N. Tzukerman





1715 Pruzhany Chevra Kadisha amendments , conforms oldest preserved Statute of this congregation. But the date doesn't coincide with  year of Congregation's establishment , and we imagine that together with missing Protocols of Pinkas, also got lost older amendments. The amendments that we bring next come from year 1715, and we consider they are additional modifications of those that existed previously. These changes were made after several years, and according to the tradition every seven years, but generally this period was not preserved. The statute that we will mention later, translated from Hebrew,  consists on 18 points (the quantity 18 was always conserved in all amendments; TN 18 is written in Hebrew as the word "life" or "Chai", considering we are talking of a burial society ), determining Administrator's responsibilities and those  of congregation members.





It is duty of whole Congregation, for those who are here, those who are not, and those who are in a  trip, to fast in the eve of first day of the month of Kislev. Those that remain here should meet for: to ask " Forgiveness " (it is a prayer), to praye according to Jewish laws, collective fast, distribute what poor need, and at evening prepare a meal, as it is traditional in Congregations in all  Saint Communities.


If occasionally there was a very serious sick person, merciful G-d protects us,  in agony state, the Administrators will make a draw in the whole Congregation, and two people that are drawn will be with the sick person, that is to say, they take turns every hour. If one of them was in an emergency or a limit situation, and was him impossible to attend the sick person, his words won't be enough, and he should be presented before the Administrators to declare and to justify, until his words are convincing, and in his place will be sent another person. This will be worth only one single time.  If G-d doesn't allow it, this happens to one of the members of the Chevra Kadisha, 10 people should attend his illness and behave properly.


It is also Administrator's duty to pay due attention to the precept of consoling relatives of deceased, and they should be attended at least by three members.


If one of the members disappears, G-d doesn't allow it, all members should pray seven days of bereavement, the sacred Torah rolls will be in deceased's house, and even in Shabbat will be  prayed there.


The person that does not take in charge his duties of in three opportunities, when it happens - D-s doesn't allow it - the death of somebody, and after the Serviceman informed him and he didn't attend, it is worthy of being expelled of the Chevra Kadisha, without any more justification.


The Administrator should be present during Saint Surveillance, when coffin is prepared, and through the Serviceman he should inform all members of the Chevra Kadisha that they should attend obligatorily. Who doesn't go, will given the first time a fine of two Polish groshen, and if he transgresses for a second time, will be of six groshen. If it is summoned a third time and he doesn't go, will be punished with the exclusion of Chevra Kadisha at least four weeks. The Administrator will register his non attendance, the first time, second and third time, and then will be  applied him the trial up mentioned.


If it happened something, G-d doesn't allow it, and members are present in the place, no any member could be absent of the city, and if it is an emergency, they should be presented to the Administrators to be justified, and  his words should be convincing.


People should not behave  frivolous in the cemetery, and the person that transgresses will give a fine of six Polish groshen.


The Administrator will watch over that all Chevra Kadisha members  don't go away  immediately from the cemetery after having covered the grave. Will await not less than six people related with the Chevra Kadisha that the Administrator will designate. Who doesn't accept, will pay a fine of ten groshen

Who pays the fine because of mentioned before, will be registered, and the Administrator will have the responsibility  to claim that amount and to register absentees. The collectors designated  will be controlled and they should write down the quantity of collected money, surrendering fair bills to the Administrator and  Accounts Reviewers.


About what was registered in amendment 2: if it happens, G-d doesn't allow it, the death of one of Chevra Kadihsa members .... people should behave in the way registered in amendments 3 and 4, and also (after the death) all members of the Chevra Kadisha should go to the cemetery and ask forgiveness to the deceased next to his tomb


If it happened, merciful G-d protects us, and some of the members were not in charge of his duties at least in two opportunities (as for preparing the grave, dress the deceased, etc.) but completed one of the two precepts , he is considered for good.


Administrators will not be in their position less than three years (according to last amendment). If happens the case he was reelected again to be the appropriate person, he occupies the position the fourth year, seventh, and this way forever.


Administrator is allowed to make cash expenditures only for two guilden, without consent of Accounts Reviewers .Designated people will register all incomes and expenditures in cash and  guarantees for small or big elements .


Since the day amendments  up mentioned were accepted, was decided that everybody, big and small, old and young,  will have same responsibility in fulfill  mentioned precept, and nobody is entitled of saying : "I was named before". All are of the same level. When G-d wants, when making arbitration, card of each one will be deposited in the urn.

About sepulcher payment , as was remembered in previous amendment, if it was not paid since one year or more, the Administrator will explain the situation to three members of the Chevra Kadisha so  they are in charge of the issue with him, and the person that does not pay will be treated as it is indicated in previous amendments.


Referees will not be more than three and they should not name themselves. Only two of them will be Administrators. If the three already carried out last year that position, they cannot be reelected. Will be done a draw among them, and two they will be  Administrators, plus two Chevra Kadisha members . Independently of Administrators, will be designated three Accounts Reviewers - and also inspectors - to control the execution of  registered amendments, and two people to claim fines.


The person who has the audacity of opening his mouth against the honor of members to humiliate them, the Administrators will gather all members to consider punishment they deserve, and will be registered in Pinkas what majority decided.

