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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. Our people believe that, even after death, the body, which once held a holy human life, retains its sanctity. Our sages have compared the sacredness of the deceased to that of an impaired Torah scroll which, although no longer useable, retains its holiness. In Jewish tradition, therefore, the greatest consideration and respect are accorded the dead.

Jewish law and tradition have endowed funeral and mourning practices with profound religious significance. When a member of a community dies, it is our Temple Beth-El community’s responsibility to lovingly assist the deceased’s family in this final act. We are dedicated to bring honor to the deceased and comfort to the mourners.

For more information please visit the Rabbinical Assembly website for a Guide to Jewish Funeral Practices.

Funeral Arrangements

The Rabbi is notified of a death in the congregation and visits the family as soon as possible to:

  • Begin to assist them in planning for the funeral. The Rabbi can contact the funeral home that the family chooses, if a funeral home has not already been called
  • Inform them of Jewish practices related to death and mourning
  • Support them

At this time several things are discussed with the family and determined according to Jewish practice, Temple Beth-El policy and the family and/or deceased’s wishes. These include:

  • Taharah and shomrim (ritual washing and staying with the deceased before burial)
  • Date and time of the funeral
  • Selection of pallbearers
  • Household needs including preparing the house for Shiva, notifying employers and schools, need for transportation, assistance for out-of-towners, etc.
  • Shiva plans
  • Selection of a charity(ies) for memorial gifts

The funeral director brings the deceased to the funeral home, provides an appropriate casket and supplies the newspaper with the obituary notice. The funeral home also supplies the family with Shiva candles.

The Rabbi can accompany the family to the funeral home or be present if the funeral director goes to the family’s home. The Rabbi then alerts the listserv if the family wishes the congregation to be informed in this manner.

Taharah/Shomrim

Taharah (ritual cleansing) is performed at the funeral home soon before the burial. The deceased is prepared for burial, dressed in the tachrichim (shrouds) and placed in the casket.

The shomrim can stay with the deceased after taharah is completed.

Home Committee

The home committee can assist the family to prepare themselves and the Shiva house before the funeral. Their service can include:

  • Assuring there are adequate supplies of food and paper goods

Assistance At The Funeral

Temple Beth-El is the preferred location for all funeral services. It is available for Temple members only. Members of the Hevra Kiddisha are available to assist during the funeral. The Hevra can:

  • Serve as pallbearers if needed
  • Usher attendants and provide kippot

Cemetery Committee

The cemetery committee is responsible for the gravesite at the time of the funeral and for maintenance during the year. The cemetery committee will contact the cemetery to arrange for opening of the grave. The funeral home provides the tent, lowering device and chairs. The cemetery committee is also responsible to see that burial is completed. The congregation is reminded, however, that it is the Jewish custom that all funeral attendants remain to see that the casket is fully covered and to escort the mourners from the grave site. In addition, it is considered a mitzvah to assist in filling the grave.

The cemetery committee and the Rabbi will assist in arranging the unveiling, and provide information about the correct placement, selection and wording of the stone.

The cemetery committee will also maintain current maps, arrange for the annual clean-up and consecration of new sections.

When one individual in a couple passes a way it is customary at TBE to pay for the first plot, so that there is no payment obligation left for the survivors of the second individual.

Shiva/Minyanim Home Services

Daily services at the house of Shiva are encouraged, except for Shabbat when the family can attend services at the Temple.

The Rabbi along with members of the Hevra Kaddisha and Ritual Committee can assist in arranging services at the house of Shiva. They can:

  • Arrange a minyan
  • Provide prayer books, kippot, tallitot, tefillin and appropriate readings
  • Arrange for a leader for the services if the Rabbi is not available

The Rabbi’s Functions

The Rabbi will officiate when available. The funeral service typically includes:

  • Reading of appropriate Psalms and other selections
  • Eulogy (Additional speakers can be arranged at the family’s request.)
  • Memorial Prayer
  • Psalm 23
  • Recessional

The Rabbi will also announce shiva arrangements and the designated charity(ies) for memorial gifts.

The Rabbi accompanies the deceased to the cemetery and recites Psalm 91 as the casket is brought to the gravesite and the family and attendants arrive.

The Rabbi should be consulted whenever a question of autopsy or organ donations arise. (Jewish law encourages many forms of organ donation.) The Rabbi can discuss the family and/or deceased’s wishes as well as religious guidelines with the medical authorities if necessary.

Follow-Up

There are daily minyans at Temple Beth-El. Studying a passage would also be an appropriate alternative to the recitation of daily kaddish. The Rabbi can assist in providing appropriate readings.

The family can arrange an unveiling by themselves or with the Rabbi any time after sheloshim (30 initial days mourning period). As stated above, the cemetery committee will provide guidance about proper selection, wording and location of the stone.

Temple Beth-El Policy

It is customary in Jewish communities to charge for the essential function of the Hevra Kaddisha Taharah. This includes ritually preparing the deceased for burial and the cost of the tachrichim (shrouds). This charge will be billed through the Funeral Home. Money thus collected will be kept in a separate fund and will be used to carry out the functions of the Hevra. The cemetery committee also imposes a permit fee for the erection of monuments.

As stated in the Temple constitution, every membership unit of the congregation in good standing shall have the right to inter “one Jewish member of the membership unit” in one plot of our cemetery, free of charge. Additional plots may be reserved at any time at a fee for “other Jewish members of the membership unit.” Because of requirements imposed on us by state law, only Temple members may be buried in our cemeteries. Temple policy, consistent with Jewish law, prohibits burial of remains from cremation.

Any member of Temple Beth-El may use the sanctuary for funeral services as long as there is no interference with regularly scheduled activities or with an event for which facilities have been committed. Members include head of family, spouse and unmarried children living at home. When Religious School is in session, facilities are not available. It is necessary that Temple Beth-El be informed at the earliest opportunity for the use of its facilities.

Many hours of study, discussion and contemplation have gone into formulating these guidelines. It is the sincere hope of the members of the Hevra Kaddisha committees that their services will be a source of comfort and strength to families as well as a demonstration of respect for the deceased.

Every attempt has been made to plan steps in accordance with Jewish law and to be sensitive to individual/family needs. Everyone is encouraged to discuss any questions, plans or wishes with the Rabbi or a member of the Hevra.

Thu, December 3 2020 17 Kislev 5781