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Gamliel Institute Academic Bulletin - 2018


Gamliel Institute
of Kavod v'Nichum


8112 Sea Water Path Columbia, MD  21045

Academic Bulletin

Effective January 1, 2018

This Academic Bulletin is designed to provide general information. The Bulletin does not constitute a legal obligation on the part of the Gamliel Institute. The Institute reserves the right to change, add, or delete any of this information without prior notice.

Vision: The Jewish community will be aware, accept, and integrate into family and community life a recognition of mortality, end of life planning, care of the deceased and comfort for the mourners. The Gamliel Institute is shifting the culture surrounding continuum-of-life issues in the Jewish community - from an attitude of denial and neglect around death to a more open attitude towards death that includes increasing awareness, acceptance, and healthy integration into family and community life.


Mission: The Mission of the Gamliel Institute is to empower our students to lead in the reclaiming of Jewish traditions, rituals, liturgy, and practices along the entire continuum of care at the end of life by building on the Prague Chevrah Kadisha model.

Goal: Through our academic curriculum, the Gamliel Institute's goal is to encourage, support, educate, train, and develop a strong Jewish corps of professionals and volunteers to become communal leaders who work to inspire, support, organize, teach, and advocate for the full range of Chevrah Kadisha work in synagogues and communities.

Program: The Gamliel Institute's program of Jewish education is based on, and includes, texts, liturgy, and traditional practices from over 2,000 years of history, and includes historical evolution, political realities, and proven organizing and educational strategies. We cover the entire end-of-life continuum - dealing with life-threatening illness, legacy and preparation of ethical wills, preparing for death and the time of death, care for the body - taharah and shmirah, care for relatives and friends, funeral and burial, mourning, grieving, remembering and providing comfort - with underlying themes of communal obligation, care for the poor and elderly, consumer protection, and Jewish continuity.

We recognize the importance of liturgy and ritual in ensuring that the spiritual dimension of the end-of-life continuum is appreciated, and that the work of the Chevrah Kadisha is done with full regard for the respect and dignity of all involved.

In an environment that acknowledges the contributions of all the streams of Judaism, the Gamliel Institute brings together diverse disciplines - including community organizing, consumer advocacy, chaplaincy, thanatology, hospice care, grief therapy, funeral direction, cemetery management, and legacy planning - to create a matchless, comprehensive Chevrah Kadisha training program.

I.       The Gamliel Institute

The Gamliel Institute is a project of Kavod v'Nichum ("Honor and Comfort"), a North American organization that provides assistance, training, and resources about Jewish end-of-life practice for Chevrah Kadisha groups and bereavement committees in synagogues and communities throughout North America.


II.    Educational Philosophy

A.    Students gain expertise through reading, listening, and participating with other students; by engaging in discussion about readings, writing, and research assignments; and ultimately by bringing learned theory into a skilled practice base.

B.     Much of the course is based on self-directed learning. Adults engaged as participant learners in this course bring a range of curiosity, dedication, and ritual practice with them; the course is designed to deepen and broaden our students' exploration, commitment, and practice.

C.     The instructors guide students through online learning materials and help develop students' confidence in their own capacity to share, teach and lead.

D.    Students are encouraged to share reading materials, source texts, translations, manuals, and experiences.

E.     Faculty members are expected to provide a range of options to encourage opportunities for student reflection and collaboration. The goal of each module is to create relevance and direct application of learning.


III. The Gamliel Institute's Religious Advisory Board

A.    The Religious Advisory Board:

1.      Provides the Gamliel Institute with guidance, opinion, insight and religious direction as well as feedback and analysis regarding curriculum content, teaching methods, and program and student evaluation.

2.      Is made up of outstanding Jewish leaders from across the Jewish community.

B.     Opinions and position papers presented by the Gamliel Institute do not necessarily reflect the positions of the individual members of the Religious Advisory Board.

IV. Faculty and Staff

A.    The Teaching Faculty of the Gamliel Institute are knowledgeable about Chevrah Kadisha work, experienced in the field, and skilled teachers.

B.     Staff members are selected for their abilities, knowledge, attitude, and commitment to the goals and purposes of the Gamliel Institute. Duties of key Faculty and Staff members are set forth in section X. Staff.

