When a Jewish loved one dies…will you know what to do?
Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of
A Basic Guide to Jewish Funeral Practice
Before making funeral arrangements, it is helpful to understand the basic principles and practices concerning death and mourning to which all branches of Judaism subscribe:
- The body is holy. It once held life and retains its sanctity after death. Traditionally, it is accorded the greatest respect and is accompanied from death to burial. It is not desecrated by embalming or burning. Once the body is placed in the casket, the casket is closed and there is no “viewing.”
- Death is part of Nature. Nothing is done to mask the reality of death. Traditionally, cosmetics are not applied, and embalming is not practiced. The funeral and burial are usually a day or two following death. The body’s elements return to nature.
- Equality and Simplicity. Ostentation is avoided. The same dignity and simplicity is adhered to for rich and poor alike. Traditionally, the body is dressed in simple white garments (tachrichim) and buried in a plain wooden casket with no ornamentation.
- Funeral and Burial. Funeral services consist of Psalms and other Biblical readings, the prayer, “God, full of mercy,” and one or more eulogies. Traditionally, there are no floral displays or music and burial is in the earth in a Jewish cemetery, where the bereaved family first says the Kaddish prayer.
- Comforting the Bereaved. After burial, concern is for the living. Friends and family comfort the bereaved, providing a meal of condolence at their home and visiting them during Shivah, the initial mourning period of up to seven days following burial.
Arranging a Jewish Funeral in the Greater Washington Area
The Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington contracts with two local funeral homes to provide a quality traditional Jewish funeral at a fixed modest cost.
If you belong to a synagogue, first contact its clergy, office staff or funeral committee.
If you are unaffiliated with a synagogue, directly contact:
In the District of Columbia and Maryland:
Hines-Rinaldi Funeral Home
11800 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20904
Cunningham Turch Funeral Home
811 Cameron Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
When calling either funeral home be sure to ask for the “Jewish Funeral Package.”
What is the Jewish Funeral Package?
The contract price includes picking up the body at the place of death; transportation to the funeral home, the funeral and the cemetery; refrigeration; a simple casket; and use of the funeral home chapel for the funeral service, if desired.
In addition, the funeral home will:
- help you find a rabbi to conduct the funeral and burial
- arrange for a newspaper death notice and complete and pick up certified copies of the death certificate
- provide any needed limousine service
- help you make necessary burial arrangements with a Jewish cemetery
The cost of limousine service, printing of the death notice, and copies of the death certificate are fixed under our contract but are not included in the funeral package price.
The funeral package price also does not include the cost of a cemetery plot or cemetery charges for a cement liner (if required) or for opening and closing the grave.
It’s best to have bought grave sites in advance. If you have not yet bought grave sites and have no personal reason to choose one or another cemetery, we recommend Gan Zikaron – The Garden of Remembrance in Clarksburg MD, which is the only area Jewish non-profit community-owned cemetery, or any of the synagogue-owned cemeteries.
Additional details about the JFPCGW funeral contracts and current pricing information can be found at our website, www.DC.Jewish-funerals.org
For further guidance peruse the website or contact Art Hessel, JFPCGW president, at 202-569-4289 or Hessel.Arthur@yahoo.com.
“We sustain the poor…and visit the sick… and bury the dead…and comfort the bereaved… for these are ways of peace.”
(Talmud, Tractate Gittin 61a)