Administration (staff only)

For more information, please call 9883-6237
24 hours / 7 days

P.O. Box 8207
Armadale Vic. 3143

www.jewishfunerals.org.au

 

PREFACE

Death, and its accompanying sense of loss, grief and anguish, poses an intense challenge to the spiritual and psychological state of mind of the bereaved.

Our practices at Bet-Olam Jewish Funerals are grounded in the unshakable belief in the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the person who has died, and the emotional, spiritual and practical needs of the mourners.

Traditionally, we believe that human-kind is created ‘in the image of God’ (b’tzelem elohim – Genesis 1:27) and we are, therefore, mandated to have respect for the deceased and also the body of the deceased.  This is called k’vodha-met and is the guiding principal for Jewish burial and mourning customs.

As there is a significant variety of customs within the Jewish community, this guide is designed to provide explanations and information.  Its purpose is to assist in understanding the customs and traditions of the Jewish people and to help provide an appropriate funeral for loved ones with the greatest respect and dignity.  

In the second part of the booklet you will find some guidance to help the mourners onto the road of healing, a section specifically intended to help those who have lost a child and some suggestions as to how to help and support children through their own grief whilst the rest of the family deals with their loss.

First steps:

Contact Bet-Olam Jewish funerals (24 hour contact 9883-6237).

Bet-Olam will make arrangements with you to care for and prepare the body of your loved one for the funeral.

Bet-Olam will also facilitate all paperwork, legal documentation and bookings, and will liaise with the cemetery, doctors and coroner as needed. Bet-Olam’s many years of experience helps to take all the uncertainty and worry from you and guide you gently through this very difficult time.

Timing of the Funeral Service

Jewish tradition is to bury your loved one without undue delay, taking legal and logistical considerations into account. This tradition is out of respect to the deceased, as well as providing a psychological benefit to the mourners, who do not have to undergo the emotional pain of an extended delay. Setting the time of the funeral requires coordination with the family as well as the Rabbi, the Funeral Director, and the Cemetery. Bet-Olam we will look after this for you.

Burial

Based on the biblical verse "For dust you are, and to dust you shall return" (Gen.3:19), traditional Jewish funerals have been burial in the earth.

Cremation

Whilst it is not mainstream Jewish practice to cremate, some individuals and families make this choice. Bet-Olam will honour this decision. Cremation services are often conducted in our Bet-Olam ohel (chapel) on the corner of Glenhuntly and Kooyong Roads, in Elsternwick, or for large funerals, may be at Springvale. The ceremony is the same Jewish service that would be done at a burial.

Following a cremation, the ashes are available within a few days. There are plots in the Jewish section of Springvale Botanical Gardens specifically set aside for the interment of cremated remains, and these can be faced with a flat memorial plaque. Ashes can also be collected and kept by families or scattered.

Questions regarding these matters should be addressed to one of our Rabbis or to Bet-Olam Jewish Funerals.

Organ Donation

In Jewish law, organ donations are not only permitted, but are considered a mitzvah or a moral obligation. In donating organs the donor may save lives, and this imperative supersedes all other considerations.

Check with one of our Rabbis for guidance.

Cemeteries

Except under the most unusual circumstances, burial takes place only in ground which has been formally set aside for Jewish use. The Jewish Memorial Garden in Springvale Botanical Cemetery is most commonly used by Bet-Olam Jewish Funerals. Other sites for Jewish burial are found at the Melbourne General Cemetery, Fawkner Cemetery and the Chevra Kadisha Cemeteries..

Graveside

Most burial services are held at the graveside, unless there is a specific reason to have the ceremony in a chapel. All those present at the interment are invited to place earth on the casket. Jewish tradition considers this a chesed shel emet, (a true deed of loving kindness) because it is something the deceased cannot ask mourners to do for them, cannot repay the favor, or say ‘thank you’ to those who attend. This becomes the ultimate, unselfish act of love and kindness.