C.     Faculty members and staff are available to aid students in contacting Chevrah Kadisha groups within their geographical area (if there are any).

V.          Students

Students are an interdenominational lay and professional mix, and may include members of the general public; volunteer and paid members of Chevrei Kadisha or congregational ritual committees; Jewish clergy, chaplains, and hospice workers; students in rabbinic and cantorial programs; Jewish funeral directors and cemetery managers; and Jewish communal professionals and Jewish educators. Students are not required to be Jewish, but by their application and attendance at Gamliel Institute classes, courses, functions, and events, they acknowledge and agree that the Gamliel Institute is a Jewish institution, and that the lens through which teaching is offered is Jewish. Policies regarding non-Jewish students and regarding use of Gamliel learning are appended at the end of this Bulletin.

VI.       Non-discrimination

The Gamliel Institute does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, origin, political views, physical conditions or limitations, or beliefs.

A.    The Gamliel Institute is dedicated to fostering knowledge and practice of Jewish practices; anyone seeking to study the practices of Judaism in regard to the continuum at the end of life is welcome to apply for admission the Gamliel Institute.

B.     The Gamliel Institute reserves the absolute right to limit admission, or to withdraw acceptance, for any cause or reason deemed proper, at the sole discretion of the faculty and staff of the Gamliel Institute, through whatever procedures or processes shall be in effect at that time.


VII.    Academics

A.    Program Options

1.       The Chevrah Kadisha Certificate program consists of core Courses 1 through 5 and Course 7. See also sections D and K below. Certificates are awarded to students who successfully complete the Certificate Program.

2.       Students may choose to take any of the core courses for "credit" or on an audit-only basis. Students should indicate they are auditing when they register or by notifying the course instructor within the first two weeks of a course.

3.      Auditing:

a.       An auditor may participate in class and post on the Forum, but students taking a course for credit may be given priority for available class time during discussions. Auditors will not be assigned to study groups. Auditors fit into the same tuition policies (see Section VIII. B.) as students taking a course for credit.

b.      Auditing is open to students who have not taken a given course before, to students who have taken a course but not successfully completed it, and to students who have successfully completed it but wish to study the material again. Students in this last group also have the option to just view the recordings of the course.

4.       The Gamliel Institute offers other, non-core courses, in different formats such as Taste of Gamliel, Gamliel Day of Learning after the Chevrah Kadisha Conference, Continuing Education, and Gamliel Café. Some of these are open to the general public and others have specific prerequisites.


B.     Rabbinical students may petition for credit for Gamliel courses at their schools. To date, students have received credit at:

1.      The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

2.      The Aleph Ordination Program

C.     Students seeking continuing education units (CEUs) should contact their professional organizations to determine whether Gamliel courses will qualify. The Gamliel Institute may charge a fee of $75 for handling the appropriate certification for CEUs.

D.    Core Courses

The core courses, which constitute the certificate program, are as follows, with sample topics shown:

  • Course 1: Chevrah Kadisha: History, Origins, and Evolution: history; texts; practices; communal roles
  • Course 2: Chevrah Kadisha: Taharah and Shmirah: liturgy; training; safety; complications; autopsy; organ donation
  • Course 3: Chevrah Kadisha: Education, Organizing, and Training: leadership and community education and training. See also Course 7 below.
  • Course 4: Chevrah Kadisha: Nechamah: listening skills, ethical wills, remembrance, shivah; bikkur cholim; hospice; suicide
  • Course 5: Chevrah Kadisha: Liturgy, Ritual, and Practice: traditional sources; changes; role of rabbi; suicide; cremation; issues with funeral homes and funerals, cemeteries, and burial
  • Course 7: Chevrah Kadisha: Project Development: Students create individual projects to serve as contributions/resources for others in the field. This course is considered a continuation of Course 3, and students finishing Course 3 are expected to take Course 7 directly afterward. (Note: Course 7 was formerly part of Course 3. Students who successfully completed Course 3, including a project, will be considered to have successfully completed Course 7.)

E.     Core Course Prerequisites

1.      Courses 1, 2, and 5 may be taken in any order, with no prerequisite.

2.      Course 3 requires as a prerequisite successful completion of at least one other Gamliel course, with a strong preference for more than one.

