Join the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha


The Ottawa Chevra Kadisha is a volunteer organization that provides traditional burial services for the Ottawa Jewish community, is looking for Jewish men to join its ranks.


A Century of Serving the Jewish Community


Since 1918, the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha has continued Old World traditions in preparing and burying the dead according to Ashkenazi Jewish halakha (law) and minhag (custom). The Ottawa Chevra Kadisha currently has about 70 members, Jewish men and women of all ages. It is a cooperative that provides its service to all Jews regardless of background or affiliation. Its members come from across the community and all walks of life. Their voluntary participation is a mitzvah traditionally referred to in Hebrew as khesed shel emet (a true act of loving kindness).


At this time, the men’s group of the chevra kadisha needs new member volunteers so it can continue to perform its vital work for the community.


Traditional Fulfillment – Personal Meaning


Why would anyone wish to join the chevra kadisha? Is it not emotionally or physically difficult to deal with the dead? The answer is: for many people, no. And there are strong reasons why, if one can, one should offer one’s services as a member volunteer:



  • FROM A SOCIAL PERSPECTIVE: If the Jewish community is to continue to ensure proper Jewish funerals and burial in the time-honoured manner, a community organization dedicated to that purpose must carry on the tradition.
  • FROM A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE: It is in many ways a privilege and an honour to be part of this ritual process, taking responsibility as a mature and caring member of the community. There are also times when members of the chevra kadisha perform their function for friends or people that they knew in everyday life. This last loving service can add extra personal meaning to the mitzvah that every member of the chevra kadisha performs for his or her fellow Jews.
  • DUTIES AND TIME COMMITMENT: What does the chevra kadisha do? Its central task is to perform the tahara (purification). This consists of ritually washing the body, dressing it in white cotton garments called takhrikhim, and placing it in a coffin ready for burial. Taharas are conducted in a collegial and dignified manner by crews of 5 to 7 members. Only men attend men, women, women. Men from the chevra kadisha also attend funeral services, accompany the coffin to the cemetery, and take part in the interment. Not every member needs to perform taharas: some men serve only by taking part in funerals.


New volunteers observe taharas before being called on to participate, and receive coaching from experienced members. The time commitment can be between two and six hours a month. A call to volunteers from the chevra kadisha may come anytime from Saturday night to Friday afternoon for duties the next non-Sabbath/yom tov day or evening. Members may choose to decline a call because of family, work or other personal commitments.


For information on how to become a member, please call Issie Scarowsky at 613-729-4444.