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Guide to the Jewish Funeral
Prepared by the Funeral Practices Committee
Of Your Congregation
Address and Phone

The Jewish way of dealing with death is one part of a larger philosophy of life in which all people are viewed with dignity and respect. Our people believe that, even after death, the body, which once held a holy human life, retains its sanctity. Our sages have compared the sacredness of the deceased to that of an impaired Torah scroll, which although no longer usable, still retains its holiness. In Jewish tradition, therefore, the greatest consideration and respect is accorded the dead.

Jewish law and tradition have endowed funeral and mourning practices with profound religious significance. To this end, Jewish funerals avoid ostentation; family and visitors reflect in dress and deportment the solemnity of the occasion; flowers and music are inappropriate, embalming and viewing are avoided; and interment takes place as soon as possible after death.

Funerary customs are traditionally supervised in Jewish communities by a chevra kadisha, a holy society, comprised of volunteers to aid the bereaved and to ensure that appropriate practices are followed.

Assisting in the preparation and burial of the body is a highly-valued mitzvah. It is a chesed shel emet, a true act of kindness performed without ulterior motive, for the dead cannot repay this service.

WHEN DEATH OCCURS

· Contact the Rabbi or the Synagogue Office first:
xxx – xxx – xxxx (days)
xxx – xxx – xxxx (evenings)

·The rabbi, synagogue staff and funeral practices committee are prepared to assist and advise you in making all necessary arrangements.

·Coordinators for the funeral practices committee have been assigned to assist bereaved members. The names and telephone numbers of the coordinators are published each month in the Synagogue Bulletin.

When a member of a community dies, it is the community’s responsibility to lovingly assist the deceased’s family in this final act of respect. In this spirit, the Synagogue’s Funeral Practices Committee has prepared this basic guide to provide essential information concerning Jewish death, funeral and mourning practices.

THE SYNAGOGUE FUNERAL PRACTICES COMMITTEE

The funeral practices committee wants every synagogue member family to know that our congregation is prepared to assist in a variety of ways:

· The Rabbi is available to assist all members when death occurs. The congregation’s staff and leadership are able to contact the Rabbi (or an alternate if the Rabbi is unavailable) at all times. The Rabbi prefers to be contacted prior to contacting a funeral home or making other funeral commitments in order to counsel the bereaved family concerning traditional Jewish practices.

· The synagogue has contracted with a local funeral home for a simple authentically Jewish funeral at a predetermined cost.

· The Synagogue Board of Directors has established a policy that permits family members to hold traditional funerals in the sanctuary or chapel. A traditional funeral includes tahara, tachrichim, a closed wooden coffin, and a Jewish service devoid of flowers and instrumental music (see page 2 for details). The Synagogue staff and the Funeral Practices Committee will assist the family in making arrangements.

· The Funeral Practices committee is prepared to assist families in making arrangements with a funeral home, and to advise them concerning traditional practices and requirements.

· The Synagogue staff and Funeral Practices Committee will arrange for tahara, tachrichim, and. at the request of the family, a condolence meal and shiva services.

YOUR CONGREGATION – YOUR CITY, STATE – PHONE NUMBER

Funeral Arrangements

Jewish tradition suggests that burial take place as quickly as possible, usually within 24 hours of death. Burial may be delayed for legal reasons; to transport the deceased; if close relatives must travel long distances to be present at the funeral/burial; or to avoid burial on the Sabbath or another holy day. In any case, it should not be delayed longer than necessary. Such special cases as death by accident or suicide, or death of children under 30 days of age should be referred to the rabbi for guidance. In any event, it should be borne in mind that it is inappropriate to make funeral arrangements on Shabbat.

SHMIRA – WATCHING THE BODY
Jewish tradition requires that the deceased not be left alone prior to burial. Hospitals should be requested to avoid disturbing the met (body of the deceased) until the arrival of a shomer. Shmira continues at the funeral home and lasts until the funeral service begins. During shmira psalms or other meditative prayers are read. It is preferable that shomrim (guardians) be members of the family, or friends of the deceased. The committee will assist to the extent possible.

