Beckman Williamson Funeral Homes& Crematory understands a Jewish funeral is a sacred rite and should be invested with both dignity and simplicity as taught by Jewish Tradition. The Jewish way of dealing with death is one part of a larger philosophy of life in which all persons are viewed with dignity and respect. We will do all that is necessary to achieve the satisfaction for the community we serve.
Jewish Funeral Customs
All funerals have different procedures depending on the deceased persons religion and desires. Each religion has its own customs.
Judaism, just like other religions does have many laws and customs regarding funerals and mourning.
Regardless of whether you are a Reform, Conservative, or Orthodox Jew, many Orthodox beliefs are followed or honored when people want to mourn for a Jewish person in the most traditional way possible. Whenever you are not sure, or are considering a change in rituals, you should consult with your Rabbi, or the Rabbi conducting the service and ceremony.
Role of the Rabbi
- Families should consult the Rabbi as soon as possible when death occurs. Any questions regarding funeral arrangements and periods of mourning should be referred to the Rabbi for guidance.
- Funeral directors may be used if they observe Jewish customs and traditions. The Rabbi should be consulted on the acceptability of a funeral director.
When Death occurs
- Jewish law requires that burial take place as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours after the 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 Shabbat or another holy day. Special cases such as death by accident or suicide, or death of children should be referred to the Rabbi for guidance. It is inappropriate to make arrangements on Shabbat itself.
- Shmirah- Attending to the body Jewish tradition requires that the deceased not be left alone prior to burial. Hospitals should be requested to avoid disturbing the remains until the arrival of a Shomer (guardian). It is preferable that Shomrim be members of the family, friends of the deceased, or members of the congregation. Tehillim (Psalms) are recited by the Shomrim.
Aninut - Time between Death and Burial
- Autopsies and organ donation - The practice or routine autopsies is contrary to Jewish law. When an autopsy is recommended, the family can refuse. In cases where the law requires an autopsy, it should be carried out under the supervision of a Rabbi who is familiar with the procedures. Organ donation my be viewed as an example of K'vod Hamet (respect for the deceased) which brings healing to the living. The Rabbi should be consulted in all cases.
- Embalming- According to Jewish tradition, embalming and the use of cosmetics on the deceased are not permitted. Embalming is not permitted unless required by civil law.
- Cremation- Cremation in the past has been against Jewish tradition and the family of the deceased should be advised by the Rabbi.
- Taharah- (Ritual cleansing) - Jewish law requires that the deceased be cleansed according to prescribed ritual as an expression of respect. A group of trained persons is called on by the Rabbi.
- Tachrichim -(Shroud and burial attire) - Jewish law prescribes burial in plain white shrouds so as to demonstrate the equality of all. In addition, a Jewish male is customarily buried with a Kipah and his own talit. One corner of the talit is customarily cut off.
- Aron (Casket)- To avoid interference with the natural process of "returning to the earth," Jewish tradition requires that an Aron be made entirely of wood.
- K'riah -(Rending the garment) - Mourners for parents, a spouse, children, or siblings traditionally participate in the rite of K'riah usually just prior to the funeral service. This rite consist of tearing a visible portion of clothing. The torn garment is worn throughout the 7 day mourning period (Shivah). In many communities the mourner wears a black ribbon. The ribbon is cut instead of cutting the garment.
- Onen- (Bereaved person) An immediate family member of the deceased is called an onen. the onen is exempt from the performance of all affirmative religious obligations, such as reciting the three daily services or putting on tefillin during aninut.
- Which family members mourn - Naturally everyone who knew the deceased person is in various degrees of mourning depending on the relationship with the person who passed away. Judaism, however, specifies seven immediate family members who are expected to directly observe the mourning period: the mother and father, son and daughter, brother and sister, (including half-brother and half-sister),and husband and wife.
