Below are some words and phrases you might hear at a funeral or as you navigate the Jewish mourning process. Did we miss something important? Comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aninut (pronounced ah-nee-NUTE) — The period between learning of a loved one’s death and their burial. A mourner during this period is referred to as an onen (oh-NEHN).
Aron (pronounced ah-ROHN) — This Hebrew word, which is used to refer to the cabinet where a Torah is stored, also means “casket,” or coffin.
Aveilut (pronounced ah-vay-LUTE) — The Hebrew word for mourning.
Chesed Shel Emet (pronounced KHEH-sed shell EM-ut) — Literally “the truest act of kindness,” this means kindness to a dead person, usually used to describe the work of a Jewish burial society or the care of a grave.
Chevra Kadisha (pronounced KHEH-vruh kah-DEE-shuh) — Hebrew for “holy society,” this refers to a Jewish burial society, often tasked with preparing the body for burial and providing support services for the mourners.
El Maleh Rahamim (pronounced ell mah-LEH rakh-hah-MEEM, or RAKH-ah-meem) —Hebrew for “God full of mercy,” this is the name of a prayer recited at a Jewish funeral, at the unveiling of the tombstone and during Yizkor services.
Kaddish (pronounced KAH-dish) — The Mourner’s Kaddish is an Aramaic prayer traditionally recited by the mourners during shiva (see below), shloshim (see below), and — when mourning a parent — daily for 11 months after burial.
Kriah (pronounced KREE-uh or kree-YAH) — Mourning custom of tearing one’s garment.
Matzevah (pronounced mahtz-uh-VAH) — Hebrew for monument, or gravestone.
Nihum Avelim (pronounced nee-KHOOM ah-vay-LEEM) — Hebrew for “comforting mourners,” considered one of the most important acts of chesed, or lovingkindness, a Jew can perform.
Shiva (pronounced SHIH-vuh or shee-VAH) — The seven-day mourning period after the funeral. What you need to know about sitting shiva and visiting a shiva house.
Shiva minyan (pronounced SHIH-vuh MINN-yun or shee-VAH meen-YAHN) — The prayer quorum of 10 adult Jews needed to assemble in the mourner’s home so that he or she can recite the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Shloshim (pronounced shloh-SHEEM, or SHLOH-sheem) — The first 30 days after a loved one is buried.
Shomer (pronounced SHOH-mur or shoh-MARE) — Hebrew for “guard,” this is someone who sits with the body before it is buried. Jewish law dictates that a body must not be left alone between death and burial.
Tahara (pronounced tah-HAH-ruh or tah-hah-RAH) — Hebrew for “purification,” this is the traditional cleaning and ritual preparation of a body before burial, usually performed by members of a chevra kadisha (see above).
Yahrzeit (pronounced YAHR-tzite) —The Hebrew anniversary of someone’s death. On a loved one’s yahrzeit, Jews traditionally light a 25-hour candle known as a yahrzeit candle or yizkor candle.
Yizkor (pronounced YIZZ-kohr) — A Jewish memorial service for the dead that is part of the observance of several holidays.
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Pronounced: KHEV-ruh ka-DEESH-uh, Origin: Aramaic, Jewish burial society, a group of volunteers who prepare the body for burial and, in some cases, coordinate food and visitors for the mourners.
Pronounced: KAH-dish, Origin: Hebrew, usually referring to the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer recited in memory of the dead.
Pronounced: SHI-vuh (short i), Origin: Hebrew, seven days of mourning after a funeral, when the mourner stays at home and observes various rituals.
Pronounced: shlow-SHEEM, Origin: Hebrew, literally, “thirty,” a period of mourning lasting 30 days.
Pronounced: tah-HAH-ruh, Origin: Hebrew for purity, the ritual cleansing of a dead body in preparation for burial.
Pronounced: YAHR-tzite (long i), Origin: Yiddish, anniversary of a death on the Jewish calendar.
Pronounced: YIZZ-kur, Origin: Hebrew, literally “May God remember,” Yizkor is a prayer service in memory of the dead, which is held on Yom Kippur and on the last day of each of the three festivals, Passover, Shavuot and Shemini Atzeret.
Pronounced: KREE-yuh, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish mourning custom of tearing one’s garment.
chesed shel emet
Pronounced: KHEH-sed shell EM-ut, Origin: Hebrew, kindness to a dead person, usually used to describe the work of a Jewish burial society or the care of a grave.