3.      Course 4 requires as a prerequisite either successful completion of at least one other Gamliel course or life experience doing related work as approved by the instructors.

4.      Course 7 requires Course 3 as a prerequisite.

5.      Any individual may petition for waiver of prerequisites.

F.      Course 6

Students who have completed the certificate program are eligible to take Course 6: Chevrah Kadisha: International Perspectives: Examination of variations in practice around the world, centered around a study mission to New York, Prague, and Israel

G.    Course Format

1.      The general minimum class size is 10; maximum is 25. The Gamliel Institute may declare other minimum and maximum class sizes for specific courses.

2.      Primary delivery method is distance learning via computer and Internet access, self-study, readings, and assignments.

H.    Course Work Expectations for Courses 1-5

1.      Listen to and/or read materials provided and posted each week. (Nearly all materials are either in English or in Hebrew with translation available.)

2.      Take active part in a 90-minute "live" on-line class once a week, generally evenings at 8pm east, 7pm central, 6pm mountain, 5pm west.

3.      Complete 3-4 hours of homework weekly (roughly 2 hours for each in-class hour), which may include:

a.       Reading

b.      Viewing assigned videos or recordings

c.       Study group work (studying with one or more other students outside of class)

d.      Posting weekly in the online class Forum, a collective journal that can be viewed and responded to by all members of the class, for comments, observations, and questions about learning materials.

I.       Course Work Expectations for Course 7

Students who have completed Course 3 are eligible to apply for Course 7, by submitting a tentative plan/description (no more than one page) of what their project might be (possibly building on one of their Course 3 "concept papers"). Projects can involve various aspects of Chevrah Kadisha work, including organizing and education as well as more academic pursuits. [Many of the projects that have already been completed and accepted are posted at  Students are encouraged to look at these samples to get an idea of the range of possibilities.] These proposals will be due within 3 weeks of completion of Course 3.

Project proposals will be reviewed by the Gamliel staff, and feedback will be provided to students. Students with accepted proposals will be invited to enroll in Course 7 and assigned a mentor. Others may be asked to do additional work to clarify their proposals for acceptance.

Course 7 is planned to begin approximately two months after the end of Course 3 and last approximately four months. This course provides a combination of peer and mentor support for students as they develop their projects. Students will be expected to make significant progress within the first two months of Course 7, and to complete their projects (or have a clear and explicit plan and timeline for doing so) by the end of Course 7.


J.       Assessment

1.      Faculty work with students to assess time and energy input into the course, help them develop realistic learning plans, and monitor progress on the plan.

2.      Students on the certificate track will receive a Complete or Incomplete within two weeks of the end of the course. Students on the audit track will not receive any formal evaluation.

3.      Students on the certificate track: Assessment of each student on the certificate track is done by the instructor(s) of that course, in some cases jointly with the student. Assessment is based on the student's attendance, preparedness and participation in class discussion, performance on assignments (including study group work and Forum postings), and other factors included in the outline of requirements for that course. The general 'rule of thumb' is that students are expected to attend "live" and complete at least 75% of the classes and work assigned in each of the various categories. Below that level, the student is assessed as incomplete, and would need to make further arrangements to complete the work and demonstrate adequate mastery and effort.

4.      Appeal of Assessment: A student may appeal an assessment by course instructors by submitting a letter to the Dean of Students setting forth why the student believes that the assessment is in error and including all relevant supporting information. The Dean of Students assures that all of the needed information is included, make a recommendation, and then deliver the appeal and recommendation to the Dean of the Gamliel Institute. The Institute Dean may speak to the student to ascertain additional information, at the discretion of the Institute Dean, and will then review the appeal and the recommendation, and make a final determination. The determination of the Dean of the Institute is final.  If complaint relates to the Dean of Students or to the Dean of the Institute, the appeal letter may be submitted instead to the Executive Director of the Institute.

K.    Certificate Program

A student who has successfully completed Gamliel Institute Courses 1-5 and Course 7 is granted a Gamliel Institute Chevrah Kadisha Certificate, attesting that the student has taken a comprehensive program of study in the Jewish practices and knowledge that apply during the continuum at the end of life. Students receiving a certificate from the Gamliel Institute will be asked to provide feedback to the Gamliel Institute, including suggestions on how its program might be improved.