- Clothing and body - These seven certain members of the family in mourning do not wear leather shoes, put on make up or use perfume, shave, take haircuts, or bathe, and no marital relationships take place. All mirrors in the house where the family is sitting Shiva are covered as mourners are not to be vain.The word Shevah in Hebrew means seven, and the word Shiva is taken from that to mean seven days of mourning following the funeral.
- The Cemetery - Any Jewish person can be buried in a Jewish cemetery. It is also the Orthodox opinion that the person be buried in the ground. A Rabbi should be consulted before a decision is made.
- Jewish Veterans - Many American Veterans do not realize the benefits afforded by the U.S. Government concerning burial of Veterans. It is important to realize that the burial of the deceased including their marker is all free. This is a savings sometimes greater than$6000. This is a benefit of free burial for any U.S. Veteran and all that is need is a copy of your DD-214 given to the funeral home. Funeral home services and casket costs are not a part of the Veterans Benefits
- Marking of the grave - Any information can be put on the tombstone. Usual procedure is to place both the English and Hebrew names of the deceased on the tombstone with their fathers name. Some people may also list the birth date and the date that the person passed away. Jewish people who are Cohenim or Leviim also put symbols such as a pair of handsor, a wash basin to show that they are a Cohen or a Levi.
- Anniversary - We observe the Yarzheit (anniversary date of passing) on the day the person passed away according to the Jewish calendar. During the first year after a parent passes away, one joins in the Yizkor services on the three Festivals and Yom Kippur but does not say the prayer. One of the reasons is because Kaddish is said for the person everyday during the first eleven months. Yizkor in Hebrew means remember.Yizkor is a prayer said in memory of the person. This prayer is said on Yom Kippur, Shimini Atzeretz, on the last day of Passover, and Shavuot.
- The funeral home can make all the arrangements for burial.
- We will, for a fee, handle everything from limousine service to and from the funeral, to sympathy acknowledgment cards, obituaries in the local and Jewish newspapers, death certificates, and give out Yarzheit candles(memorial candle for the week of Shiva) to the family. If the family members belong to a Temple or Synagogue, they can ask their Rabbi to conduct the services. If the members are not affiliated with a Temple and want a specific Rabbi, they need to check if the Rabbi is available and agreeable to conduct the service. Otherwise, the Funeral home can locate a Rabbi to conduct the service.
- Pre Planning Needs - This is not a topic that many of us like to talk about. But if we plan in advance just like we do when we need to buy automobile insurance or obtain medical insurance. We hope we will never need the insurance in event of an emergency. It is the same situation when it comes to planning ahead for your burial arrangements. You can choose your preference of site, casket, Rabbi, etc. ahead of time and reduce the burden on the loved ones so they don't have to make all the difficult decisions at once.
- Cemetery property - The price range for a cemetery plot varies.It is like shopping for a home. You want to know more information about the neighborhood and the average price for a two bedroom home, as one counselor explains, it's the same for the cemetery. Location is a key factor in the price range. The funeral home will assist the family to obtain cemetery property at a fair price. You may want a plot in a specific section, prefer a traditional side by side space, or family estate.
- Funeral costs - Caskets are the greatest variable in pricing the funeral. There are services of the funeral home and cemetery along with various cash advance items which are necessary to complete the arrangement. Prearrangement counseling will help you with those decisions. This is not to be left at the time of a death for other people to do.
Helpful Tips for A Checklist:
- Requesting the death certificate - for legal purposes.
- Making arrangements with funeral home - To remove and prepare the body for the funeral.
- Get a Rabbi - to provide guidance and spiritual comfort and to make arrangements for the service.
- Contact all family members and friends.
- Notify Employer.
- Inform the deceased person's affiliations i.e. professional and social organizations.
- Most importantly you should know where the location is for the wills and vital papers, records, and bank safe deposit box keys and their tallit if the deceased is a male.
Beckman Williamson Funeral Homes will help you in the discussion of funeral arrangements. Preplanning has helped many families in the past and we hope this service will be an encouragement for your family to plan at today's cost and the services and merchandise will be guaranteed at the time of death.
Start your planning by clicking and submitting a prearrangement form. Shalom!