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Death and Mourning

 

What do I need to arrange for now?

Pre-arranging your funeral or a loved one’s funeral, including purchasing cemetery plots, may feel strange, but we can assure you there is no greater gift you can give your loved ones. When someone we love has died, there are many questions and logistics to attend to. When the time comes, you can help yourself and your loved ones by taking these important initial steps now. It will also give them peace of mind knowing that everything is being done according to their/your wishes. It is easier, and sometimes less expensive, to pre-pay the funeral expenses.
 

What funeral home should I use?

There are many funeral homes in our area who can take good care of you. Contact the clergy (clergy@wct.org) and they will be happy to suggest a list of funeral homes they trust.
 

Cemetery Plots

Many Jewish organizations, including Woodlands Community Temple, have a history of maintaining cemetery space for their members. Woodlands Community Temple has established community sections in Sharon Gardens Cemetery in Valhalla. Plots are available for purchase from the temple directly. 

Our cemetery plots are available to Jewish and non-Jewish members of your household.

If you are interested or have questions, please contact cemetery@wct.org.
 

When do I call the clergy?

Our clergy are available to you at any time! Whether you/your loved one is sick, in the hospital, and/or in hospice they would be honored to pay you a visit or just connect over the phone. The earlier you loop them in, the more they can support you in ways that can bring the most comfort. Our clergy are not just there for you, but your family and friends as well.

When your loved one dies, if you would like our clergy to officiate the funeral, please be in touch with them as soon as possible. Be sure you connect with them before making any final arrangements regarding date and time. Should your loved one choose something other than burial (cremation, etc), they are also available for a memorial service at a later date.

Important: Please inform the clergy of the death of the loved one, even if you will not require their help. They still want to know! With your permission, we would like to add your loved one’s name to our “Kaddish list” (a list read at services every week that informs the community of recent deaths and the yearly commemorations of a loved one’s death). We can also send an email to the WCT community in order to help you spread the word and give folks the chance to donate tzedakah (charitable giving) in your loved one’s memory.
 

What if we are an interfaith family?

You should still be in touch with the clergy! Every family is different and they can support you in a myriad ways, even if you or your loved one aren’t Jewish.
 

What are Jewish customs around death, burial, and mourning?

The clergy are happy to walk through this with you. You may also want to explore this page of MyJewishLearning.com and its related articles. It covers a wide variety of topics, including a “timeline” that explains the major periods of mourning: shiva (7 days after the death), sheloshim (30 days after death), and yartzeit (the yearly remembrance). It also covers more specific questions around the Jewish approach to cremation and death by suicide.
 

What if my loved one (or I) wish to be cremated?

Like most things in Judaism, this is not a “black and white” topic. You can read about this in detail here. Importantly…our clergy are still available to you in the case that an individual is being cremated - for pastoral care, as well as interment of the cremains and/or conducting a memorial service.
 

What is shiva, specifically, and how do I plan for it?

Traditionally speaking, shiva is the first week after the funeral. “Sitting shiva” means that a mourner withdraws from everyday life, staying home and being close to the memory of their loved one. While this is typically seven days, folks should choose the dates/times that would be most meaningful/comfortable for them to receive visitors at home. Many Reform Jews will opt for 2-5 days.

If you are the mourner, you are not expected to feed or entertain your guests. This is a period of time when your community should take care of you. While it might not be your normal custom, try to accept help when it is offered - allow folks to help clean up, provide meals, walk your dog, etc. If you think you’ll need some extra chairs, reach out to the synagogue (wct@wct.org) and we’ll be happy to help you.

If you are visiting a shiva, you are not obligated to bring food. If you do, try to bring food that helps the mourner during this time of intense grief - bring foods that can be used for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so that they don’t have to worry about meal planning.

For those who anticipate a lot of visitors and/or would like a concrete checklist of how to prepare to receive visitors at home, click here to view at Shiva.com. Shiva.com also contains much information regarding Jewish mourning and grief and can help with sending and ordering meals.

If it would be meaningful to you, you can request that WCT provides a “shiva service” on one or all the days you are sitting shiva locally (in Westchester). Either our clergy or a member of our “Hevra Kadisha” (a group of Woodlands volunteers who are trained in conducting a shiva service), will come to your home at the designated time and lead a brief service which will include time for sharing memories and saying El Malei Rachamim and Kaddish (the prayers memorializing the dead). Just ask the clergy.
 

How do I order a gravestone and what is an unveiling?

Traditionally, a monument is placed at a person’s grave. This monument is typically dedicated anytime after the first 30 days of mourning and before a year after the funeral. There is a tradition of placing the gravestone at 11 months, but the timing is flexible. 

Many cemeteries and monument companies will suggest particular times of the year, depending on the suitability of the earth to place the marker. Be sure to contact the cemetery directly. They can also provide a list of their preferred/trusted monument providers. If you need help deciding what to write on the stone, especially if you choose to include Hebrew (folks will often engrave the deceased’s Hebrew name), just contact the clergy (clergy@wct.org).

You can request for the clergy to come lead the unveiling for you. Please check in with them about their availability.

You also do not need clergy present in order to hold an unveiling service. Click here to access a “self-guided” unveiling service, which you are free to download and use.

For more on bereavement and memory, click here.

Sun, March 3 2024 23 Adar I 5784