Jewish Funeral Traditions
The Process of a Jewish Funeral
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There are a number of ways Jewish families can memorialize their dead. For example, a Jewish memorial service can be in the form of prayer. Collectively known as Yizkor; these prayers are recited as a congregation four times a year: on Yom Kippur and on the three major festivals, Shemini Atzeret, which comes at the end of Sukkot, the last day of Pesach, and the second day of Shavuot.
In addition to these congregational prayer recitations, some families may decide to add their loved one's name to a memorial plaque in the synagogue. Traditionally, a light will be lit next to the name each year during the month in which the Yahrzeit falls. Arrangements for the purchase of these plaques may be made through your synagogue office.
In addition, Jewish memorial tradition requires that all graves are marked; in part to avoid unwitting desecration, but also so that the deceased will always be remembered. This means that families have one more way to honor the deceased.
Commonly, the monument, or Matzevah, should include the same elements as those from other faiths: the full name of the deceased, often written in both English and Hebrew; and the relevant dates of birth and death. Often, the inscription includes Jewish symbols, such as the Star of David, Menorah, Eternal Flame, or Torah scroll.
The general custom is to have an unveiling of the memorial around the 11th month after the death; however some families may choose to have the unveiling any time after the Shloshim, or 30 days of mourning, are completed.
Only those who are invited attend this event. The monument is in place, and will be covered with a traditional veil by the officiating Rabbi. The ceremony will open with recitations from the Book of Psalms, and the veil will be removed at the close of this recitation. The Rabbi then continues with the El Moleh Rachamin and the Kaddish prayers.
If you are ready to order a Jewish memorial monument for a loved one, let the professionals at Sherman Monuments LLC. can help. We'll make recommendations about the most appropriate monument style, and can assist you with the preparations for the unveiling. For a catalog of available Jewish monuments, visit our Monuments page. Please be aware that we advise families to place their order for a cemetery monument about two months after the funeral, as it takes time to cut and engrave the stone. Call us at (718) 377-7300 to learn more.
Adas Isreal Congregation, "A Guide to Jewish Funeral Practices," 2013.