Gender and tahara

Society is presently coming to terms with the idea that not every person identifies with traditional male or female gender. Expression of this may take the form of declaring pronoun preferences, dressing in a manner that is not typical of the gender to which one was assigned at birth, or, in some cases, undergoing surgery.

As a community chevra, Chevra Kavod haMet seeks to honor all those for whom we provide services. As such, the leadership has developed a policy and practice for providing tahara to individuals who are non-cisgender.

In response, Chevra Kavod Hamet will make every effort to provide tahara services, including the gender of the shroud and gendering of prayer, according to the wishes and preferences of the deceased, if known. In the case of someone who identified as male, they will have a male team. In the case of someone who identified as female, they will have a female team. If someone was non-binary or gender fluid, if the wishes of the deceased are not know, they will have a mixed gender team. Further questions may be addressed to chevra leadership here.

We strongly encourage gender non-binary individuals to make their wishes regarding tahara and burial known to their next of kin. They should also have a notarized document expressing their wishes.

In order to share common meaning, we have created a small glossary of some relevant terms:

Gender: the state of being male or female – typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones.

Sex: either of the two main categories (male and female) into which humans and many other living things are divided on the basis of their reproductive functions.

Cisgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender corresponds with the gender to which they were assigned at birth.

Transgender: denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with the gender to which they were assigned at birth.

Gender binary: the classification of gender into two distinct and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine. Gender binary is one general type of a gender system.

Non-binary: also known as genderqueer or gender non-conforming, a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍—‌identities which are thus outside the gender binary.

Gender pronouns: are linguistic tools that we use to refer to people.  (i.e. they/them/theirs, she/her/hers, he/him/his). We believe that it is important to give people the opportunity to state the pronoun that is correct to use when referring to them. Click here to learn more.


In Their Words
In my entire life, I don't think I've done anything more worthwhile than serve on the Chevra Kadisha.
— Saul, New Orleans, Louisiana
I feel that I have been blessed with the ability to do this mitzvah. Some people have beautiful voices and others play musical instruments. I feel that being able to perform tahara is a gift from G-d.
— Natalie, Englewood, New Jersey
Knowing my parents' lifetime of dedication to Jewish living will end with this time honored tradition, and that they will be treated with the ultimate respect and honor, is of huge comfort to me and our family.
— Mark, Portland, Oregon
Imagining the grace and respect my mother was afforded in death is an ongoing source of comfort. Her tahara affirms her abiding presence even though she has passed from this life.
— Helen, Daughter of Sabina Mager, z"l
Knowing my grandmother was lovingly cared for by members of our community's Chevra Kadisha was such a comfort to me in my hours of grief. I had cared for her for so long. In the end, I felt so much trust in the women who continued to give her the love and attention she deserved.
— Sharon, Eugene, Oregon
The most rewarding part of doing a tahara is the sense of continuity of the lifecycle and the connection with the Jewish people historically. In many ways I get the same feeling when I light the Sabbath candles...It binds me to the community of Jews throughout the ages and throughout the world.
— Phyllis, Greenfield, Massachusetts