THE JEWISH CENTER HOME  *  CONTACT US  *  CALENDAR  *  SEARCH  *  FACEBOOK

Before the Funeral 
 

Who Is a Mourner According to Jewish Law
The laws of mourning apply to the seven most immediate relatives: father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister and spouse.  While we may feel sad and even mournful for other close relatives, it is only for these seven that a person is required to observe the laws and customs of Jewish mourning.  The laws and customs of mourners apply to all Jewish adults even if the deceased is not Jewish.


Making Funeral Arrangements
One specific member of the immediate family should be designated to handle all the arrangements.  After consulting with all the family members, this person can then coordinate all funeral arrangements and details of shiva.

If you are not sure which funeral home to contact, our clergy will be able to make suggestions.  Funeral services may be held at a funeral home or at The Jewish Center.  The Jewish Center is available to members for funerals, and may also be used by non-members for a fee.  It is also possible to have a graveside funeral.  There is no fee to congregants for funerals conducted by our clergy for immediate family members; clergy fees for non-members’ funerals should be discussed with our clergy.

Please note that funeral services conducted by our clergy and at The Jewish Center must be part of a funeral that conforms to Jewish law in general and, specifically, does not involve cremation.

If the funeral and/or burial will take place out of the local area, the clergy can be of assistance in finding a proper funeral home to contact.  The same rituals apply in different locations and care should be given to explain to the out-of-the-area funeral home that these are the rituals that should be followed.  If one needs help finding information about funeral homes outside of our local area, we recommend the following website of the Jewish Funeral Directors Association: http://www.iccfa.com/groups/jfda


Traditional Jewish Burial and Funeral Rituals
The practical and the simple govern Jewish rituals.  While we respect life, we accept the reality of death.  We treat the body with dignity and with care, reflecting our respect for the life that has left it.

Here are descriptions of some of the practices involved:

Shmirah is the process of having shomrim, or watchers, who are Jews and remain with the body at all times from when it arrives at the funeral home until the funeral service, and recite psalms until the final funeral arrangements begin.  It is a sign of respect that the body is never left alone.

Taharah or purification is the ritual washing and dressing of the body.  After the washing and purification, the body is then dressed in simple cotton, muslin or linen garments called tachrichin or shrouds.  A tallit with one of its tzizit or fringes cut off may be draped over the shroud.

Our community has a Chevra Kadisha, or Burial Society, of volunteers who will do this ritual washing and preparation (at no charge); there is a separate group of men who care for men who have died, and women who care for women.  If you wish their services, you can make arrangements through the funeral home.

A simple wooden coffin is preferred, symbolizing the belief that all people are equal before God.  Because public viewing is disrespectful in Jewish tradition, the coffin remains closed once the body has been placed in it.

Traditional Jewish law prohibits cremation, embalming and autopsy.  However, minimal embalming and/or an autopsy are permitted when there are extenuating circumstances such as death from a rare disease or if mandated by civil law.  If these issues are raised, our clergy can help you understand the laws involved and how to deal with them.

Out of respect for the deceased and for the bereaved, Jewish law calls for burial to take place as soon as possible.  At times, practical considerations may influence the scheduling of the funeral, such as transporting the deceased, travel for immediate family, Shabbat, and holidays.

All Jewish funeral homes offer shomrim, tahara and tachrichin.  Please discuss these with the funeral home so you can make your wishes known.  During your meeting at the funeral home, it is important to finalize the following practical arrangements:

  • Time of service
  • Clergy who will officiate
  • Participation by family members or friends in the service
  • Transportation for the family
  • Any other issues related to the funeral and burial


Traditional Jewish law prohibits cremation, embalming and autopsy.  However, minimal embalming and/or an autopsy are permitted when there are extenuating circumstances such as death from a rare disease or if mandated by civil law.  If these issues are raised, our clergy can help you understand the laws involved and how to deal with them.

Out of respect for the deceased and for the bereaved, Jewish law calls for burial to take place as soon as possible.  At times, practical considerations may influence the scheduling of the funeral, such as transporting the deceased, travel for immediate family, Shabbat, and holidays.


Return to Previous Section.

Continue to Next Section "The Funeral Service"

(Excerpted from "Saying Goodbye: A Guide to Dealing with the Passing of a Loved One" .)