- What information will Mount Sinai need when a loss occurs?
Mount Sinai will need a number of vital statistics as well as other information in order to complete legally required documents and to have a complete record on hand to assist you. To ease this process, Mount Sinai has developed a document, the Memorial Record and Guide, which is available free by request. The Mount Sinai Memorial Record and Guide can be completed at any time, even many years in advance, and revised as circumstances change.
- Is there anything I can do in advance to prepare?
Planning in advance is one of the most valuable gifts you can give to your family, easing the anxiety of needing to make important decisions during a time fraught with emotion. Through the Advance Planning process, you can pre-select your property and make all your wishes known for your service, as well as handle the financial arrangements. Mount Sinai has a staff of Advance Planning Representatives who can help you through this process which, once done, brings great peace of mind. Click here to contact us about your Advance Planning options.
- How is a time and date for the funeral chosen?
Mount Sinai staff works with families and clergy to coordinate all details and, if you choose, will post the service time and place on its website to help notify family and friends. While Traditional Judaism calls for burial to take place as soon as possible, we know that families are often scattered around the country, so scheduling is flexible. The customary time frame is as soon as possible after everyone arrives, usually within two to three days.
- Who officiates at a funeral?
Most often a Rabbi or a Cantor will officiate at the funeral, supported by one of our professional Mount Sinai Service Directors who will oversee the logistics of the service. If the family is not acquainted with a Rabbi or if their Rabbi is unavailable, Mount Sinai will assist the family in securing a Rabbi whose orientation is compatible with theirs.
- What happens immediately before the funeral?
When you and your family arrive at Mount Sinai you will be greeted by our staff and guided through the details of the service and any special requests you may have. Your guests will arrive and be guided to the chapel or graveside where the service will be taking place. They will be given guest cards to fill out that will be given to to you at the conclusion of the service, along with shiva candles and other items such as minyon prayer books. It is customary for all males entering the chapel to wear a traditional head covering, called a kippah or yarmulke, which is available at the chapel or at graveside.
- How will the deceased be clothed?
The Rabbis teach us that all are created equal. In order to preserve that equality there has evolved a two-thousand-year-old tradition of using tachrichim, simple white shrouds, as burial garments. Over time, the use of burial garments has been expanded to allow for the deceased to be buried in the clothing of the family’s choice.
- Is music part of the observance?
At the family’s option, music may be played in the chapel before, during and/or after the service. The family may choose appropriate music and bring it with them the day of the service, or Mount Sinai’s Scores of Memory CD is available as are a number of other CDs.
- What happens during the funeral?
A Jewish funeral service is typically brief and simple, providing comfort by creating time and space for the mourners and the community to recall memories of the deceased and to express their sorrow. The service may be held in a chapel at the memorial park, in the synagogue, or at the gravesite.
The basic elements of a traditional service include the chanting of psalms and of Eil Malei Rachamim, followed by recitation of a hesped, a eulogy honoring the deceased. Selected family members and friends may act as pallbearers to carry the casket, with others following. At the end of the service, mourners recite the Kaddish prayer.
- Who can be a pallbearer?
Pallbearers, who are asked to lovingly escort the deceased to the gravesite, are invited by the family and are usually those closest to the family or the deceased. People may also be chosen to be honorary pallbearers who will not carry the casket but will follow immediately behind. In very traditional practice, the pallbearers stop seven times during this journey to indicate their unwillingness to finally take leave of a loved one.
- How is the actual burial conducted?
Mount Sinai respects the wishes of every family in regard to completion of the burial. Historical convention involves the mourners, both family members and others attending the funeral who choose to participate, in shoveling earth to cover the casket. One tradition is to use the back of the shovel, to show our unwillingness to perform this final act of separation. Another tradition is for each mourner to plant the shovel back in the mound of earth rather than hand the shovel to the next person. Other families will choose that the Mount Sinai staff complete this act.
- Why do some people wear a torn ribbon at the funeral?
This ritual, known as k’riah, is the traditional rending one’s garments to represent loss and mourning.
Often, k’riah is performed symbolically, with the cutting of a ribbon worn by the mourners closest in family connection to the deceased. Mourners who must rend garments are defined in Jewish law as the seven immediate family members: the spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, brother or sister.
- I will be attending a funeral. Is there something special I should plan or do?
Your presence is the most important gift you can give to mourners. After the burial, you may be asked to be part of two rows of people forming a pathway of comfort for the mourners.
- What is customary to send to a Jewish funeral?
While there are sometimes flowers at Jewish funerals, families often request that a charitable contribution be made instead in memory of the deceased to a specific charity or to one of your choice. This is in keeping with the Jewish tradition of tzedakah, or charity.
- What is the traditional observance in the week following the funeral?
Upon leaving the gravesite the immediate family commences the seven day shiva period–they “sit shiva”. During this period meals are usually prepared for the family to allow them to focus on mourning. During this time, family and friends typically pay what is called a “shiva call” to visit the family to bring food, company, comfort and a sympathetic ear. There is sometimes a brief religious service each morning and/or evening. Each family chooses whether, how, and for how long, they will observe shiva. Again, it is the presence of friends and family at this time that is the most crucial to healing.
- What is customary to do or bring when visiting a grave at Mount Sinai or another Jewish cemetery?
The placing of pebbles at the gravesite is the traditional means of marking a visit. Mount Sinai provides pebbles from Jerusaleum which may be obtained when you visit to mark your time at graveside. Many have adopted the practice of placing flowers. Mount Sinai’s Flower Shop can accommodate those needs.
- What is a Yahrzeit (memorial) candle?
It is traditional to light a special 24-hour candle on certain occasions to commemorate the anniversary of someone’s death, either a family member or someone who was very close to you. Yahrzeit candles are lit at sundown on the day preceding the anniversary of the person’s death, according to the Hebrew calendar. The candle is lit at sundown and should remain lit until it goes out. To learn more about Yahrzeit click here.
On the eve of Yom Kippur and other holidays: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, it is customary to light a Yahrzeit candle and to recite Memorial prayers at a synagogue or temple service.
- Other questions?
Contact us through our online contact form or by calling 800-600-0076.