the Rabbi. The day of the funeral is the first day, and one hour of the seventh day counts as a full day. Shivah is suspended on Friday afternoon and is resumed after Shabbat is over.
For those who cannot pay a personal visit to the mourners, a telephone call or a note of condolence should be sent. It is also customary to make a tzedakah donation in memory of the deceased.
People pay “shivah calls” to fulfill the mitzvah of nihum avelim, comforting the mourners. These visits demonstrate community concern at the time of loss. The visits can help the mourners navigate through feelings of isolation, a natural feeling after the death of a loved one. Conversation should center on the life and memories of the departed. Contrary to popular belief, talking about the deceased is helpful to the mourner. Such conversations help the mourners to begin the process of grieving. If you have been through a time of personal grief, and the mourner asks you how you felt or how you managed, share your own experience. Mourners often take comfort in knowing that others have experienced similar feelings.
Mourners are not obligated to have food or drink available for those who come to visit.
It is traditional to hold services at a house of shivah. Congregation Beth Israel provides siddurim for use in homes. Family members or friends can lead the service. Service times are scheduled with the Rabbi. As mentioned previously, mourners attend Shabbat services at the synagogue during shivah.
Unveiling / Dedication of a Grave Marker
The dedication of a grave marker is not mandatory. If a dedication is desired, it can be led by the Rabbi or a member of the family. The usual dedication ceremony consists of reading selections from Psalms, the Eil Malei Rachamim prayer and the mourners’ Kaddish, if there is a minyan. The usual custom is to wait a year before having the ceremony, though any time after thirty days is appropriate. For more information about an unveiling, contact the Rabbi.
Dealing with Grief
Every person has a different reaction to stress, grief, and loss. It is not unusual for a mourner to feel depressed one day and happy another or for bouts of depression to come and go for a long period of time after the death of a loved one.
These ups and downs are part of the process of returning to normal living. Our tradition understands that life will never be the same again after the death of a loved one, while at the same time urging one to “choose life” in order to regain a sense of normalcy as one goes through the mourning period. In cases of extreme depression or long -lasting grief, mourners are urged to speak with the Rabbi or another counselor to help get through this most difficult time. The synagogue can provide many resources to those who are in need, including rabbinic counseling and written materials.