Chesed Shel Emes
Chesed Shel Emes is a Jewish voluntary organisation that is found in various forms around the world. In Israel. the primary Chesed Shel Emes is known as ZAKA, though other organizations exist. The name Chesed Shel Emes means “Charity of Truth”or “Charity of True Loving Kindness”.
Chesed Shel Emes of Canada was established in 1930 as a non-profit organization with a mandate to prepare members of the Jewish community for burial according to Orthodox tradition. Each person is treated with the same consideration and respect. No one is refused service due to financial hardship. Chesed Shel Emes is an independent, community-based organization. Men and women are chosen and trained as volunteer members of the Chevra Kadisha (Holy Society). Their purpose is to dutifully and lovingly prepare the dead for burial.
Chesed Shel Emes of New York was founded by Rabbi Mendy Rosenberg. After death, it provides numerous services such as a Tahara (purification of the body), removal of lines and tubes from the deceased, working with appropriate agencies to release bodies promptly to assure a timely burial and contesting decisions to conduct autopsies and cremations. Their services are sometimes required for more unusual needs, such as a Tahara in Puerto Rico or chartering a private jet to transport a dead person from out of town. Their Accident Disaster Recovery Team, who worked together with FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, has cleaned hundreds of accident scenes, ensuring that all blood and any severed body parts are buried together with the person who died. To date, the New York organization has buried over 1200 m’sei mitzvah, ie: people who have no one else to bury them. Additionally, they operate a Bikur Cholim in several area hospitals and have a group of volunteers available to learn mishnayos for the dead.
Similar organizations exist across the USA, for example in Boston, Los Angerles, St. Paul, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Seattle. They also exist in 17 countries.