It’s September, the month when the Jewish High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur usually occur, bringing to mind our fleeting days on earth and reminders of mortality. I say “usually” because the dates on the Jewish lunar calendar float year-to-year compared to the Gregorian calendar. This year the Jewish New Year starts the evening of September 20 and the Day of Atonement starts the evening of September 29.
During the holidays of Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavout, a special memorial service called Yizkor is held specifically to remember deceased loved ones. Yizkor is the Hebrew word for remembrance. It’s a time for us to ponder the meaning of our lives as we remember those who have died.
As we consider our mortality, it’s a good time to plan ahead for our eventual demise. Funeral homes offer checklists for the many things that must be done and decisions made when there’s a death in the family. These lists of 50 or more things that must be done and decisions to be made after a death has occurred can encourage preneed planning. The number of people to notify, expenses to pay, and contacts to be made can be overwhelming if there’s been no advance planning nor information gathered.
For Jews, there are many additional aspects that must be addressed when following Jewish funeral traditions. To help, I’ve created this checklist: 50 Things for Jews to Do When a Death Occurs. Some examples of things to do from the list include:
- The family’s rabbi, cantor, synagogue administrator, or community chaplain
- The funeral director
- The cemetery
- The local Chevra Kaddisha (to utilize Jewish burial rituals)
- All the relatives
- All the friends
SELECT & DECIDE:
- A cemetery plot (if no plot was pre-purchased)
- Casket (soft wood i.e. pine or poplar or other biodegradable materials)
- Time for funeral and burial
- Funeral place (graveside, temple, home or funeral home chapel)
- Who will speak at the funeral
- Shiva observance (how many days and where)
IN ADDITION TO:
- Providing vital statistics about the deceased, including Hebrew names
- Asking people to sit shmira, guarding the body until burial
- Naming charitable contributions to be made in lieu of flowers
These are only 15 of the 50 things to do. You can download a PDF of the full list by filling out this form. You’ll be directed to the page with the checklist, which also includes the Five Things You Must Know NOW Before Someone Dies.
And here’s an hour-long video talk I did for the JCC about Jewish funeral traditions that you may find of interest.