Jewish Funerals and Customs

There are two basic principles when dealing with death and funerals, showing respect for the deceased and comforting the living. The Jewish burial process involves many traditions and a great deal of symbolism.

After Death

In Jewish culture, planning for the funeral begins immediately after the death. A shomer, or guardian, stays with the body while preparations are being made, as the body should never be left alone. The family may appoint the shomer, or a rabbi can assist in finding the guardian. The body is always treated with reverence, and Jewish funeral customs are centered around showing the deceased respect.

Planning the Jewish Funeral

According to Jewish law, the funeral should occur as soon as possible. The funeral should take place within twenty-four hours, but certain circumstances can lift that rule. For instance, if the burial would fall on Saturday or a holy day or if the body would need to be transported for the burial, the twenty-four-hour period could be extended. This short period of time takes both the dead and living into consideration. Not only does it show respect for the deceased, but it also allows the living to commence with the mourning period, which cannot begin until after the funeral.

The Funeral Service

Before the service, the body is prepared and wrapped in burial shrouds. It is then laid in a simple wooden casket. During this time, the family members attach a black ribbon to their lapels. These ribbons are worn throughout a week-long mourning period after the funeral.

Jewish funeral traditions determine that the ceremony should be simple and meaningful, focusing on the prayers and eulogy. Flowers are usually not present, aside from a small bouquet near the casket if the family and rabbi find it appropriate.

The Burial

At the burial site, the rabbi will pray, again, for the deceased and the family. Following the reciting of the Mourner’s Kaddish, the casket is placed in the ground. At that time, each mourner places some dirt in the grave with the casket. This act allows each person in attendance to offer one more physical act of kindness to their loved one.

After the Burial

Many Jewish funeral customs don’t actually take place until after the burial. At this time, the family begins the mourning process. Shiva occurs throughout the first seven days, giving the family time to grieve and receive guests. Shloshim continues until thirty days after the funeral and involves the family continuing to gather and pray together.

Community Support

Dealing with death is never easy. Jewish funeral traditions bring the community together to provide support and love when it’s needed most.

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Jewish Funeral Customs

In Jewish culture, planning for a funeral begins immediately after death. A shomer, or guardian, stays with the body while preparations are being made, as the body should never be left alone. The body is always treated with reverence, and Jewish funeral customs are centered around showing the deceased respect. According to Jewish law, the funeral should occur as soon as possible - oftentimes within twenty-four hours. Before the service, the body is prepared and wrapped in burial shrouds. It is then laid in a simple wooden casket. Jewish funeral traditions determine that the ceremony should be simple and meaningful, focusing on the prayers and eulogy. At the burial site, the rabbi will pray, again, for the deceased and the family. Following the reciting of the Mourner’s Kaddish, the casket is placed in the ground. At that time, each mourner places some dirt in the grave with the casket. This act allows each person in attendance to offer one more physical act of kindness to their loved one. Many Jewish funeral customs don’t actually take place until after the burial. At this time, the family begins the mourning process. Shiva occurs throughout the first seven days, giving the family time to grieve and receive guests. Shloshim continues until thirty days after the funeral and involves the family continuing to gather and pray together.