K’riah

The rending of the mourners' clothing, k'riah, on hearing the news of their loss, symbolises the tearing of their heart. Over time, this has become formalised into cutting an outer garment, or even pinning on and cutting a piece of ribbon. When one is mourning for parents, k'riah is performed on the left side, over the heart. When mourning for children, siblings and spouses, it is done on the right side.

The funeral service

The Jewish funeral is commonly called in Hebrew levayah, meaning “an accompanying”. We accompany your loved one on their journey out of this life and beyond the boundary of death; as well as accompanying the mourners back from the edge of death into a new stage of life, which lacks the physical presence of the person who has died.

The service includes poems, psalms and prayers, including Psalms 23, 36 and 121, the memorial prayer El Male Rachamim, (God, full of compassion) and the mourners Kaddish. English is used as well as Hebrew, so that all may understand and participate.

The Eulogy or Hesped

A eulogy cannot possibly summarise the totality of your loved one’s life. Rather, it is a moment to remember, to cherish a few anecdotes, and to celebrate their life. The Rabbi may be the primary speaker, or on occasion the family or close friends may be invited to write a eulogy and to share it at the funeral or at the minyan(a short evening service after the funeral). The most poignant and moving eulogies tend to be those filled with personal anecdotes and memories.

Meals of consolation

The mourners' first meal after returning from the cemetery (seudat havra'ah) is often provided by friends, neighbours, or a synagogue committee. The meal generally includes hard-boiled eggs (which symbolise the potential for renewal) or other round objects such as olives or dates, symbolising the wheel or cycle of life, continuity, and the need to move on. This symbolism may also be found in the food sometimes brought or provided after an evening service (minyan).

Mourning

There are three steps of mourning, to assist in ultimately returning to a ‘new normality’ without our loved one – basically this is the first week (shiva), the first month (sh’loshim) and the first year (consecration and first yahrzeit).

Shiva

The first, most intense stage of mourning is called shiva, a Hebrew word meaning "seven". It refers to the seven-day period of formalized mourning by the immediate family of the deceased following the funeral.

Shiva begins immediately after the funeral as the mourners gather together at home, cut off from the normal routine of their lives which death has interrupted.

A shiva candle will be provided by Bet-Olam, and is lit when the mourners arrive home from the burial. There is a prayer to be said on page 619 of the Mishkan T’filah, World Union Edition, prayer book. The candle is allowed to burn for the entire shiva period. Care should therefore be taken to leave it in a safe location. One of our Rabbis should be consulted regarding the details of shiva practices.

Minyan

Jewish tradition is to have the community gather at the mourners’ home and accompany them in their mourning. This tradition has evolved into the “minyan” which literally means ‘quorum’, which represents the community, family and friends who gather together to remember the deceased and to comfort the mourners.

A minyan is usually held at least on the night of the funeral; on occasion some will host three nights or even the traditional six (waking up on the seventh day is considered sufficient to ‘complete’ the seventh day of the shiva).

The minyan consists of the evening prayers, as well as a short memorial service, a eulogy and the mourner’s Kaddish. The minyan can be an additional opportunity to mourn, but also to remember and to celebrate the life of your loved one. It is also a little easier for the mourners to talk about their loved one at the minyan than it is at the funeral itself.

Often friends will bring food, or the family may choose to cater the event.

Although it is appropriate to do it in the home of a family member, where memories of the deceased abound, the minyan may also be held at the synagogue by arrangement with Bet-Olam and your Rabbi.

 

Shloshim

Shloshim (thirty) ends on the morning of the thirtieth day after the funeral. It marks the end of the traditional formal mourning period. The period from the end of shiva to the end of shloshim is one of transition from deep bereavement to resuming life's usual routine. Again, a Rabbi should be consulted regarding the details of shloshim practices.

