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Jewish Funeral Customs and Rituals

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The Jewish funeral consists of a burial, also known as an interment. Cremation is forbidden. Burial is considered to allow the body to decompose naturally, therefore embalming is forbidden. Burial is intended to take place in as short an interval of time after death as possible.

The Jewish people hold the philosophy that one should embrace life while accepting the inevitability of death. The emphasis of Judaism concerns how ones life should be lived and it does not specifically define an afterlife. However, it is implied that leading a praiseworthy life will prepare one for what comes after life.

Jewish burials are to take place as soon as possible. Exceptions can be made reasons of practicality. Jewish funerals emphasise simplicity to avoid embarrassment for the poor. It is traditional Jewish practice to perform a ritual washing of the body ("Tahara") and then to dress it in a plain burial shroud. Watchers ("Chevra Kadisha") remain with the body until the funeral.

According to traditional practices, the funeral is usually held in a synagogue or funeral home the day after the death. There is no visitation by friends in the presence of the body before the funeral. The body is placed in a simple wood coffin. An open casket or cremation is not generally accepted in the Jewish tradition. Male guests are expected to wear a jacket and tie with a yarmulke. Women are expected to dress modestly, nothing revealing, no short skirts or short sleeves. Women are not expected to wear a head covering.

The service is conducted by the rabbi and begins with the cutting of a black ribbon to symbolize the individual breaking away from loved ones. The rabbi leads the service and reads the eulogy. A "minyan" (prayers) are recited by generally a group of males.

At the cemetery, more prayers are read and the family members usually participate in placing dirt on the coffin before it is buried. This symbolises their acceptance of the finality of death.

The initial mourning period lasts seven days and is called Shiva. During this time, friends and relatives generally visit the home of the bereaved. The family may practice traditions including: covering mirrors; burning memorial candles; or wearing the black ribbon that was cut. Men do not shave, women do not wear makeup.

Prayers are read twice a day for their loved one. Close relatives usually return to work within a week. On the first anniversary of the death, family and friends attend a service and unveil the headstone at grave side.

Jewish Funeral and Burial Traditions: What You Need to Know

We have arranged many Jewish funerals for Manchester's Jewish community offering various burial options, including green and eco-funeral choices. We pride ourselves on providing your exact requirements for your loved ones.

For Free advice & support regarding Jewish funerals Call our customer care team on 0161 483 3263.

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C. Middleton & Son Ltd Funeral Directors
Head Office
436 Buxton Road, Great Moor, Stockport, SK2 7JQ
Tel: +44(0)161 483 3263
Fax: +44(0)161 419 9901
Chapel Carer: Suzanne Hall