Personalizing a Jewish Funeral

At one time, nearly all Jewish funerals were planned according to traditional Jewish rituals and customs. However, as more Jewish people enter into interfaith marriages or begin to identify with Reform Judaism, it’s becoming common to reshape the boundaries of tradition when planning a funeral. If you’re interested in learning more about personalizing a Jewish funeral, Dignity Memorial® professionals are here to help.

Jewish funeral traditions

Although it’s become more accepted for some families to adopt less traditional Jewish customs, many Orthodox families still adhere to the rituals and customs of Jewish funerals. These practices are based on commands in the Torah, and they remain important among Orthodox and Conservative Jewish cultures.

For example, according to Jewish tradition, a funeral and burial should take place as soon after death as possible, though exceptions are often made if a family must travel a long distance to attend the service. Jewish tradition calls for the ritual of tahara, when the deceased is washed and then dressed in a plain burial shroud. It also calls for the loved one to be buried in a plain wooden casket so that natural processes can take place. It is generally not acceptable to have an open casket at the funeral or for cremation to take place. After a funeral, it is common practice for a Jewish family to sit shiva for seven days.

How to personalize a Jewish funeral

Though many Jewish families still adhere to these funeral traditions, some Reform Jewish families customize funerals by adding details that celebrate the life of their loved ones in other ways. For example, they may dress their loved one in a favourite outfit rather than a burial shroud, or the family may choose to show a multimedia tribute of family photos and videos at the funeral service.

When a Jewish person in an interfaith marriage dies, that person may be buried in a non-Jewish cemetery in order to be buried with his or her spouse. Metal caskets have also become more common, as have flowers (traditionally not present at Jewish services) and viewings.

As with any funeral, personalizing a Jewish funeral is all about honouring a unique life in a unique way. Personalizing a Jewish funeral can be simple, such as giving attendees an opportunity to share memories and funny stories about their loved one. Other families may choose to provide attendees with a special memento, such as grandmother’s cookie recipe along with a half-dozen, fresh-baked cookies, or hold an outdoor event complete with a bonfire and s'mores for a loved one who enjoyed camping.

It’s important that the funeral honours your loved one’s life and beliefs. For some families, that may mean strictly adhering to Jewish funeral customs. For others, adding personal touches—small or large—can bring added meaning to a service.

Let our funeral professionals help

The Dignity Memorial network of Jewish funeral providers understands the importance of keeping the Jewish faith and its traditions alive, as well as the balance between tradition and contemporary Jewish life. With respect for Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism, Dignity Memorial funeral providers are knowledgeable and experienced in the customs and preferences that are important to you and your family.

Our compassionate experts can assist you in creating a memorial that respects your religious heritage while also honouring life. If you live in an area without a Dignity Memorial location or other funeral home specializing in the needs of Jewish families, our providers can assist from afar to help make sure your wishes are known and followed. Contact us to learn how we can create a meaningful and memorable service for you.