Going to a Jewish Funeral

Bad news, unfortunately, travels fast. It can be helpful to know in advance what to do when attending a Jewish funeral.

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8. Note the times and place of the shiva [the time, traditionally seven days, during which the immediate mourners remain at home, receiving visitors and observing the most intensive period of mourning] and preferred charities. The funeral director will announce the times and the address of the home where the family will receive visitors. Preferred charities for donations in memory of the deceased will also likely be announced. It's a good idea to bring a pen and a piece of paper on which to note this information.

9. Decide whether to go to the graveside. If the service has been held in a synagogue, a funeral home, or chapel on the grounds of the cemetery, there will be a proces­sional to the grave site. If at all possible, go. It is a great comfort to the mourners to accompany them to the grave.

10. Follow directions to the cemetery. In situations when a processional is formed to go from the place of the service to the cemetery, you will be directed to join the line of cars following the hearse and the family. A sticker identifying your car as part of the funeral may be placed on the windshield and you will probably be asked to turn on your headlights. A police officer may escort the procession for traffic control; follow any directions s/he may give you.

11. Surround the family at the graveside. When you reach the cemetery, you will be directed to the graveside. There you will find a row of chairs for the mourners. Stand behind and around the graveside. When the family arrives, do not greet them. Often, this is the most difficult part of the entire experience. Let them take their places for the graveside service.

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Dr. Ron Wolfson

Dr. Ron Wolfson is the Fingerhut Professor of Education at American Jewish University and the president of Synagogue 3000.