L.     Time to Complete

1.      Gamliel Institute students are expected to complete their work in a reasonable length of time.

a.       Course completion

                                                              i.      Determination as to course completion for Courses 1 through 5 is made immediately following the last class in each course. Instructors will notify students concerning this determination.

1.      Students whose work has been deemed incomplete may request to fulfill requirements for a given course by enrolling in the next offering of that course, and will be expected to fulfill the completion requirements during that next enrollment.

                                                            ii.      If the course is still incomplete within the time frame described in part a, the student will be notified that the incomplete is final. Course 7 must be completed within one year of completion of all other courses.

b.      Certificate Program completion

                                                           i.         In order to receive the Gamliel Institute Chevrah Kadisha Certificate, students must successfully complete the core courses within a period of six years from the beginning date of the first course in which they enrolled.

                                                         ii.         If the core courses are still incomplete in this time frame, the student will be so notified.

M.   Waiver Policy and Procedure

For the Gamliel Institute Chevrah Kadisha Certificate, at least four of the five courses must be taken through the Gamliel Institute (as a "resident" student.) If a student has alternative experience, training, or study that the student believes to be the equivalent of successful completion of a specific Gamliel Institute course, the student may apply for a waiver (to place out) of that course, based on the following procedure:

1.      The student shall submit:

  • A narrative explanation of why the alternative experience, training, or study is an applicable substitute for the specific course.
  • A direct side-by-side comparison of the contents of that course (as described in the outline offered by the Gamliel Institute) with the experience, training, or study that is being submitted as a substitution. This comparison shall address each module and submodule in the course outline, including: readings; material presented; lectures and discussions; texts presented; videos; audio recordings; projects assigned or undertaken; study group discussions; Forum postings; and assignments.
  • Any evaluations received of the work done elsewhere (grades/transcripts, reviews, commendations, publications, patents, or other documentation of the value and quality of the work).
  • Any work product or projects previously completed that are to be considered as part of the request for waiver.
  • Anything else that the student feels would be persuasive, informative, or helpful in demonstrating the equivalence of the experience, training, or study to the content of the Gamliel Institute course.

2.      The Dean of Students shall assess the completeness of the request, and when the request is deemed complete shall ask for a review and recommendation from Institute faculty. The instructors selected for the review and recommendation shall be at the discretion of the Dean of Students. When possible, they shall be either the instructors who taught that course the last time it was offered, if they are available, or the instructors who will be teaching that course the next time it is offered, if that is known. If none of those instructors shall be available, the Dean of Students shall have discretion to ask for a review and recommendation from any instructor or instructors, or any person associated in any capacity with the Gamliel Institute who is qualified to review the work product.

3.      The recommendation of the Dean of Students and accompanying documentation shall be submitted to the Dean of the Gamliel Institute for a determination. The decision of the Dean of the Institute shall be final.

N.    Computer and technology requirements

Students need to have sufficient technology available to be able to:

1.      Access on-line materials.

2.      Participate in on-line classes, including web-cam and voice access.

3.      Run appropriate software with access to the Internet at an adequate speed to allow audio and video performance in real-time.

O.    Student Submittals for Admission

1.      A personal up-to-date photograph in digital form is requested for website posting and blog postings.

2.      A biography, detailing their interest in this topic as well as any relevant academic and personal background.

3.      Agreement to keep confidential all materials shared by other students.

4.       Agreement that all materials posted in the Forum online or submitted to the instructors are given to the Gamliel Institute with the right to share and display for educational, non-commercial purposes, and for publicity concerning Gamliel Institute offerings, and may be placed in the public domain with appropriate attribution, for access at no cost by the public.

VIII. Administrative Structure

A.    Admissions

1.      Students have access to an institute academic calendar listing registration deadlines, last day to drop, holidays, course dates and makeup class dates.

2.      The Application for Admission is on the Gamliel Institute web page - - as well as in print.

3.      The Gamliel Institute is currently not accredited, but accreditation is part of the plan, if a suitable institution and a reasonable fee can be arranged. The Gamliel Institute makes no assertions or claims with regard to accreditation or acceptance of its certificates or educational program by others.

