Guide to Respectful Religious Decluttering


Non-sacred objects

When Marla Alt, 60, recently moved from a home in New York’s Westchester County to an apartment in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, she had to decide what to do with all the religious and decorative Jewish art we no longer need. nor have the space to possess. Alt, known as “The Moving Whisperer”, is a moving management expert and owner of 123organize. She wanted to get rid of Jewish-themed posters and a havdalah set, which usually includes a kiddush cup to hold wine or grape juice and a candle holder for the candle which, when lit, signifies the end of the Sabbath.

Alt ended up passing these things on to an online auction, which Rabbi Julie Zupan, director of Jewish learning and engagement at the New York-based Union for Reform Judaism, says is very well, at least for these particular items. As

Since Jewish practice centers around the home, Jewish families often possess a treasure trove of ritual objects, but they are not considered “holy” in the way a sacred object bearing the name of God might be, says Zupan.

However, when something is sacred, such as a Torah scroll or a translation of a Jewish sacred work such as the Talmud (the main source of Jewish law and religious beliefs), for example, and is in poor condition, it is disrespectful to throw it away, says Zupan.

“We bury them in the ground the same way as in Jewish tradition, we bury a loved one who has passed away,” she says. Jewish cemeteries often have special grounds dedicated to these types of objects and may periodically hold ceremonies to bury Jewish prayer books.

For Christian artifacts, Kenneth Doyle, priest of the Diocese of Albany and former spokesman and Rome bureau chief for the Catholic News Service, says, “Canon law speaks of sacred objects that are blessed and says that they should be treated with respect, and this is as specific as possible.

So if an object is not “blessed”, it is not considered “holy” and it is not something that requires special care when it comes to disposing of it. Doyle cites examples of statues or rosaries (a chain, traditionally used during prayer, made up of a series of beads, a small medallion and a crucifix) that may have been mailed as gifts from a religious order. “Religious orders don’t usually bless the items they send out,” Doyle says. In this case, these items could, technically, be discarded.


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