How to Plan a Jewish Funeral

A Practical Guide to Preparations for Jewish Burial and Mourning

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o      Make a list of people who should be contacted regarding the death.  Include family members, friends, employers (of both the deceased and of family members), co-workers, community members, and neighbors.

o      Delegate family members and friends for making phone calls.

Funeral Service

o      Contact the synagogue of the departed person and/or of the mourners.

o      Decide who will conduct the funeral service.

o      Consult with the service officiant regarding the eulogy and the participation of family members and friends.

o      Estimate the number of funeral attendees.

o      Consult with the funeral home and/or cemetery regarding service locations for both the eulogy and burial.  Decide if a chapel and/or graveside service will suit family needs.

o      Appoint pall-bearers (who will carry the coffin part or all of the way to the burial site).  If there are individuals who may be unable to physically handle this task, you may designate them as "honorary" pall-bearers.

o      Arrange for transportation to and from the ceremony for mourners and other family members.  This is often done through the funeral home.

o      Some mourners may wish to practice reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish prayer.

o      If mourners would like to rip a garment (usually a shirt or sweater) for kriah, then they should wear that article to the funeral (with appropriate garments underneath, for the sake of modesty).

o      If children are to attend the funeral, arrange to seat them with a babysitter or other responsible adult who will not mind leaving the service if the children are restless or upset.

Seudat Havra’ah ("Meal of Consolation")

o      If the family will be observing this custom, members of the extended family or friends—but not the mourners—should make arrangements for a light meal.

o      Give out directions to the family home at the funeral.

o      Place a pitcher of water, a basin, and towel outside the front door, to be used by funeral returnees before they enter the home.   (This may also be done outside the cemetery.)

o      Prepare hard-boiled eggs for eating during the meal.  These eggs symbolize the cyclical nature of life.

Preparing for Shivah

o      Notify employers of needs for family leave. 

o      Contact the synagogue of the departed person and/or of the mourners regarding the shivah, in order set a schedule of services, to assure ten adults at services (if applicable), and to ask for assistance with other practical arrangements. Set a schedule for meal preparation by friends and extended family.

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