Jewish Funeral

According to Jewish funeral traditions, ceremonies are performed within 24 hours following the person’s death. However, certain exceptions, such as an out-of-state death, may allow a slight delay. Funerals generally start at the funeral home or a synagogue, then followed by a procession to the cemetery. In many venues, male guests are offered a yarmulke, and women are offered a veil to cover their heads in observance of tradition. 

THE VIEWING

While there is no public viewing of the body, a private viewing can be organized for immediate family members before the official ceremony. Caskets remained closed during all other events. In line with the Jewish custom of promoting natural decomposition, the deceased isn’t embalmed in most cases. This practice is one of the main reasons why prompt burials are more common. Most traditional caskets have simple designs and are made of untreated wood without metal fastenings. 

WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE A JEWISH FUNERAL CEREMONY?

The deceased’s immediate family stays in a separate room until the ceremony begins. Traditionally, they wear a black Kriah ribbon on their chests and continue to do so until after Shiva. 

Other mourners will wear their traditional head coverings, take their seats, and wait for the ceremony. After everyone has arrived, the close members will be escorted to the front row, where they will take their seats. During this time, everyone will be asked to speak softly and stay in their designated spaces until the ceremony ends. 

THE CEREMONY

A rabbi or cantor presides over the ceremony, starting with readings from the Book of Psalms, a moment of silent prayer, and a eulogy. The specific details of the ceremony may change based on your congregation’s traditions. Some family members may also share a few written words or a short speech they wrote for their deceased loved one. As the ceremony ends, El Malei Rachamim, a prayer for those who have passed away, will be recited. Once the ceremony is finished, mourners will leave while family members prepare for the funeral procession. The family will leave first, followed by pallbearers carrying the casket to the hearse. 

Once everyone arrives, the pallbearers will carry the casket to the gravesite. A brief service will take place as the coffin is lowered into the burial site. After the service ends, each mourner will help bury the deceased by placing a shovelful of dirt into the grave.  

After the ceremony, family members, friends, and other mourners can extend their condolences and comfort the deceased family during the Shiva period.

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