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Funeral Etiquette

According to Jewish custom, the burial is held within 48 hours of the death and traditionally, all services are closed casket. Often the Rabbi speaks and recites prayers, and close family members might give eulogies or hesped.You are not required to wear black but should wear dark clothing and dress conservatively.

Traditionally only the family accompanies the body to it’s final resting place. It’s customary to toss dirt onto the casket, symbolizing from dust to dust.

Sitting shiva is a way to mourn and celebrate the life of the deceased at the home of a family member. People sit shiva for a week, but might only receive guests for the first few days.

Upon entering the house, you might find a water pitcher with which you are to cleanse your hands three times. Water is the source of life and having just been in contact with death at the cemetery, you should clean yourself to focus on life.

Traditionally, mirrors and paintings are to be covered during this time, as those grieving should not be concerned with their physical appearance. Those mourning sit low to the ground or on uncomfortable chairs to show how they are stricken with grief.

A memorial candle is lit and burns 24 hours a day for 7 days to symbolize the light the person brought to the world and the deceased’s eternal soul.

Traditionally grief is expressed by tearing one’s clothes; alternatively, the Rabbi might cut a piece of black ribbon for the family to wear on their chest, called Keriah.

Jewish mourners may not wear leather shoes in the shiva house; slippers, socks or sneakers can be worn to show how they have been humbled by the loss.

About a year after the death, there is an unveiling ceremony where the headstone is revealed. Often this is a simple memorial marker. Guests are to leave rocks on the headstone as a marker that someone has visited.