Tzohar -with you in times of mourning

Tzohar launches Bereavement Program to accompany families in the Jewish burial and mourning process

Uzi Baruch ,

Rabbi David Stav
Rabbi David Stav
צילום: יוסי זליגר, פלאש 90

Speaking at an event in Tel Aviv marking the organization’s 20th anniversary, Tzohar Rabbinical Organization founder Rabbi David Stav announced the launch of a new initiative providing support for bereaved families in the immediate aftermath of the death of a loved one.

The program, which will be staffed by the organization’s team of volunteer rabbis, will be on hand to console the bereaved and assist families in navigating the emotionally charged and often bureaucratically-involved process surrounding the “halachic burial and funeral service ” afforded to all Jews who pass away in Israel.

The program, which has been in development for several months to ensure that it effectively and compassionately responds to these specific needs, saw its first beneficiary earlier in the week; a 55 year old man who had served most of his professional career in the IDF and passed away after a prolonged illness. While defining themselves as secular, the wife of the deceased turned to Tzohar to ensure a respectful burial was carried out in accordance with normative Jewish halacha.

“Our goal was to ensure this was a ceremony and process that both reflected the personal perspectives of the deceased and his family but with the proper Jewish elements that ensured their loved one died as a he lived – as a committed member of our Jewish family and in accordance with its traditions”, said Rabbi Yoni Lavi who performed the service on behalf of Tzohar.

Rabbi Stav said that the Tzohar bereavement program, which will begin in the center of the country and then will be expanded, was a natural outgrowth of the organization’s mission to respond to all relevant needs in the Jewish lifecycle. “Over the past two decades we have been blessed to participate in countless happy occasions and share them with millions of Israelis but we understand that our commitment is also to ensure our services and support are available at less joyful periods of life,” he said.

Rabbi Stav was referencing Tzohar’s core service of facilitating Jewish wedding ceremonies that afford couples the ability to marry under Jewish and Israeli law but in a respectful and compassionate manner that many couples feel is absent through the bureaucratic channels offered by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. The Tel Aviv event was a tribute to the more than 1,000 men and women, primarily volunteers, who serve at the heart of the marriage program, as rabbis and bridal counselors to over 5,000 couples annually.

The Bereavement Program is similarly intended to act as an alternative for Israeli families, many secular Jews who have chosen non-halachic burials out of concern that the religious authorities fail to offer the compassion and individualized attention deserving of the passing of a loved one.

Calling a Tzohar hotline upon the passing of a loved one, the family is connected with a rabbi trained to address the needs of the family at this often emotional and confusing time. “Our intent in this program is to help support these families emotionally and logistically and give them the understanding that halacha and Jewish tradition should not be perceived as any sort of burden. We wish to show them that they are being supported and cared for by our rabbinic community at all times of life,” Rabbi Stav said.