 

Throughout the first month of mourning, your loved one’s name will be read out as part of our weekly Shabbat services at all Progressive synagogues -

 

Temple Beth Israel (9510 1488)

76-82 Alma Road, St. Kilda

www.tbi.org.au

info@tbi.org.au

 

Leo Baeck Centre for Progressive Judaism (9819 7160)

31-37 Harp Road, Kew

www.lbc.org.au

office@lbc.org.au

 

Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue (9563 9208)

549 Centre Road, Bentleigh

www.etzchayim.org.au

info@etzchayim.org.au

 

Kedem (9822 5802)

117 Kooyong Road, Armadale

www.kedem.com.au

admin@kedem.com.au

 

You are most welcome to attend.

At the end of shloshim, family and friends may chose to gather together to read or study appropriate texts, to pray together, and to speak about the deceased.

For the death of a parent, the traditional mourning continues for a year, marked by the recitation of kaddish for eleven months of the Hebrew calendar.

Yahrzeit

Yahrzeit, literally “the year time”, is traditionally observed on each anniversary of the day of death according to the Hebrew calendar, though some find it more convenient to remember and mark the Gregorian date each year. A yahrzeit candle is lit at sunset on the evening before the yahrzeit date and burns for 25 hours. There is a prayer to be said on lighting a Yahrzeit candle, on page 619 of the Mishkan T’filah, World Union Edition, prayerbook. In addition, most mourners attend services and recite the Mourners Kaddish, (page 598 of the Mishkan T’filah prayerbook), visit the cemetery, give tzedakah (charity) or engage in special acts of kindness to others. For further details, consult your Rabbi.

Consecration or unveiling of the headstone or plaque

It is customary to set the Matzevah or headstone over the grave any time from the eleventh month after the death. While the physical placement and engraving may take place prior to this, it is our tradition to return to the gravesite for a consecration or an unveiling of the headstone or plaque ceremony at the conclusion of the year of mourning, and it is equally appropriate to gather to dedicate a plaque where cremated remains are marked.

Contact your Rabbi if you wish to arrange a personal consecration service for your loved one, or need assistance with the engraving of the tombstone.

The Progressive movement also holds an Annual Memorial Service which is usually held on the Sunday prior to Rosh Hashanah at the Jewish Memorial Gardens, Springvale Botanical Cemetery, Springvale.

This service consecrates all the graves from that year and everyone is welcome to attend. It is a traditional part of the preparation for the High Holydays to visit the graves of our loved ones, and many people therefore do so, and attend the Memorial service, each year.

Bet-Olam Jewish Funerals will write to all families advising them of the date of this service.

Yizkor

Yizkor, memorial services in memory of our deceased loved ones, are held on Yom Kippur, Sh’mini Atzeret, on the last day of Pesach and on Shavuot. A yahrzeit candle may be lit at sunset on the evening before yizkor is recited. If you wish the name of your loved one to be called out, please make sure the synagogue office is informed beforehand.

Coping with death and grief - Concluding thoughts

Death is not the end, but a crucial aspect of life that extends beyond our earthly reach. The greatest respect we can pay the deceased is to live up to the high ideals of Judaism and to perpetuate their memory by filling the void created by their passing, by finding new avenues to express our love and concern for those who need us.

People deal with death and grief in different ways.

There is no right or wrong way to cope with death and it is normal to experience intense and painful emotional reactions when someone important to you dies.

The process of grief

Grief is a vital part of the recovery process approaching and following the death of a loved one.

It can involve a wide range of emotions. These feelings, although bewildering, are common and natural. The process of grief is often described as involving a number of stages from shock to eventual recovery. These stages may or may not be experienced, or may be revisited over a period of time.

Grief is unique to each person and the following descriptions are an overview to assist you in identifying and coping with your impending or current loss.

Shock or denial

When you first learn that someone you love is dying or has died your immediate reaction may be one of shock.

"This can’t be happening; not to me."

Denial is usually only a temporary defence. This is a natural reaction.

