Jewish Funeral Etiquette
Funerals and the Shiva period (the week following burial) are times that are marked with friends and relatives with the same commitment and closeness that are shared at times of celebration. While the intentions are to console or comfort our bereaved friends or relatives, it sometimes is difficult to know the best way to do this. Here are a few suggestions.
First Things First
Whenever you’re faced with the loss of someone Jewish in your circle of family, friends, or co-workers, the first thing that you should do is to find out where the memorial service will be held. Some Jewish families have this at the funeral home, some at the cemetery while others hold it at the synagogue. We advise asking the family where the memorial service is going to take place.
Recognizing the importance of the mourners to be surrounded by family and friends, Jewish tradition deems attending both the funeral and burial services to be a mitzvah, a religious obligation.
What to Wear
You need to dress conservatively and follow appropriate funeral etiquette. Clothing for men should be a coat and a tie, while women should wear a dress which is well below the knees with shoulders completely covered.
According to Jewish traditions and customs, funeral flowers should not be sent or given to the mourning family. Orthodox Jewish funeral etiquette says that the family should be left to mourn their loss.
What to Say to the Family
You should always wait for the family members to open a conversation. Once they do, you should console them and talk to them about the decedent. Ideally, you’re supposed to praise the deceased and share your memories with the family members and other people present. You should also ask the family whether they need any kind of help.
After the burial, according to Jewish custom, the family should be given a period of seven days to mourn their loss. This mourning period, known as "Shiva" is an essential grieving tradition followed by the family of the decedent. When this mourning period is over, a person can contact the family through telephone and ask them permission to visit their house.
When visiting the mourning house, you shouldn’t go empty-handed. Take a gift, such as fruit basket or some kosher foods and offer them to the family. When visiting the family, sit on a seat of average height. Other low seats are meant for the family members who are mourning. Do your best to console the family members and offer them sympathy and support in bearing their loss.
For more information on sitting Shiva, we suggest calling us at (914) 381-1809, or visiting www.shivaconnect.com, a website dedicated to caring for Jewish families, their friends, and Jewish traditions.