Jewish funeral ceremonies

jewish funerals

Judaism is a very old religion, pre-dating Christianity and countless more others the faith has a variety of different, and at times conflicting sects. Depending on the strand of Judaism the deceased belonged to the ceremony will carry many different customs, traditions and the level of strictness on many different areas will vary. Overall the ceremony will, like with many other faiths, depend on how devout the deceased was and will, as always depend on his or her wishes and the requirements and standards of the religious institutions and leaders who will guide and help plan the ceremony itself.

What’s different about a Jewish funeral and lead up to the funeral?

For most of the Jewish faith the norm at the the bedside before death is some prayers and talks about the lives they have lived and reflect upon their family and friends. Its also customary to recite a confessional prayer or “Viduy”, if the prayer cannot be said by the person it is acceptable for someone to say the prayer aloud. Funeral planning starts immediately following death with a call to the Rabbi (Jewish holy person) and the chevra kadisha (burial society). For some the arms and legs are straightened and the eyes and mouths are closed. In addition for many Jews it is customary for the body to remain accompanied at all times by a “shomer”, kind of minder. More than one shomer can be chosen from the community. Normally the body is washed and dressed in a process called “taharah”.

Where does a Jewish ceremony take place?

The ceremonies themselves are usually conducted in a synagogue, the graveside or in a funeral home. Many Jewish traditions hold that the burial should be carried out within one day of death however their is some flexibility on this especially when considering family and friends arriving from far away locations. Considering the large amount of differing views on cremation and burial it is best to speak to your local community or Rabbi before making decisions on this regard.

What normally happens at a Jewish funeral and what do non observers need to know?

Jewish ceremonies vary from the conservative and very traditional to the laid back and relaxed so its important to ask before making or doing things which may be beyond the norm or unacceptable. In this respect be aware of the families wishes on flowers (these can be a no-no). It may also be wise to consult with the family on the wearing of a Kippah (cloth cap), bright coloured clothing can also be frowned upon so if you’re unsure ask about this also.

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