Updated 5th April 2016
Judaism Death Emergency Assistance
Submitted by Rabbi Natan Levy. Interfaith and Social Officer BOD Board of Deputies of British Jews
Advisor on Judaism to Faith and Fire.
Providing Emergency Assistance
The need to save life “pikuach nefesh” takes precedence in all instances.
More observant Jews prefer not to be touched by members of the opposite sex.
During prayer many Jews will sway backwards and forwards, and observe silence, so this should not be regarded as abnormal or obstructive.
Under conditions of danger and stress Jews may wish to say prayers – either a declaration of faith (“shema”) or psalms “tehillim”.
Take care of any items you find at operational incidents such as prayerbooks, silverware, Torah scrolls, and any other items that are potential religious artefacts. Keep them clean and return them to the owners / occupants or their families.
Dealing with Death
It is customary for someone to remain with a person who is dying, and also to remain with them after death. Touching or moving the dying person should be avoided if at all possible. From a corpse essential samples may be taken if necessary.
Most Jewish communities in the UK have a “chevra kadisha” (holy society) who should be contacted as soon as possible. They will undertake the tasks of handling the body and washing and cleaning it in preparation for burial according to Jewish tradition.