Based on Jewish laws, traditions and customs, a Jewish funeral usually takes place within one day following the date of death and these are solemn and reflective services followed by a gathering at the mourner’s home, which marks the beginning of shiva. The first seven days following the funeral is known as shiva, and the mourners generally stay at home and receive guests to help them pray and reflect upon their loss. Judaism allows for a deep mourning period during which celebration of life and beautification of your self and your surroundings are considered distractions from the religious healing process.

More about the Jewish Funeral

A Jewish funeral usually occurs within 24 hours after the death; however, in the modern world, there is allowance and acceptance to delay the burial for mourners to travel and for appropriate arrangements to be made. The funeral is a private time for the family and the religion provides that there is no public viewing of the body. The traditions, rituals and customs for Jewish burials provide that the body is buried in a plain and unordained wooden casket. According to Jewish law, the body is washed and not embalmed.

The casket is usually closed and the funeral service conducted by a rabbi is usually short, reflective and solemn. A eulogy is delivered, and family members and close friends often read psalms, prayers, and share stories in their own way. Jewish funeral services can take place at the synagogue, funeral home or graveside at the cemetery.

At the graveside of a Jewish funeral, it is a common tradition, along with a sign of respect and love to the deceased, for the mourners and friends to participate in the actual burial. Today, many people place a few shovels of soil onto the casket to symbolically follow this tradition. To bury a loved one is an incredibly difficult and emotionally painful act, but the traditions and customs of participating in the burial are considered psychologically beneficial. The act of shoveling soil onto the casket helps provide closure and give a physical connection of saying goodbye to their loved one for a final time. It also helps with the realization that the death occurred and allows for the grieving process to truly begin.

Grief & Bereavement

After a Jewish funeral takes place, the immediate family (i.e., spouse, parents, children and siblings) are considered the mourners. The immediate family begins 'sitting shiva.' Shiva means "seven," and is a seven-day mourning period that is observed. The family remains at home, in a shiva house; prayers, including the Mourners Kaddish, are recited; and traditional mourning practices, customs and rituals are followed. During the Jewish shiva, the community, extended family, friends and colleagues visit a shiva home during designated times to make a shiva call. This is an appropriate way to pay your respect and support the bereaved. The bereaved (i.e., immediate family who are mourners) continue the traditional mourning period beyond the seven-day shiva and continue certain traditions for between 30 days and up to a full year after the death of a Jewish family member.

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