Jewish funeral traditions start right after death. If you have a Jewish family member who is very ill or just died, and you would want to make a Jewish funeral, it is recommended that you contact immediately the local Chevra Kadisha. Jewish funeral rituals start right at death. Chevra Kadisha (holy group) is the name for Jewish burial society. They prepare the deceased for Jewish burial. They ensure that all Jewish funeral readings and traditions are done properly. It is therefore at best to find out and contact your local Chevra Kadisha who will guide you step by step.
Jewish funeral traditions are different than other religions. They usually take place within twenty four hours of death, or the soonest possible. In some occasions, there will be a small wait of a day or two to honor the deceased by waiting for an overseas family member. It will take place either in a Jewish funeral home, synagogue or temple, and then follow to the cemetary. Jewish law prohibits Cremation and embalming. Traditional Jewish funeral customs will not display the deceased body.
A Jewish funeral ceremony is called a ceremony is called a Levayah (accompaniment). It is called this way because at Jewish funeral traditions calls for accompanying the body to the place of burial. The Levayah will start with the family members asking for forgiveness. Then a Hesped (Eulogy) will take place. In many Jewish funeral customs there will be a few eulogies.
Jewish funeral ettiquetteAttire: men should dress simple in a tie and suit, sometimes a Kippah (Skullcap, Yarmulke) will be given out to attendees and you should dress it. Women should wear a dress. By ultra-orthodox Jewish funerals, women should cover their hair with a hat or handkerchief.
It is a Jewish funeral tradition not to send flowers. Although it is not forbidden, it is most of the time not used. So don't send flowers without verifying by the local Rabbi if it will be used.
KeriahThe mourners will tear (keriah) in an outer garment by the funeral. The tear will be on the left side of the suit or dress by a parent, and on the right side by other close relatives (spouse, brother, sister, child).
Jewish funeral prayersKaddish will be recited by the mourners, where the attendees are expected to answer Amen. If you aren't familiar just follow the crowd.
Orthodox Jews burial traditionsJewish funeral traditions are unique with the fact that burial is most of the time done by hand. The coffin is entered in a laying position (it is an untrue myth that Jews are buried upright). In orthodox Jews burial traditions, it is customary that attendees should help with covering with a shovel.
At the end of the funeral it is customary to say a special message: Hamakom y'nachem etkhem b'tokh sha'ar avelei tziyon viyrushalayim (May Hashem comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem).
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