While Jewish and Christian funerals incorporate many rituals as well as specific formats, people with no connection to houses of worship or clergy are left with few choices except the recommendations of funeral homes.
Having officiated at the funerals of many people, my skills and experience are available to help you through your difficult time.
Call me and I will guide you towards meaningful memorial services.
The tradition in Judaism is to keep funerals as simple as possible.
* Jewish funerals should take place as soon as possible. They are often done on the day after the death of your loved one. You or someone close to you needs to call a funeral home to have the deceased prepared for burial according to traditional Jewish ritual.
* Between the time of death and the burial, you are considered an "Onen" (immediate relative of the deceased). You are to be taken care of and relieved of any and all responsibilities. Your focus should be on the funeral and burial of your loved one.
* You will need to make an appointment to visit a funeral home and make arrangements for the service, to chose a casket and if necessary, to purchase a funeral plot. If you are a member of a synagogue, you will need to call and advise clergy that your loved one has passed and that you need them to officiate at the Service. If you do not know a rabbi or cantor, the funeral home can provide one for you.
* The rabbi will schedule a time to meet with you to gather information for a eulogy and answer any questions you may have. If you need a rabbi you can email or call me at 917-407-0477.
* A "shomer" (guard), may be hired to remain with the body from time of death until the burial. This is done as a sign of respect to not leave the body alone and to symbolically protect it until burial.
* In some communities, a "holy society" (Chevra Kaddisha) takes charge of a body at death. They clean and bathe the body, perform a ritual of pouring water over the corpse (called Tahorah), dress the body in the shroud (Tachrich) and put the body into the casket. In lieu of a Chevra Kaddisha, a Jewish Funeral Home will perform the rituals.
* Burial should be in a plain wooden casket with no metal, that includes no metal handles or even nails. They are put together with wooden pegs. This is done because it demonstrates that everyone is equal in death--the rich and the poor. Also it frees the bereaved family from any sense of duty to spend more than they can afford.
* The body is clothed in a white linen shroud and not street clothes.This is done because no one should spend more than they can afford on funeral expenses.
* Autopsies are not routinely done unless required by law.
* Among observant Jews, cremation is not allowed. According to tradition, we cannot desecrate a body by artificial means. In addition, memories of the Holocaust are strong. However, Liberal Jews sometimes choose cremation for their loved ones as it is less expensive and a large financial burden should not be placed on mourners.
* At the funeral, an article of clothing is torn by the direct morners. This is called k'riah. It is usually a lapel of a dress or shirt, a tie or sometimes a black ribbon that is placed on the left over the heart for a parent or child or on the right side for a spouse or sibling.
* At the cemetary the casket is put into the ground and the mourners and those attending the funeral fill the grave or at least cover the casket with a layer of dirt. This again is a sign of respect.
* Once the funeral is over, all attending ritually wash their hands as they leave the cemetery.
* Condolences are made at the home of the mourners. "Shiva" (seven days of mourning) are observed at the home(s) of the mourner(s). Some mourners only observe the first three days of Shiva.
* Flowers, although not prohibited, are normally not sent. Most feel it is much better to honor the deceased by making a contribution to a synagogue, charity, hospital, or to a medical research association for the disease which afflicted the deceased. This method of tribute can be more lasting and meaningful.