AUTOPSIES
The practice of routine autopsy is contrary to Jewish law, since it is viewed as a desecration of the body. In most cases when an autopsy is recommended, the family can refuse. In cases where an autopsy is required by law, it should be carried out under the supervision of a rabbi who is familiar with the procedures. Our Rabbi should be contacted for guidance and for help in arranging for such supervision.

ORGAN DONATIONS
Though organ donation is viewed by some as involving some desecration of the body, we view it as an example of k’vod ha-met, bringing healing to the living. Thus, it is usually permissible to donate certain organs or tissues; however, since some types of organ donations remain in question under Jewish law, the rabbi should be consulted in all cases.

TAHARA – RITUAL CLEANSING
Jewish law requires that the deceased be cleansed according to a prescribed ritual as an expression of respect. A group of specially trained persons, called a chevra kadisha (holy society), is available to perform this mitzvah.

TACHRICHIM – SHROUD AND BURIAL ATTIRE Jewish law prescribes burial in plain white garments (tachrichim) to demonstrate the equality of all. In addition, it is customary for Jews to be buried wearing their kipa and talit.

EMBALMING
According to Jewish tradition, embalming and the use of cosmetics on the deceased are not permitted. Embalming is not required by civil law.

CREMATION
Cremation is not permitted in Jewish law.

ARON – COFFIN
In order to avoid interference with the natural process of “returning to the earth”, Jewish tradition requires that a coffin be made entirely of wood, without nails or metal decoration.

The Funeral

K’RIA – RENDING OF GARMENTS
Mourners for parents, spouses, children and siblings traditionally participate in the rite of k’ria (rending of garments) usually just prior to the funeral service. This rite consists of tearing a visible portion of clothing (lapel, pocket, or collar, for example). The torn garment is worn throughout the 30-day mourning period (shloshim) except on the Sabbath.

FUNERAL SERVICES
Funeral services may be held in the synagogue, in a funeral home, or at the gravesite. The funeral service is usually brief and simple. It usually includes the chanting of psalms and Eil Malei Rachamim (the traditional memorial prayer), and a hesped (eulogy) honoring the deceased. Fraternal ceremonies and instrumental music are not appropriate.

PALL AND PALLBEARERS
At a funeral the coffin is often covered with an especially-prepared cloth called a pall, and is borne from the funeral service to the burial by family or friends (pallbearers) selected by the mourners.

CONDOLENCE CALLS
During the period from death until burial the mourner (called an onen during this period) is exempt from performing all religious duties. Condolence calls should be made after the funeral during the shiva week except on the Sabbath.

KOHANIM – PRIESTS
There are many special provisions related to the attendance of kohanim at a funeral. For details, consult the rabbi.

VIEWING THE REMAINS
Viewing the body either publicly or privately is contrary to Jewish tradition.

FLOWERS
Flowers are not appropriate. Friends and associates of the deceased who wish to show some concrete expression of condolence should be encouraged to contribute to a charity which was of importance to the deceased.

YOUR CONGREGATION – YOUR CITY, STATE – PHONE NUMBER

Burial

CARRYING THE COFFIN
The pallbearers customarily stop several times while carrying the coffin to the grave. The coffin precedes the mourners, family and friends as a mark of respect.

K’VURA – BURIAL
In traditional practice, the coffin is lowered into the ground and the grave filled, using a reversed shovel until a mound is formed over the coffin. The kaddish is recited at the grave after k’vura is completed.

LEAVING THE CEMETERY
It is customary for the mourners to pass between two rows of the others in attendance to receive traditional expressions of consolation. After burial, it is also traditional to wash one’s hands after leaving the cemetery or before entering the house of mourning. This washing is an affirmation of life after involvement with death.
Periods of Mourning
SHIVA – THE FIRST SEVEN DAYS
Shiva is the seven-day period of intensive mourning observed by the immediate family of the deceased beginning on the day of burial. The mourners include anyone whose parent, spouse, child, or sibling has died. During the entire shiva period mourners are encouraged to stay away from work or school to remain at home, and to contemplate the meaning of life and the manner in which adjustment will be made to the death of the beloved.