Anger or Hostility

"Why me? It's not fair!"; "How can this happen to me?"; "Who is to blame?"
Once in the second stage, the individual recognizes that denial cannot continue.

It is normal for those involved to experience anger, but it is important to let this anger out. Talk to someone you can trust and feel comfortable with in discussing these difficult and painful issues. If necessary, do not hesitate to speak with your Rabbi, or seek professional help.

Emotional release

Letting go of your emotions and expressing your feelings helps the healing process and is a positive step. It is normal to want to cry, shout, be angry and reminisce.

Depression

You may become depressed and experienced overwhelming feelings of loneliness – this is often when you realise that your loved one has gone forever. You may become uninterested in what is happening around you.

"I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; “What’s the point?"; "I miss my loved one; why go on?"

During the fourth stage, the mourner begins to understand the certainty of death. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the mourner to disconnect from things of love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer up an individual who is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be processed. Being there, holding hands, stroking are all immensely valuable and important.

Guilt

You may begin to blame themselves or others for the death. “If only I had given up smoking”, “If only I’d been there for her” or “If only I hadn’t let him go there” are thoughts that may constantly come to mind.

Remembering

Remembering the past you shared with your loved one is also common. All the good times which you shared can become a constant thought. Although it may seem to hurt more, it can bring you some relief to share your memories and feelings with others.

Physical symptoms

You may experience physical symptoms while grieving. It is important to take time to look after yourself for your health and wellbeing. Make sure you eat properly, exercise regularly, aim to get a good night’s sleep and visit your doctor for a check up. It is common for people who have lost their partners to stop cooking and eating properly for a while, but it is important not to do this.

Signs of recovery

It will take time to work through the grieving process, but eventually you will start to feel better and ready to get on with your life again.

The length of time it takes to work through the grieving process varies from person to person. The painful feelings will diminish over time, but if they remain intense and prolonged, it is advisable to seek professional help.

Helping to cope with grief

The grieving process will be a difficult time for you, but by following a few practical steps, you may be able to readjust to life more quickly, even though it will be very difficult on your own to start with, if you have lost a long-term partner.

  • Keep in contact with family and friends, either by letter, phone, visits or inviting them around for tea or coffee.

  • Plan your social events ahead of time so that you have something to look forward to.

  • For a change of scenery, go and stay with friends or family who live some distance from you.

  • Join, or renew your involvement in, your local synagogue.

  • Join a social club or organisation to meet new people

  • Join a volunteer organisation to help others.

  • Keep a diary to help you follow and understand your path through the grieving process.

  • Express your emotions openly. It may help to talk to a friend, relative or counsellor about your feelings.

  • Delay making major changes, such as selling your house.

Sh’ma

Traditionally we read our prayers, even if we know them by heart. The one exception to this is the first line of the Sh’ma. This is because our tradition says these are the final words we should say on our deathbed, concluding with the declaration of God’s one-ness, ‘Echad’, as our life expires.

Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad! – Hear, O Israel, the Eternal One is God, the Eternal God is One!

Suicide, right to die, euthanasia and assisted suicide:

Needless to say, Judaism views the process of dying with great sobriety, and believes in the fundamental right of the terminally ill to die with dignity.

What then does Jewish tradition allow us to do for the dying?  There are two permissible ways for Jews to express their compassion for those suffering at the edge of death.  The first is by measures aimed at the relief of pain. -  Pain in itself is considered a "disease", and its relief is a genuine medical objective and even a religious obligation - even if it reduces longevity.

The second is by cessation of unnecessary medical treatment for the terminally ill.   To prolong a patient's agony beyond all hope of a cure is no longer considered "pikuach nefeshor healing, and it fulfils no commandment known in Jewish law.  If anything, this is considered to be removing the terminal patients’ right to die with dignity.

