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A chevra kadisha is a holy burial society made up of people that fulfill Jewish traditions of preparing the bodies of the deceased for burial. The primary services they perform are the ritual cleansing of the body and dressing the body in a simple shroud.

The tradition of a chevra kadisha goes back at least to the fourth century in Eastern Europe. At that time, Jewish people in each town, city or region were organized into a single community with a holy burial society serving its needs.

In North America, chevra kadishas were smaller and more numerous, often with one for each synagogue. Over time, mortuary establishments and funeral directors emerged, taking over many of the duties once exclusive to the holy burial society. As a result, traditional burial societies were often reduced to a congregation's cemetery committee. In many cases, they simply disappeared.

A remarkable exception to this trend occurred in Northern California. In the mid-1800s, there was no local Jewish burial society or funeral home, and often no rabbi to bury Jews in accordance with Jewish traditions. To fill this need, Sinai Memorial Chapel opened its doors in 1901. Today, we continue to serve as Northern California’s only combined chevra kadisha, funeral home and cemetery organization with several locations in the East Bay, Peninsula and San Francisco.