Public mourning observances are suspended on the Sabbath in view of the belief that the sanctity and serenity of this day supersedes personal grief. Mourners are permitted, indeed encouraged, to attend Sabbath services; but they are not given an aliyah, do not conduct the services, and the k’ria is not displayed publicly. A major festival terminates shiva (for details consult the rabbi). Since Judaism teaches that the feeling of loss of a human life is not limited to the deceased’s family alone, but is shared by the entire community, it is customary at our synagogue for the name of the deceased to be read at a Sabbath service after the funeral.

It is customary for family and friends to arrange for a condolence meal (which traditionally includes round foods such as eggs) to be served to the mourners at the house of mourning when they return from the cemetery. The mourners should not serve as hosts or otherwise entertain their visitors. If requested by the family, the funeral practices committee will arrange this limited meal.

It is customary, as symbols of mourning, for the mirrors in the shiva home to be covered, for the mourners to be provided with lower chairs on which to sit, for a seven-day

memorial candle to be kindled, and for the mourners to refrain from wearing leather shoes and from shaving. Greetings between mourners and visitors are not normally exchanged.

It is also customary for the mourners to participate in morning, afternoon and evening services in the shiva home during the seven days, except on the Sabbath when mourners attend synagogue services. The mourners may conduct these home services or may designate others to do so. If requested by the family the funeral practices committee will assist in providing for such services.

SHLOSHIM – THE FIRST THIRTY DAYS
During the thirty days following burial (except shiva) mourners return to work and normal activities, but refrain from public entertainment or social activities. The k’ria is customarily worn during shloshim. In place of home services, mourners attend synagogue services daily to recite kaddish.

SHANNA – THE FIRST YEAR
Mourners for deceased parents continue to attend services daily to recite kaddish for eleven months, and continue to refrain from celebratory activities for a full year.

YAHRZEIT – ANNIVERSARY OF DEATH
The kaddish is recited each year on the anniversary of death (not burial).

YIZKOR – MEMORIAL PRAYERS
Yizkor prayers are recited on Yom Kippur, Sh’mni Atzeret, Pesach and Shavuot and should be recited beginning with the first Holy Day after death.

FUNERAL HOMES
Your synagogue has contracted with a local funeral home for utilization of their facilities for the conduct of authentically Jewish funerals at a predetermined cost.
We do not have, at this time, a contract with other establishments for specified services at a predetermined cost. However, owners of other funeral homes have indicated that fully traditional services and equipment are available if requested by families.

MITZVAH OPPORTUNITIES
Our committee is most eager to add concerned and interested volunteers to its subcommittees on:
· Funeral arrangements
· Shmira
· Tahara
· Cemetery arrangements
· Condolence meals
· Shiva minyanim

Contact the synagogue office to volunteer.

YOUR CONGREGATION – YOUR CITY, STATE – PHONE NUMBER

PRE-PLANNING
The time of bereavement is not the time to make many of the decisions which survivors must face. An earlier preparation of a will is the first step to relieve such anxiety and anguish. Advance purchase of gravesites is another important step. The following is offered as a guide to a few key items to form a minimal source of information to help the survivors make necessary arrangements. The Funeral Practices Committee encourages you to fill out the form, and to keep it together with this guide in a well-identified location.

FULL NAMES: English FULL NAMES: Hebrew




Father Father
Mother Mother
       

location

account #

Social Security Bank Accounts


Numbers

Checking



Cards are kept

Savings




Other


Birth Certificate Investments

  Date of birth
Company

Location of birth Securities

Certificate is kept
Name

Legal Advisor Real Estate


  Name Located at
Contact Documents
Phone

Will is kept Military Service
Life Insurance   Branch
  Company Dates
Agent Service no.
Phone
VA Claim no.
Policy Numbers Government Insurance No

Policies are kept Discharge kept at
Health and Accident Cemetery Property
  Company Name
Agent Deed Number

Phone Location

Policy Numbers No. of spaces
Policies are kept Funeral Home
Safe Deposit Box: Funeral Practices Comm. Contract
  Location Other choice
Number Letter on file

RELATIVES AND CLOSE FRIENDS who should be notified

Name Address Phone Number