Suicide has traditionally been discouraged and considered to be 'forbidden'.  Yet, even most traditional sources recognise suicide as an ultimate act of despair and therefore the act of someone who is psychologically ill.   Most sources agree that the implied illness demands compassion and therefore there is no issue whatsoever in burying a person who has committed suicide in the Jewish cemetery with all the normative rites and rituals - and mourning them in the normal fashion.

A special note on coping with the loss of a baby

Losing a baby can be a confusing, stressful and painful time, and many parents find it difficult to decide what to do. Only you will know what feels most appropriate for your baby.

Some people may suggest that a funeral is not necessary, or try to arrange a service on your behalf, but organising your baby’s funeral can be an important part of the grieving process.

Naming your child

You may worry that naming your baby may seem morbid or without a purpose. However, giving your baby a name may help you and others to recognise the baby as an individual. You may feel more at ease by referring to your baby by name when talking with others or reflecting on what has happened.

Why is a funeral for a baby so important?

The funeral service is an important time to acknowledge your love for and bond with your baby. It can help you and your family come to terms with the death and support each other in your grief.

Bet-Olam can take care of all the necessary arrangements and help you plan the service and burial or cremation.

Coping with grief

Grieving is a very individual process and there is no right or wrong way to cope with your baby’s death.

Support groups and organisations

Support groups such as S.A.N.D.S. (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support, http://www.sands.org.au/), SIDS. (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome http://www.sidsandkids.org/) and The Compassionate Friends (for any age of child, 03 9888 4944, http://www.compassionatefriendsvictoria.org.au,) may be helpful as they allow you to share your experience with others who have had a similar loss.

Helping children understand and grieve

What should we say?

Many parents are not sure of how to explain death or dying to a child. Either fearing the child will not understand, or in an attempt to protect the child, adults often avoid the issue.

However, children are capable of experiencing grief and they can often accept death better than many adults. Most importantly, children also need the opportunity to grieve and to say goodbye to a loved one.

The most important things we can do to help children understand death and grieve are to accept and acknowledge their feelings, listen to them, and reassure them of our love.

It is important to tell children the truth in words they can understand as soon as possible after the death. Avoiding the topic of death and funerals may result in the child developing deep-seated fears and anxieties.

Generally the amount of interest the child shows is a gauge of their readiness to be told of an issue such as death. This will usually be expressed through the questions asked.

Different ways for different ages

The most important element for grieving children is to acknowledge their emotion, and your own, and to reassure them of your ongoing presence and love.

Children should be encouraged to explore their emotions in whatever way suits their temperament. You are the best qualified to know what this may be – whether it is verbal, artistic, tactile, etc. Physical interaction with photos in making a family tree, a photo album or a collage are amongst the most effective ways to stimulate conversation and allow the child the opportunity to explore their feelings.

The child’s ownership of their decision whether to attend the funeral or not, or whether to speak of their loved one, is what helps them to feel some sense of control. One useful technique is to invite them to write an acrostic poem or list, describing the person using their name down the page to provide the first letter of each line. They may then like to read this at the minyan (evening service).

Up to six years

While it may be difficult for a child of this age to understand death, they will sense the sadness and may feel upset and fearful. Very young children will need to be reassured, listened to and comforted. Be prepared to answer questions such as ‘Where has Grandpa gone?’ and ‘Will Nanna be coming back?’ in brief, factual and clear ways. ‘Grandma doesn’t need her body any more, but her soul – the sparkle that was in her eyes – has gone to be with God for ever – and that sparkle is in my eyes and your eyes, and we’ll always try to remember her, won’t we? ‘In a day or two, we’ll carefully put his body in the earth and it will become a part of nature again. We’ll be very sad and we might cry, but we know that he will sleep peacefully for ever (with God)’.

Ages six to ten

From this age, children begin to see death as final and become curious about the funeral and about death. For this age as well, try to answer their questions honestly and as fully as you can.

They will also feel loss, pain and grief as they realise that someone they knew and loved will not be there anymore. It is important to reassure them that their reactions are normal and that it is all right and, in fact, it is important to speak of their feelings, release emotions and to cry. Let them know that you are always there when they need you.

