By Jaime Uranovsky
Unfortunately, there are around 20 funerals per year in Cape Town at which there are no mourners or friends of the deceased present.
Without a minyan, Kaddish cannot be recited, so Stanley Brick and Arthur Gillis started a WhatsApp group to source volunteers in order to ensure that all Jewish funerals have enough men present to make a minyan.
Arthur recounts how the group started: “It came to my attention that there were a number of people being buried in the community who didn’t have a minyan. Their children have emigrated, or they no longer have anything to do with anybody in the Cape Town community and I would go [to the funeral] and find literally one or two mourners and that would break my heart.”
Stanley originally started the initiative by word of mouth but struggled to find volunteers. Arthur then had the idea of using WhatsApp and that is how the group came into being. The project formally started just after Yom Kippur last year and, since then, every single funeral has had enough attendees for a minyan to be made.
Arthur notes, “It just took some people to stand up and say that we’re not allowing, on our watch while we’re around, for people to be buried without a minyan. There’s a lot of need for this and a lot of people in their day were pillars of the community. You hear the eulogy, but over time unfortunately they’ve lost all their friends and family and so on. The response has been overwhelming and instant, and I’m hugely humbled and gratified that people are prepared to do this and give of their time.”
The initiative was named A Few Good Men and endorsed by Rabbi Wineberg at Marais Road Shul over the High Holidays together with other volunteering groups, such as Spreading the Love for Jaime Rose. The group attends funerals for both the Orthodox and Conservative/Progressive communities and aims to provide the dead with the dignity that they deserve.
“We would really appreciate more people because, initially, it was just to get a minyan but then we decided it doesn’t matter how many people come. The more people that we get the better it actually is and the bigger the mitzvah is, so, if we can get 20 or 30 or 40 people it’s such a huge thing.
Very often we will say Kaddish for the person and we will be the pallbearers. I’ve been to funerals where there hasn’t been one single mourner, one single friend, one person who knows the bereaved. We want to give them a dignified send-off and the only way we can do that is by having people put their hands up to volunteer.”
To join the WhatsApp group call Jeff Musikanth, the group administrator, on (079) 038-7489 or Arthur Gillis on (082) 905-1000
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Portal to the Jewish Community: to see a list of all the Jewish organisations in Cape Town with links to their websites, click here
Featured organisation of the month: The Jewish Community Services’ (JCS) activities are centered on relief for the poor and distressed in the Jewish community. They provide a full range of preventative, educative and supportive counselling, statutory services as well as material relief. Visit http://www.jcs.org.za for more.
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