4.      Process of admission

a.       Requirements for students: interest in program, demonstrated experience in a related area. Undergraduate degree is not required but is helpful.

b.      Two letters of reference that show qualifications for taking the course.

c.       Some basic knowledge of standard Jewish practices and common vocabulary is helpful.

d.      Students are expected to be able to "decode" Hebrew, to recognize Hebrew letters and vowels, to learn basic root words, and to understand the context in which they are being used. Hebrew fluency is not a prerequisite.

B.     Tuition Policies

1.      All financial issues are handled by the Institute's Executive Director.

2.      The standard course fee for Courses 1 through 5 and Course 7 is $500 per class (at this time). This amount may be changed at any time without prior notice.

3.      Payment of course fees must be received no later than the start of the first class of that course scheduled class start unless other arrangements are made.

4.      Payment may be made by credit card, on-line, or by check. Receipts are issued on request.

5.      Discounts

a.       Group Rate: Discounts are available whenever three (3) or more students from a given organization or institution (such as a synagogue or Chevrah Kadisha) enroll in a given course.

b.      Clergy Rate: Discounts are available for students enrolled in an accredited program to become a rabbi or cantor, as well as students identified as holding one of these titles conferred by an educational institution or other training organization, recognized by the Gamliel Institute.

c.       Scholarships: Students for whom the full tuition of $500 presents a financial difficulty may apply for a scholarship. Scholarships are awarded based on merit and availability of funds, solely at the discretion of the Gamliel Institute.

6.      Donations: Because tuition does not usually fully cover the cost of offering courses, students (and organizations or institutions) who are able to do so are strongly encouraged to make a contribution to the Gamliel Institute by paying an amount above and beyond the full (or discounted) tuition for students, in order to support our scholarship program for students with financial needs.

7.      Cancellation policy: The Gamliel Institute reserves the right to cancel a course if enrollment is insufficient to support the course financially. In such a case, any tuition already paid for that course session will be refunded on request. (If a refund is not requested, the amount will be credited for the student's next class.)

8.      After a student registers and pays for a class, and once the class has begun, there will be no refunds (unless the course is cancelled by the Gamliel Institute). If a student is unable to complete a given course, he/she may re-enroll, at no additional charge, the next time that course is offered, in order to complete the course.

9.      Taste of Gamliel: Students wishing to try out the Gamliel Institute online format, may enroll in one or more sessions of "Taste of Gamliel" - a series of individual, one-evening seminars - which are priced at a nominal fee, determined each year.

10.  Course 6 is a combined course/study mission, designed to involve travel and learning in New York, Prague, and Israel. Course 6 was first offered in spring 2015, and entailed six on-line classes (three before travel, three after) coupled with an 18-day study mission. Course 6 is open to students who have completed Courses 1 through 5, and is currently scheduled to be offered in spring 2019. Students will be responsible for direct, per-person costs (e.g., travel, lodging, meals), which can be paid either directly by the student or in combination with fundraising efforts by the student. Direct costs for the next trip are expected to be roughly $7,000-10,000.

C.     Scholarships

1.      Student scholarship funds are actively solicited and made available.

2.      Staff will ask students to assist in strategizing opportunities for local scholarships and fundraising opportunities.

IX. Staff

Gamliel Institute key staff includes the following, including responsibilities as shown:

A.    Academic Dean of the Gamliel Institute

1.      Oversees the Institute

2.      Coordinates course development and insures appropriate content

a.       Course Developer

b.      Course Editor

3.      Hires and supervises teaching faculty

4.      Recruits and advises students and monitors their performance

5.      Supervises grant writers

6.      Supervises Seminary Relationship Development

B.     Executive Director

1.      Provides administrative assistance

2.      Handles finances, including student tuition receipts and teacher payments

3.      Provides non-financial record keeping regarding teachers and students

4.      Supervises other administrative staff

a.       Educational Technologist

b.      Technical Concierge

                                                        i.            Insures in advance that each student has the hardware and knowledge to utilize the course technology

                                                      ii.            Provides technical assistance during the course

c.       Registrar

C.     Dean of Students

1.      Works with Administrative Dean on student recruitment

2.      Works with Administrative Dean and other faculty on student project mentoring

D.    Administrative Dean

1.      Student Recruitment - Works with Student Dean to develop and execute plan to market courses and recruit students.

