Understanding Jewish Funerals

Many Jewish funeral customs date back to biblical times and are still practiced today. Traditionally, Jewish funerals and burials take place twenty-four to forty-eight hours after one passes away. However, in today's society, with certain barriers in place including distance or health, this may not be feasible.

When a person passes away, some choose to honor the deceased with a tahara, a ritual purification, and dressing the body in a shroud prior to the burial. This ceremonial ritual, customarily performed by the Chevra Kadisha, may be considered a symbol of purification and equality.

The rich traditions of the Jewish people continue to be practiced regardless of geography and help unite Jewish communities around the world as one. If you have further questions regarding Jewish funeral traditions, we recommend consulting a rabbi.


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Jewish Funeral Group provides educational seminars, business networking opportunities, as well as forums to learn from other business and industry leaders. Seminars include information about Jewish funeral customs and traditions, legal and financial affairs, and how to connect with local community organizations. With a national footprint, we seek to help partner funeral homes expand their reach in local communities and broaden their relationships within the funeral and burial industry.


Below please find a glossary of terms you may encounter during a Jewish funeral or gathering

Aron (ah-ron): Traditional Jewish casket – all wood crafted, unlined and containing no metal. Created to return to the earth.

Kriah (kree-ah): The tearing of clothing by the immediate mourner as an expression of grief.

Levayah (le-vay-ya): Hebrew name for funeral.

Mikvah (mick-vah): Ritual bath used for washing the deceased during tahara.

Minyan: A group of ten Jewish men, or men and women, required for public prayer. They are also sometimes required to recite the Mourner's Kaddish.

Shiva (sh-va): The 7-day mourning period directly following the burial*There are certain holidays and times throughout the year that end the shiva period prior to the 7 days.

Shomer (show-mer): “Watcher” – someone who guards the body until burial. The act of watching is called “shemirah.”

Shroud (shr-owd): Simple, full clothing garment made of muslin or linen containing no pockets or zippers.

Yahrzeit (yar-tz-ite): The anniversary of one’s passing according to the Hebrew calendar.

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