All men, members here present, we tust in G-d, and we register the name of each one according to his hierarchy. Those that come close to us to collaborate in our activities, their opinion will be respected.

The amendments inspectors  , and those that claim fines, are forced to claim all notes debts, lease rights, and guarantees. They are also in charge of cemetery arrangements, new constructions, and fences.


The member of the Chevra Kadisha that remained in his position during 18 years, when he dies the family will be exempt of sepulcher payment . If a discussion arose among members with regard to this issue, will proceed a public trial and Accounts Reviewers will judge the culprit and they will liberate the innocent . Who transgresses this amendment,  will be expelled unanimously of the Chevra Kadisha for the lapse of six months. The defendant and the plaintiff are entitled to be presented before a trial, together with all the members.


From today and during next four years, will not be accepted in our Chevra Kadisha other men , and at the end of this period, only will be accepted with the consent of all members.

Nobody should dare to speak about  the honor of another during the festivity of "Hoshana Raba" and "Simchat Torah". In this festivities will be made a draw among Administrators, to determine who will have the honor of  carrying Torah Sacred Rolls and who will be the follower. This will be  done only among three Administrators.


All amendments (up mentioned)  were registered from the # 1 to # 18. We conclude with the help of G-d who will say us "enough suffering" and in particular to all you, those who trust in our G-d in life.




According to present amendments, it is not clear if the Chevra Kadisha had other functions besides funerals and tasks linked to this issue. Is not mentioned in amendments the objective bases of the Chevra Kadisha, and this explains that this Statute is not certainly the first one and therefore here were completed, and they were modifications of previous Statutes. We should also doubt, if in  first registered statute, existed the cause for which this Chevra Kadisha was established in Jewish settlements, according to traditions accepted in previous times, brought by first Jews that emigrated of other Communities and arrived to these lands. With time, happened modifications dependent of  local conditions.


In later amendment's are shown rules different from the genuine function. This way, was accepted in 1730 that a distribution of money has to be done among the poor during the eve of each festivity. In the paragraph A) we read:


The Administrator of our Chevra Kadisha will distribute among poor people, in each festivity, not less than three Polish guilden. He won't do it alone, but accompanied by another Administrator, and of an Accounts Reviewer.  


A similar amendment is found in year 1778. 


 ...His eyes will remain open to watch over and to distribute money among the poor of the city, according to  Administrators criteria.


This procedure as it comes off, was not fulfilled , because some years later, in year 1890 (5650) we find the following: 


  1. About the distribution among poor people mentioned several times in this Pinkas, today we reiterate again that it should be this way: the Administrator will distribute in the eve of Pesach ten guilden, and before each festivity six guilden.


Years  later we find amendments, in which is cleared up the form of medicines distribution among sick people.  In  amendments of the year 1744, paragraph 9 is stated: 


The Administrator of the "Service of Sick Persons Care"  will see if he has first aid medicines, and will distribute them among poor and sick people. If he has money surplus,  will distribute it among poor and sick, because a sick person has priority  in receiving monetary support, as for medicines help.


Regarding sick persons attention, we find later  anamendment of  year 1752.  


9. The Administrator of "Service of Sick Persons Care"  will always have homemade medicines that revive the body. Previous to fairs, he will go to Chevra Kadisha Administrator and will  give him the list with necessary elements (that will be bought). 


Of same year we find an amendment about the source of economic means to assist sick persons.  In paragraph 8 we read: 


All collected by means of "money boxes" in a funeral, will be distributed by two people this way: a third to the Administrator of the "Service of Sick Persons Care", and the rest will be distributed according Administrators criteria.


In an amendment of 1752, a mention is also made about money lending. In the paragraph 1 we read: 


...Referees will name a person to maintain in his power the money of  "money boxes". The Administrator can offer this money as a loan when it would be necessary. ..Will be forbidden use that money for another need.... 


In all amendments, as we see,  Chevra Kadisha takes the responsibility  of a series of solidarity tasks. This was because in that time the Chevra Kadhisa was the only religious institution  (TN: Local Kehila, after VML disappeared in 1761, was completely in functions opened later).  But later when Jewish establishment grew, and other  solidarity help groups settled down independently, the Chevra Kadisha gives up the different tasks and only carries out its specific functions.


A series of amendments of the Chevra Kadisha were registered about the issue "Annual Meal" that  was carried out in Kislev 28.   Twice was regulated that each member of the Chevra Kadisha should contribute a weekly groshen for that meal.  It is ignored if this was truly done because years later is  repeated same amendment.  


For annual meal were invited  all members of the Chevra Kadisha, and also 12 people and three teachers. An amendment of 1721 treats this issue: 


...Will be invited to the meal only members of the Chevra Kadisha. Also 12 people and three teachers. The Administrators will clarify who are those 12 people and three teachers.


Administrators headed the Chevra Kadisha and they were elected by draw. In an urn were placed  cards, chord to the quantity of men members of Chevra Kadisha that were entitled to participate in the draw (In a series of amendments were given precise data of those who had this right). On a certain quantity of cards, they made a sign and each man extracted a card. Then referees gathered them in a remote room, and they chose the Administrators.  


Besides the Administrators, they also chose Accounts Reviewers whose real work was to control  Administrators task.