2.      Course logistics - Coordinates logistics class for each course.

3.      Student Information - Develops and maintains a contact database and bio information for all Gamliel students.

4.      Student evaluation - Oversees the development of a methodology to evaluate student performance including class attendance, class participation, readings done, and forum posts.

5.      Course Input - Works with Dean and Executive Director to input new course content into ATutor.

6.      Class Recordings Management - Manages recordings archive including developing table of contents.

7.      Student Projects - Standardizes format and style to include title page, introduction, table of contents, executive summary of students' Course 3 projects. Works with Communications Liaison to create a front-page table of contents and post projects to the website.

E.     Communications Liaison

1.      Media outreach through

a.       Brochure development and graphics

b.      Website maintenance and development

c.       Social media and communications strategy and use

d.      Other media and methods as appropriate

2.      Works with Administrative Dean on uploading and displaying Student Projects

F.      Institute Associate

1.      Special Projects

2.      Taste of Gamliel coordinator

G.    Teachers/Instructors

1.      Multiple factors are used to select the most appropriate teachers

a.       Credentials: MA/PhD or equivalent; Rabbi; teaching experience

b.      Experiential background in CK, cemetery management, funeral home,

c.       Ability to work with the technology of distance learning

d.      Comfort of interaction with students

e.       Academic integrity

f.       Available time to oversee/critique all written modules (this is a part-time engagement for most faculty); assurances from faculty of their timely presence

g.      Ongoing availability

2.      Work with the course materials to structure the class

a.       Insure appropriate use of audios and visuals; development of videos, power point presentations

b.      Insure appropriate on-line work, homework

c.       Provide students attention and feedback

d.      Utilize technology to its fullest

3.      Work with students

a.       Review practical information (how-to) for students about postings, journaling, methodologies available on-line.

b.      Insure that students know about assigned texts, supplementary readings, and on-line materials.

c.       Assess and evaluate the student's course accomplishments at the end of the course. Assign either Complete or Incomplete for the course.

H.    Administrative Staff

1.      Executive Assistant(s)

2.      Administrative Assistant(s)

3.      Secretarial: Corresponding, Recording, Recordkeeping, Communications

4.      Media Staff: Social media maintenance

5.      Librarian/Research Staff


X.    Course Schedule (See VIII, D for brief description of courses)

The current schedule is posted on the website and is subject to change based on enrollments and other factors.



It is gratifying to know that some in the non-Jewish community are interested in studying with us and learning about Jewish traditions.  Our courses are designed to be academically rigorous, and open to all. At the same time, the mission of the Institute is to train Jewish Chevrah Kadisha leaders, and to promote the goal of having Chevrah Kadisha groups in every synagogue and community.

Gamliel Institute policy in this regard is as follows:

1.      Each of courses 1 through 5 and 7 is open to enrollment by anyone who meets the prerequisites, subject to the approval of the faculty and administration of the Gamliel Institute.

2.   A student who successfully completes Courses 1 through 5 is eligible for an appropriately worded certificate from the Institute.

3.   Acceptance to Course 6 is at the sole discretion of the Gamliel Institute.

We also request of our students who may be adapting Jewish traditions for use in a non-Jewish setting, that they acknowledge that their practice is not Jewish, but is derived from Jewish tradition, and that, to clarify this distinction, they use alternative terminology in the non-Jewish context. For example:


Hebrew term

Suggested alternative term



Chevrah Kadisha

Final Kindness team






asking the deceased for forgiveness


the deceased


Final Kindness team members




physical washing


Final Kindness team leader


burial clothes


Final Kindness


spiritual washing






As the words and actions of Gamliel students may reflect on the Institute and those associated with it, students are expected to follow these guidelines:

1. In their writing and teaching that flows from Gamliel Institute learning, they will acknowledge that they have been students of the Gamliel Institute.

2. If they are not recognized as Jewish by normative Jewish standards, they will not represent themselves as Jewish.

3. In teaching material learned at the Gamliel Institute, they will acknowledge the importance of not using this knowledge to help non-Jews proselytize to Jews, or to delegitimize or undermine Judaism, or any group within normative Judaism.

4. They will consult with and accept guidance from the Gamliel Institute Deans if any parts of this agreement are unclear.

5. They acknowledge that materials developed by the Gamliel Institute, including its ATutor coursework, are copyrighted and are the property of the Institute.