What to do When a Loved One Dies
Upon the death of a loved one, the first calls are to the Temple – (301) 340-6818 and the funeral provider. The clergy will assist you taking the next steps. The funeral provider will assure that the death certificate is obtained and provided to you. The provider will also arrange for removal of the body. A listing of local funeral directors is provided here for your convenience.
Arrangements may vary depending on where the death occurs.
If the decedent died at home, it may be necessary to call the police or 911 to report the death and arrange for removal of the body.
In a hospital setting, the death certificate will be prepared by the attending physician and the body will be held until arrangements can be made with the funeral home.
In a hospice setting, the hospice doctor should be notified. The doctor will sign the necessary documents and hospice will help make the necessary arrangements.
If you want Temple clergy to officiate at the funeral, it is important to coordinate with Temple staff before any arrangements are finalized. Even if Temple staff will not be involved in the funeral service, the congregation will provide support to the bereaved family.
If the family knows death is imminent, it is better to discuss and resolve some of these issues and procedures concerning the funeral and burial beforehand.
If you have a question about bereavement in general or a specific need, please email us or call us at (301) 340-6818. If you have an immediate need and the synagogue office is closed, please call our emergency number, (301) 641-8326. While we are here to help in any way we can, please note that our clergy can only officiate at the funeral of a current member of the congregation or a relative of a current member for whom they would sit shiva.
When a death occurs, the immediate mourners enter a period known as aninut, the period of time between death and burial. Mourners are freed from social and ritual obligations. During this period, only family and close friends should visit with the mourners so that they can express their initial grief and feelings in private. The shiva period does not begin until after the funeral and burial.
The funeral should be held as soon as it is reasonably possible to assemble the family, generally within two days. Jewish funeral services are simple, comprised of a few essential prayers, selected readings, and eulogy. They are intended to honor the deceased and to comfort the bereaved.
Scheduling of the Funeral
A funeral is held within 48 hours of the death, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as family members traveling from great distances or the advent of a major Jewish Holiday (Shabbat, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashannah, Shavuot, Passover, Sukkot, or Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah).
If Death or Funeral Occurs Out of Town
The funeral provider should be chosen based on the site of the funeral rather than where the death occurred. The chosen funeral provider will collaborate with a funeral provider of the deceased to transport the body to the burial location.
Tahara and Shomrim
Tahara, is the ritual washing of the body in preparation for burial. It is a burial custom that may be performed for any Jewish person. The washing is done by a Chevra Kadisha (literally, “holy fellowship”). Some synagogues have their own. In this area, there is a community Chevra Kadisha, which is a group of professional “volunteers” who will perform the ritual for a donation of $100.00 (used for tzedakah by the committee). Tahara must take place as close as possible to the funeral service. Jewish tradition discourages public viewing of the deceased, although private arrangements can be made between the family and the funeral provider. Viewing of the body (public or private) is discouraged after tahara.
Dressing of the deceased is a matter to be discussed between the family and the clergy. If tahara is observed, the body is generally dressed in a shroud, made of either muslin or linen. According to Orthodox or Conservative practice, linen shrouds are reserved for Cohanim (Priests) or Levites.
The family may arrange for shomrim, persons who will sit with the body until the funeral service. The custom is based on the desire not to leave a loved one unattended. Sh’mira may be performed by members of the Chevra Kadisha who read psalms or study sacred texts during their shifts, or by friends of the family who may read or have appropriate discussions. Occasionally, a family member might choose to be among the shomrim.
Kriah: Rending of the Garment
The practice of kriah dates back to the bible, when Jacob rent his garment upon learning of the supposed death of Joseph. Thus, one made a rend or tear in a garment immediately upon hearing of the death of a loved one as a way of indicating we are incomplete. Many Jews attach a black ribbon to their garment immediately before the funeral service. It is torn instead of actually tearing a garment. Kriah is usually observed by the immediate shiva relatives (parents, children, spouses and siblings). The kriah ribbon or torn garment is displayed throughout the entire period of shiva. When mourning the death of a parent, the kriah period may be extended to 30 days.
The loss of a loved one to suicide is among the most painful to endure. While suicide is commonly stigmatized and misunderstood, death by suicide is often a result of disease (mental illness) rather than of personal choice. Jewish tradition understands the importance of approaching the tragedy of suicide with compassion, and we are here for you with open hearts. Please contact the clergy staff in the case of a suicide so that we might provide you with additional support.
Stillbirth and Neonatal Death
The pain of suffering a stillbirth and neonatal death is almost unfathomable. The traditional laws of Jewish mourning, written so long ago, do not require a funeral service, the recitation of Kaddish, or sitting shiva; however, many find they need a Jewish way to mourn this devastating loss. If your family is navigating such a loss, please reach out to our clergy. We are here to support you and offer comfort and guidance through Jewish ritual.
Who we will do a funeral for.
tattoos and piercings