Jewish Women Perform Shmira, Sitting with Dead

November 6, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On November 6, 2001, The New York Times reported that the Orthodox Jewish ritual known as sitting shmira has taken on new dimensions in the wake of Septeber 11. In New York at the makeshift morgue for victims of the terror attacks, students from Stern College for Women fulfill the Jewish comandment "to keep watch over the dead, who must not be left alone from the moment of passing until burial... working in shifts from Friday afternoons until nightfall on Saturdays, the holiest part of the week. The rest of the time, the task is performed by scores of volunteers from an Orthodox synagogue... Devout Jews cannot ride [in cars or on the subway] on the Sabbath," but the young women live in nearby Stern dormitories and all agreed to allow them to take the sabbath shifts despite women usually only being allowed to sit shmira for other women. The students have been praised by "Christian chaplains at the site, and their dedication has moved police officers and medical examiners to tears."