Dignity

Funeral Services

Jewish funerals

This guide will explain what typically happens at a Jewish funeral and how long the period of mourning lasts after the service.

Jewish beliefs about death

Jews value life above almost anything else. They believe that holiness can be reached from following the laws and commandments in the Torah. Many Jewish people believe that they are judged by God once they die, with those who led perfect lives being let into the World to Come.

What happens at a Jewish funeral service?

A Jewish funeral is conducted by a Rabbi and usually takes place within one day following the date of death, though there is an allowance to delay the burial for mourners to travel and for appropriate arrangements to be made.

The funeral service is traditionally held in a Synagogue or funeral home and no public viewing of the body is allowed. The deceased is washed, but not embalmed, and placed in a simple wooden coffin.

The casket is closed during the service, with prayers and eulogies being read by family members or close friends.

What happens at a Jewish burial?

Following the service, more prayers are read at the cemetery and family members participate in placing dirt on the coffin before it is buried. Funeral flowers are not appropriate for most Jewish funerals, however, making a donation to a charity or Jewish organisation is appreciated.

For Orthodox Jews, cremation is not prohibited, however, cremation is becoming increasingly popular for Reform Jews.

What happens after a Jewish funeral?

After a Jewish funeral takes place, the immediate family observes seven days of mourning, called Shiva (Hebrew for seven). During this period, the family remains at home in a ‘Shiva house’, following traditional mourning practices. Friends and extended family are invited to visit the Shiva house to pay their respects and support the bereaved.

Sources: Jewish Federations, Reform Judaism and Shiva.com

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