Teenagers

Teenagers may find it difficult to cope if someone close to them dies, and they often begin to search for meaning and values.

While you should encourage them to talk about their feelings, do not force the issue. Try drawing them into discussions by asking their opinions or advice and by listening.

It is important to let them work out their feelings in their own time, but let them know you are there. Some teenagers may find it easier to talk to someone outside their immediate family such as a friend or relative.

Should children attend the funeral?

Children should be encouraged, but not forced, to attend the funeral as an opportunity to say goodbye and to experience the grieving process. The choice to attend or not gives the child ownership and avoids the possible trauma of being forced to attend when they are not emotionally ready, or excluded when they feel the need for closure.

Explain the funeral service and if they decide to attend, consider having someone they know, but who is not an immediate mourner, to be with them, so that you are free to do your own mourning. Invite them to be involved in the service by placing three hands full or three shovels of soil onto the coffin.

If you don’t know the answer

Sometimes children ask questions that you do not know how to respond to. When this happens the best response may be just to listen and show your support.

There are also a number of books especially written for children that may help them gain an understanding of death and funerals.

Helping them cope

Children express their grief in different ways to adults, but be prepared to share your feelings. Be honest about why you are sad or lonely and show your feelings through touching, hugging and embracing.

Encourage the child to talk honestly about the deceased and allow them to express their feelings, cry and relive memories. Like adults, the grieving process will be painful, and will take time to work through.

We recommend telling people who have contact with the child, such as teachers and baby sitters, if someone close to the child dies. Grief can change behaviour and it may be easier if these people know the reasons for such change.

If the child is having long-term problems coping with the death of a loved one, it may be appropriate to organise counselling.

Getting help

An important benefit of belonging to one of our congregations is that Bet-Olam, as well as your Rabbi and community, are there for you. Do not hesitate to call or email, to attend services, community activities, or simply to reach out and make contact with us.

The Rabbi will arrange time to see you should you wish to make contact.

If you seek longer-term counselling, the Rabbi may also be able to recommend someone appropriate to your needs.

Suggestions for further reading

Mourning and Mitzvah, Brenner, Anne, (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2nd edition, 2001)

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, Lamm, Maurice. (Jonathan David, revised 2000 – orthodox perspective)

Saying Kaddish, Diamant, Anita, (Schocken, 1999)

When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner, Harold (Avon, reissue 1997)

(http://www.amazon.com/When-Things-Happen-Good-People/dp/0380603926)

The Orphaned Adult, Angel, Mark, (Jason Aaronson, 1997)

Living with Loss, Healing with Hope, Grollman, Earl (Beacon Press, 2001)

What Happens After I Die, Soncino, Rifat; Syme Daniel (UAHC, 1990)

 

The Kaddish Minyan: From Pain to Healing: Twenty Personal Stories 

http://www.amazon.com/Kaddish-Minyan-Healing-Personal-Stories/dp/B000OJK6F6/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343290369&sr=1-2&keywords=the+kaddish+minyan

 

Who Will Lead Kiddush 

http://www.amazon.com/Kiddush-Donna-Illustrator-Barbara-Pomerantz/dp/0807403067/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343290439&sr=1-1&keywords=who+will+lead+kiddush

 

When a Grandparent Dies: A Kid's Own Workbook for Dealing with Shiva and the Year Beyond

http://www.amazon.com/When-Grandparent-Dies-Workbook-Dealing/dp/1879045443/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343290478&sr=1-2&keywords=when+a+grandparent+dies

 

A Time to Mourn, a Time to Comfort: A Guide to Jewish Bereavement (The Art of Jewish Living)

http://www.amazon.com/Time-Mourn-Comfort-Jewish-Bereavement/dp/1580232531/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343290522&sr=1-1&keywords=a+time+to+mourn+a+time+to+comfort