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Boston Funeral Home Trades Orthodox Burial Society for Nondenominational Group

A new nondenominational Jewish burial society has replaced an Orthodox one at a Boston-area Jewish funeral home.

Community Hevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, which launched this fall and is part of a growing movement of Jewish burial societies that include non-Orthodox volunteers, began performing tahara – the ritual preparation of bodies for burial – at Brezniak-Rodman Chapel in West Newton, Mass., on Dec. 16.

Until this month, the Orthodox-run Chevrah Kadisha of Greater Boston, whose membership is by invitation only, had been the sole provider of tahara at Brezniak-Rodman and other area funeral homes.

After Brezniak-Rodman announced that it would provide space for the new group, which has more than 100 volunteers, Rabbi Naftali Horowitz, who is known as the Bostoner Rebbe, sent a letter stating that the Chevra Kadisha of Greater Boston would continue operating there only “if we are the only one using the facilities.” Allowing a nondenominational group to use the funeral home’s facilities would “add great confusion regarding the standards which will be administered,” the letter said.

Last week, Brezniak-Rodman confirmed that the Chevra Kadisha of Greater Boston had stopped working with the funeral home. David Brezniak, owner of Brezniak-Rodman, said of Horowitz, “I respect his decision, and he needs to respect mine. I thank him for whatever he’s done over the years, and that’s it.”

Officials from the Chevra Kadisha of Greater Boston, including Horowitz, did not respond to inquiries from JTA.

Brezniak said the new group employs the same standards in conducting tahara as the Orthodox one, and that he has been pleased so far with their work.

“The people doing this are very dedicated,” he said. “They’re not cutting any corners.”

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